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T H E A F F A I R S OF O U D E.
MINUTE OF LORD WILLIAM BENTINCK,
DATED 30th JULY, 1831.
During the last thirty years, the earnest endeavours of the Supreme Government have een unceasingly exerted to induce the Rulers of Oude to reform the administration of that misgoverned and oppressed country. It is unnecessary to say that these endeavours have been uniformly and entirely unavailing; and it may not be too much to add, that, as long as it shall be held to be inconsistent with a rigid adherence to existing treaties to Push our interference beyond the limits of friendly counsel, or of measures of a merely negative character, the task, for the present at least, must be utterly hopeless. Indeed, it may be asked, what better prospect does the future hold out, when the experiment has been under trial during the reigns of three successive Princes of entirely different characters, and has been accompanied with the same results and the same failure ?
As this state of misgovernment continues to prevail in a greater and more aggravated degree than in any former period, as will be presently shewn, it becomes necessary to consider whether, under all the circumstances of our position in relation to the state of Oude, *ny justification is to be found, either in the letter or the spirit of our engagements, for the forbearance to apply a remedy to evils which by no possibility could have existed for so °ng a period, and to such an extent, except under the safeguard of our protection and Power. It is true that the honorable and much more able persons who have preceded me In the government, with the concurrence also of their council, have deemed themselves forbidden, by a strict interpretation of existing treaties, forcibly to compel the fulfilment of that stipulation by which the Vizier and his successors have bound themselves to in"sluce “such as system of administration as should be conducive to the prosperity of his *jects, and calculated to secure the lives and properties of the inhabitants, as well as to *according to the advice of the Supreme Government.” If I presume to differ from these high authorities, and to recommend a course of decided and peremptory interposition, as * consonant to the high obligations imposed upon us, it is right that I should disclaim all idea or desire of promoting any separate British interest at the expense of the dignity and comfort of the reigning Sovereign of Oude. The policy, on the contrary, which I think ought to be pursued to all the dependent chiefs subject to our paramount power, is mainly an abstinence from interference; a forbearance from all display of our real power, except **xtreme cases, where the peace of neighbouring states may be disturbed from the effects of anarchy and disorder which the ruler may be unable or unwilling to suppress, or where * System of internal administration prevails marked by such extraordinary cruelty and ''PPression as to call down universal reprobation. But these sentiments will be further *Plained in considering the decision of former governments upon the same question.
I shall now record a memoir submitted to me by the Resident at Lucknow, on my *h to the Upper Provinces, in which is depicted the actual state of that country.
Referring to the misrule that had prevailed during the life of the preceding sovereign, !e Resident observes, “but with the present reign the administration has become still more *: the country has been going to ruin; and, from want of order, arrangement, or stability in the government, oppression and anarchy universally prevail; the people have **onsequence no faith or reiiance in their government, and constant desertion is going on from the capital and the rest of the kingdom.” “No revenue system on equitable prinoples can be ever effected by the unaided effort of the Oude Government: constant oppres*", and the habitual breach of all contracts, have so completely destroyed their con
Affairs of Oude. B
fidence in their rulers, that they cannot be expected to trust them again; while, as they themselves declare, they would agree to pay much higher rents than at present, if they were assured that the contracts made with them would not be infringed. A minister of Oude knows, with the disadvantages he labours under from this feeling of distrust and insecurity, that, however honest he may personally be, it is impossible for him to prevent those employed in the collection of the revenues under him from following the rack-renting oppressive system which can alone render their appointments profitable to themselves, or enable them to meet the probable exactions to which they may themselves be subjected. During the late cold season hardly a day elapsed that he could not hear at Lucknow the fire of artillery at places which the King's troops were besieging, or in engagements between them and the zemindars. Now again that the season for operations has arrived we have hostilities carrying on in the immediate vicinity of the capital.” “The inefficiency of the police was never so glaring as at present.” “The capital and its environs are the scenes of nightly robberies and murders, and the roads in the vicinity are so beset by thieves and desperate characters that no one thinks of passing by day or night without protection.” “The military force maintained by the King of Oude is preposterously large, and a considerable portion of it, exceeding in number 40,000 men with guns, is scattered over the country to strengthen the hands of the local officers, and to secure the collection of the revenue, yet they are not found suslicient for the duty they have to perform.”
These extracts will suffice to show the disorder prevailing in every department of the administration of the country. Being aware of the indisposition of the Resident towards the minister of the King of Oude, and of the inclination which he had shown to receive too easily every complaint and representation that his numerous enemies would eagerly pour into the ear of a hostile British functionary, I thought it possible that this memoir and report might have received a somewhat exaggerated coloring from the prejudiced feelings under which it was written ; but all the British officers, both those in civil situations at Cawnpore as well as those belonging to the regiments cantoned in different parts of Oude, gave complete confirmation to the statement. The desolate and deserted state of one of the finest portions of Oude, and I may say of India, in respect to fertility of soil and goodness of climate, through which, during several days, I myself marched from Lucknow to Rohilkund, afforded a melancholy proof of the oppression occasioned by the farming system. Our own collectors and magistrates in the district contiguous to the Oude frontier have made such frequent reports of the incursions of plunderers and decoits that we have been forced to entertain additional bodies of horse to preserve tranquility, and have required the King of Oude to defray the expense. Indeed, in the conference I had with the King and his Minister, the existence of these disorders was not denied; but it is but fair to say that this admission might not have been so readily made if the Minister had not been desirous of heaping as much blame as possible upon the administration of his predecessors in office, one of whom, Moatumud Dowlah, was his great rival. He might not have been unwilling to exhibit, to their utmost extent, the difficulties he had to encounter, by way of excusing his future failure, or enhancing his future success.
In his memoir the object of the Resident is to show that it is to the suspension of that rigid interference and control over the affairs of Oude which was stipulated for in the treaty of 1801, made by Lord Wellesley, that all this mismanagement is to be attributed; and from no other measure short of the actual assumption of the government, either directly in the substitution of our own authority, or indirectly in the nomination of a Minister, who, was formerly at Hyderabad, shall be solely dependent upon the government, and the agent in fact of the Resident, that any change can be expected. The consideration of subsequent measures will be hereafter examined. It will be necessary previously to review the causes assigned by the Resident for this long continued failure; and with respect to the failure he argues, and in my opinion justly argues, that the same effect must continue as long as our guarantee is allowed to neutralize all those principles of self-correction existing in every other independent state. If, while we secure the sovereign from all insurrection and aggression from his subjects, however great be his tyranny and oppression, and withhold at the same time the only remaining remedy in the efficacious interposition of our own power, the case of the Oude people is desperate indeed. Is it possible that construction of our obligations can be right which makes our protection instrumental to evil alone, and to evil of such enormous magnitude 2
From the character of the King—the main source of all hopes and fears in a despotic state—nothing good is to be expected. Mr. Maddock says of him, and I believe with perfect truth, “His present Majesty was bred up among women, and all his ideas are effeminate; he has no sound talents, and less habitude for business, and the government of his country must devolve upon other hands; but he is extravagant and wasteful in his expenses, and will never be satisfied with any administration that attempts to limit his income.” Upon the records are certainly to be found reports from the former resident of acts of great
cruelty and revenge committed under His Majesty's orders, but when at Lucknow I was not satisfied that depravity of this nature could be justly charged to him. Of his extreme weakness there can be no doubt; he must ever be a cipher as to the important duties belonging to a sovereign. He must always be a tool in the hands of those who have possession of his mind, and this influence has hitherto been gained by the vilest subserviency to all his bad passions.
The Minister is described by the Resident as being “in his heart more decidely inimical to us than could possibly be expected in a person who has so long enjoyed the benefits of our protection, and who owes, if not his existence, the preservation of an immense fortune which +. amassed in this country, to the asylum which has been assorded to him in the British erritory.”
Honestly, no doubt, entertaining this conviction, the Resident, without any authority from the government, showed himself extremely adverse to the Hukeem's elevation, and, deeply prejudiced, thought he saw in every act and measure of the Minister a systematic design to oppose the wishes of the British Government; and in one instance, indeed, the removal of the ex-minister, he indulged the extravagant belief that the Hukeem entertained the idea of resisting by military force the execution of this order of the Supreme authority. I believe in no such hostility on the part of the Minister. He is indisputably one of the ablest men in India, and is not surpassed by any other individual, whether European or native, as a revenue administrator. He saw from the beginning that nothing would satisfy the Resident but the becoming, to use his own words, the King of Oude, and to this interior position it suited neither his ambition nor his interests to submit. My hope has always been and is, that, able as he certainly is beyond all other men to reform the administration, so cordially assisted by a Resident, whose advice, however firm and decided, shall never be wanting in conciliation and respect, he will be equally willing to accomplish this great object; and it must always be moreover recollected, that to a remedy to all the political evils of the state, he has the additional and more difficult task of governing an imbecile, childish, and capricious monarch.
Speaking of the effects of our guarantee, the resident makes these very judicious remarks:–“ if the people were assured that the king would receive no military aid from us, the probability is that his own attempts to coerce his subjects would be defied and every where resisted.” The very arrears into which the army and other establishments had in the meantime fallen would, under ordinary circumstances, in any government, have brought about a revolution or a change of system; and here also the sovereign of Oude is by his tonnexion with us placed in a different situation from that of other princes, for it cannot be imagined that an army of 60,000 men would have quietly subtuitted to remain, some a year, some two years and upwards, without pay, but from a fear that we should protect the king against any serious and general mutiny of the troops to enforce payment of their arrears. The most powerful aumiis, from the same feeling, evince a degree of subordination and obedience to the government, even to the relinquishment of the oliices and the almost certain onsequences, loss of liberty, honor, and property, which could not be expected from them is they had no other fear but that of their own government. If the state of Oude had no right to our protection, these officers would resist its power with every prospect of success; and not only could not the government pursue its present system of misrule without the understood sanction of our government, it would shortly crumble to pieces, and the aumils or the leaders of the army, would portion “out the kingdom among themselves. The alliance with us alone enable it to exist, and to pursue a system decidedly detrimental to the Prosperity of its subjects.” “Yet hitherto we have discharged no one of our duties, and While maintaining and augmenting the power and dignity of the prince, and securing him so all aggression, we have neglected the claims of the people, and have been instrumental to ovetting the chains by which they are kept down and prevented from asserting their own rights, and securing by resistance a better government for themselves.”
Such are, such have been, and ever will be the evils as long as the system of double #overnment prevailing in Oude continues to be administered upon the present principle ; to story of to-day is the exact counterpart of that of thirty years ago. In 1799, Sir Thomas Munro, that able and long-sighted politician, in a letter to the Governor-General, strongly "secting (and how just have his objections proved) to the establishment of the Rajah of Mysore, to whose family no attachment remained on the part of the natives, “for it has "ten long despised and forgotten,” and urging in preference the partition of Tippoo's domi* between the Company, and the Nizam, observes, “There is, perhaps, none of them (natives) who would not prefer a strong government like that of the Company to one like that of the Rajah, which must necessarily be composed of different interests, must be **kened and perplexed by intrigue, and must carry with itself, like the double govern"nts of Oude and Tanjore, the destruction of the resources of the country.”
I cannot refrain from introducing the opinion of the same great man upon the effect of a subsidiary force, or in other words, of our interference to protect the sovereign, and of our non-interference to protect the people. It is peculiarly applicable to the present case of Oude, while the existing state of Mysore fulfils to the very letter the prediction of the future consequences of the Rajah's administration. This letter was written to the GovernorGeneral in 1817. “There are many weighty objections to the employment of a subsidiary force ; it has a natural tendency to render the government of every country in which it exists weak and oppressive, to extinguish all honourable spirit among the higher classes of society, and to degrade and impoverish the whole people. The usual remedy for a bad government in India is a quiet revolution in the palace or a violent one by rebellion, or by foreign conquests; but the presence of a British force cuts off every chance of remedy, by supporting the prince on the throne against every foreign and domestic enemy. It renders him indolent, by teaching him to trust to strangers for his security; and cruel and a varicious, by showing him that he has nothing to fear from the hatred of his subjects. Wherever the subsidiary system is introduced, unless the reigning prince be a man of great abilities the country will soon bear the marks of it, in decaying villages and decreasing population. This has long been observed in the dominions of the Peishwa and the Nizam, and is now beginning to be seen in Mysore. The talents of Purneah, while he acted as dewan, saved that country from the usual effects of that system, but the Rajah is likely to let them have their full operation. He is indolent and prodigal, and has already besides his current revenue, dissipated about sixty lakhs of pagodas of the treasure laid up by the late dewan. He is mean, artful, revengeful and cruel; he does not take away life, but he inflicts the most disgraceful and cruel punishments on men of every rank, at a distance from his capital,
where he thinks it will remain unknown to Europeans; and though young, he is already detested by his subjects.”
Although Lord Wellesley did not unfortunately adopt the opinion of Sir Thomas Munro, as expressed in his letter of June 1799, respecting the partition of Mysore, he at least endeavoured to provide against the mischiefs of the double government. In his letter to the Honourable Court, dated the 3d of August 1799, he observes, “With this view I have undertaken the protection of his country, in consideration of an annual subsidy of seven lakhs of star pagodas; but recollecting the inconvenience and embarrassments which have arisen to all parties concerned under the double government and conflicting authorities unfortunately established in Oude, the Carnatic, and Tanjore, I resolved to restore to the Company the most extensive and indisputable powers of interposition in the internal affairs
of Mysore, as well as an unlimited right of assuming the direct management of the country,” &c.
Two years subsequently, in 1801, the Marquess Wellesley proceeded to reform the abuses in the administration of Oude, the description of which, as given in his lordship's letter to the Vizier, dated the 5th of April, will be found to correspond in every particular, with what contained in the report of the present resident at Lucknow. “I now declare to your Excellency, in the most explicit terms, that I consider it to be my positive duty to resort to any extremity rather than to suffer the progress of that ruin to which the interests of your Excellency and the Honorable Company are exposed by the continual operation of the evils and abuses actually existing in the civil and military administration of the province of Oude;” and it is added, “But I must recall to your Excellency's recollection the fact, which you have so emphatically acknowledged upon former occasions, that the principal source of all your difficulties is to be found in the state of the country. I have repeatedly represented to your Excellency the effects of the ruinous expedient of anticipating the collections; the destructive practice of realizing them by force of arms; the annual diminution of the jumma of the country; the precarious tenure by which the aumils and farmers hold their possessions; the misery of the lower classes of the people, absolutely excluded from the protection of the government; and the utter insecurity of life and property throughout the province of Oude.”
And in a letter to the Resident, dated 27th May, 1801, it is declared, “His Lordship cannot permit the Vizier to maintain an independent power with a considerable force within the territories remaining in His Excellency's possession.”
With reference to all these evils the Governor-General declared his conviction that no effectual security could be provided against the ruin of the province of Oude, until the exclusive management of the civil and military government of that country should be transferred to the Company, under suitable provisions for the maintenance of his Excellency and his family. Such was His Lordship's view of the only remedy that could effect any improvement; but the Vizier making the most determined opposition to the plan, His Lordship was compelled to relinquish it, but substituted what he probably considered to be tantamount to it in effect, the stipulation, “That while the British Government guaranteed to the Vizier, his heirs and successors, the possession of the territories which will remain to His Excellency after the territorial session, together with the exercise of his and their authority” [the force of the latter expression I do not exactly understand] “within the said dominions, his Excellency on the other hand engages to establish such a system of administration, &c., and will always advise with, and act in conformity to, the counsel of the officers of the Honorable Company.”
The historian, Mr. Mills, justly enough remarks, “No dominion can be more complete than that which provides for a perpetual conformity to one's counsel, that is, one's will.” I have not the means of referring to Lord Wellesley's despatches, to know precisely in what relation His Lordship intended that the Vizier and the Resident should stand for the future to each other, but the inference is clear, that the whole power of the state was to be transfered to the Resident, the nominal sovereignty only being left with the Vizier.
An opinion of Sir Thomas Munro's, written in 1817 upon this kind of arrangement, is worthy of being transcribed. “A subsidiary force would be a most useful establishment, if it could be directed to the support of our ascendancy, without nourishing all the vices of a bad government; but this seems to be almost impossible. The only way in which this object has ever in any degree been attained is by the appointment of a Dewan ; this measure is no doubt liable to numerous objections, but still it is the only one by which amends can be made to the people of the country for the miseries brought upon them by the subsidiary force, in giving stability to a vicious government. The great difficulty [Sir Thomas would better have said the impossibility] is to prevent the Prince from counteracting the Dewan, and the Resident from meddling too much ; but when this is avoided, the Dewan may be made a most useful instrument of government.”
During the remainder of Lord Wellesley's government, it does not appear that much progress was made in the work of improvement. I perceive that in 1802, plans were brought forward for a better judicial administration and revenue system, but the Governor-General's attention being drawn to the more important subjects of a war with Scindiah and the Maharattahs, and not wholly unoccupied, perhaps, with the discussions of England upon his various political measures, all minor questions seemed to have been overlooked. It may, however, be right to remark, that in November, 1803, the home authorities declared their entire approbation of the late transactions with the Vizier; “the stipulation of the treaty being calculated to improve and secure the interests of the Vizier as well as those of the Company, and to provide more effectually hereafter for the good government of Oude, and consequently for the happiness of its inhabitants.”
It is impossible to suppose, that it could be any part of the comprehensive and decisive policy of the Marquess Wellesley, or of the home authorities, to allow one of the principal parts of this treaty to remain a dead letter; that they merely cared for the pecuniary benefit which they derived ; and that for the rest,-‘‘the good government of Oude and the happiness of the inhabitants,”—these were nothing more than professions of philanthropy introduced to give a kind and beneficent colouring to transactions that might be characterized as unjust and oppressive. I entertain, however, that high opinion of the Noble Lord's decision and firmness as to be perfectly satisfied that, had he remained in India, the govern. ment of Oude would not have remained for twenty-eight years the curse of its own people and the disgrace of the British councils.
But to those of Lord Wellesley succeeded other policy and other measures; the renunciation of conquests, the abandonment of influence and power, the maintenance of a system strictly neutral, defensive, non-interfering, pacific, according to the full spirit of that enactment declaring that “to pursue” schemes of conquest and extension of dominion in India, are measures repugnant to the wish, the honour, and the policy of the nation.” The impossibility of adhering to this beautiful theory was soon manifested, even in the government of Lord Minto, than whom there could not be a man more desirous of acting up to the letter of his instructions, or less disposed to entertain projects of ambition or aggrandizement. Subsequent events have all shown that, however moderate our views, however contented we may be with our commanding position, however determined not to extend our limits, it has been utterly out of our power to stand still ; such have been the restless, plundering habits which belong to this great Indian society, such its very natural jealousy and apprehension of our power, and such its disregard of all rules and maxims of common prudence or safe conduct, that, after a series of unprovoked aggressions, Lord Hastings at last, in 1817, brought to a completion that system of policy which the great genius and foresight of Lord Wellesley had originally planned, and would have probably accomplished five and twenty years before, had he remained in India. Lord Hastings thus established the pre-eminence of our power, and a new era of civilization, happiness, and of blessing to this great Indian world, to be effected by British hands; but blots remain on this fair surface, and one of the greatest is Oude, and this I hope may still be washed out, to the ultimate advantage of both the rulers and the people.