Imágenes de páginas

favourable to the continuance either of their monopoly or of their authority. So long as they only occupied a few factories on the coast, the bulk of their fellow-countrymen were content to leave them in solitary possession of their trade. But, as soon as they annexed whole states as large as England, other merchants thought that they should be allowed some share of the commerce of these territories. Again, so long as they were a commercial undertaking, Parliament was willing to leave them alone. But, as soon as they acquired a vast territory, it naturally insisted on exercising some control over their action. The India Bill of Pitt was, indeed, less offensive to them than the India Bill of Fox. But, when the Act of 1874 was explained by the Declaratory Act of 1788, the Directors found, to their surprise, that the supreme authority had been virtually transferred from themselves to the Crown. Their monopoly crumbled away almost as rapidly as their power. On the renewal of their The mono. charter in 1793, a portion of the Indian trade was Ind an trace for the first time given to British subjects who were

destroyed. not members of the East India Company; in 1813 the whole of the Indian trade was thrown open, and the trade with China alone reserved for the old Company.

In truth, if the fashion of quoting Virgil had extended from St. Stephen's to Leadenhall Street, the Directors might have plaintively repeated the "tulit alter honorem” of the poet. They had won an empire for the Crown, and they were conducting their own business at a loss.1 Even the splendour of foreign empire was a poor compensation for a want of dividends, and the extension of dominion tensions of

territory forseemed to be inseparably connected with a failure of bidden both

by the Direcreturns. It was, in these circumstances, perhaps tors and

Parliament. natural that the Directors should have deliberately forbidden all further annexatio..s of territory, and that the

1 “The company had lost four crores of rupees (£4,000,000) by their trade to India in nineteen years, notwithstanding their monopoly, and they had traded with profit only to China, where they had neither sovereignty nor monopoly." Marshman's History of India, vol. ii. p. 279. The nineteen years to which Mr. Marshman refers are the nineteen years preceding 1813.

Further ex

Lord Cornwallis.

decision at which they arrived should have been supported by the Government. Aggressive politicians sometimes imagine that the reluctance with which modern Liberals assent to any additions to the Empire are the first symptoms of the decay of British rule. If they be symptoms of decay, they were visible enough a century ago, when every prominent statesman disliked or forbade further additions to the Company's territories in the Deccan and Hindostan.

Lord Cornwallis, who succeeded Warren Hastings in 1786,1 was in one sense the founder, in another sense the exponent,

of the policy which aimed at the contraction of the

Company's interests. He was admirably adapted for giving effect to it. With no previous acquaintance with India, he was free from the friendships, the traditions, and the prejudices by which men trained in the Company's service were hampered. It may be doubted whether a more honest man was ever chosen for the high office allotted to him. Those who knew him regarded his capacity with almost as much respect as his honesty. His conduct in America, in India, and in Ireland proved that he had abilities of a high order. Yet it may, perhaps, be doubted whether he was not wanting in the quality which, even in inferior men, commands success. His capitulation at Yorktown was almost the final scene in the drama which resulted in the loss of America to England; his Indian policy was laid on one side; one-half of his Irish policy was accomplished by devices which he must have loathed, the other half was abandoned through a breach of faith which he must have abhorred.

Two years before Cornwallis reached India, the Act of 1784 forbade the Governor-General to declare war, to commence hostilities, or to enter into any treaty either for making war or for guaranteeing the possessions of any Native prince or State, without sanction from home.2 Cornwallis went to India

1 Warren Hastings was succeeded provisionally by Sir John Macpherson, who acted in the interval between Hastings' retirement and Cornwallis' arrival.

24 Geo. JII. c. 25, sec. 34. Having regard to later history, it is worth while citing the preamble of the section : "Whereas to pursue schemes of


with the full intention of carrying out this policy. He left India with a firm belief in its possibility. Yet he thought himself compelled to depart from the spirit of the Act and to enter into an offensive and defensive alliance with the Nizam at Hyderabad against Tippoo Sultan. The war which in consequence ensued added to the territories and responsibilities of the Company. Malabar, Salern, and Dindigul were taken from Tippoo and permanently annexed to its dominions. But, though Cornwallis had been forced to disregard the Act of 1784, and to depart from his own principles, he fancied that he had paved the way for a future policy of non-intervention. He thought that by weakening Tippoo he had secured a balance of power in the Deccan; and in the eighteenth centnry a balance of power was the fashionable expedient for preserving peace. But the supposed balance never preserved peace in Europe for twenty years at a time; it did not preserve peace in India for half that period.1 Events

conquest and extension of dominion in India are measures repugnant to the wish, the honour, and policy of the nation.”

1 When Cornwallis reached India the Company possessed a large tract of territory in Bengal (Bengal, Behar, Chittagong, and Benares); the Circars on the Coromandel coast; a small tract round Madras; the town of Bombay and the adjacent island of Salsette. Central and Southern India was occupied rather than governed by the Mahrattas, the Nizam at Hyderabad, and Tippoo Sultan in Mysore. On Cornwallis reaching India he found that his predecessor (Macpherson) had got into “a very awkward, foolish scrape, by offering assistance to the Mahrattas" against Tippoo. Cornwallis Correspondence, vol. i. p. 226. With some difficulty he extricated himself from this engagement, which he thought involved war with Tippoo and an infraction of the 24th Geo. III. Yet within two years he concluded an offensive and defensive alliance with the Nizam against Tippoo. His reasons for doing so were plain enough. Tippoo was angry at the cession of the Guntore Circar, a territory on the Coromandel coast, to the Company by the Nizam, and openly made warlike preparations and intrigued with the French. Ibid., pp. 281, 297. Cornwallis was afraid that Madras might be assailed by the most powerful soldier in Southern India, and that the assault might receive the covert or open aid of France. In these circumstances, while still approving the restrictions of the Act of 1784, he admitted that the system which that Act instituted was

inore calculated to prevent our making enemies than to promote the acquisition of friends” (ibid. p. 282), and he accordingly entered into an alliance with the Nizam. This note is purposely confined to the facts of Cornwallis' policy. The moral questions which that policy raised will be found briefly described in Marshman's History of India, vol. ii. p. 9, and Thornton's History



were too strong for the Government, the Company, and Cornwailis ; and in half a dozen years a policy of non-intervention was again replaced by a policy of interference.

In fact, the policy of non-intervention which Cornwallis inaugurated barely survived the official existence of his sucSir John

cessor, Sir John Shore. During his rule the Nizam

was attacked by the Mahrattas on the north and by Tippoo on the south. The unfortunate Nizam, finding that the British had nothing to offer him but good advice and good wishes, appealed, in his extremity, to the French for assistance. Hence arose a new dilemma. The balance which Cornwallis thougit that he had secured was only obtained by the weight of France being thrown into the scale, and the neutrality of the British, in the opinion of old Indians, involved the decay of British influence. It was in the midst of the embarrassments which were thus occa

sioned that Lord Mornington, better known under Wellesley.

his later title of Lord Wellesley, reached India. The friend of Pitt, he shared Pitt's views; he had watched the course of events in France with the alarm which was felt by most of his contemporaries; he was impressed with the duty of combating revolution; and revolution, among those with whom he had lived, was a mere synonym for France. Even before he reached India, he made up his mind to destroy French influence at the Nizam's Court; and he despatched from the Cape of Good Hope the famous State paper in which he proposed to the Home Government the reversal of the policy of his predecessors, by giving the Nizam a British guarantee and a British force in the place of his French contingent. The policy which he thus proposed was carried out soon after his arrival in India. A British force was moved into the Nizam's territory, the French were disarmed, and the Nizam again became the close ally of the British in India.1 of British India, vol. ii. p. 393 seq. Whatever opinion may be formed on it, it is difficult to believe that Cornwallis was right, if he was justified in condemning Macpherson's "scrape" as “awkward and foolish."

i For the despatch, see inter alia, Pearce's Wellesley, vol. i. pp. 141-156. For the disarmament, ibid., p. 208; Ilarshman, vol. ii. pp. 71, 77 ; Thornton,

The war

This bold stroke, which, for good or for evil, reversed the policy which Cornwallis had instituted and which Shore had pursued, was accompanied or followed by another. Tippoo, the most formidable power in Southern India, was the hereditary enemy of the British race; and Tippoo, in 1798, openly proclaiming his alliance with France, sent ambassadors to the Mauritius, whose governor thereupon issued a proclamation inviting its inhabitants to enter Tippoo's service for the sake of war with England. A man full of the ideas which influenced English thought in the closing years of the eighteenth century could hardly ignore such a

with Tippon. challenge. Mornington made up his mind that Southern India was not large enough for both Tippoo and the Company, and that there was no alternative between war and ruin. He chose war, and ordered the Madras Government to prepare for war. Whatever judgment may be formed of the policy which provoked it, no two opinions can exist on the capacity with which the war was conducted. Seringapatam was taken, Tippoo was slain, and the territory of Mysore, reduced to half its area, was allotted to a Hindoo lad, the lineal descendant of the ancient Rajas whom Tippoo's father had dethroned; and the boy was placed under British protection. 1

These great events won for the author a Marquis's coronet ; and Mornington became Lord Wellesley. But the reward only stimulated him to fresh contests. The Nabob of the Carnatic, a State which embraced the south- of the Careastern littoral of Southern India, had bound himself by treaty with Cornwallis to place the resources of his State at the disposal of the British authorities in the event of war arising in contiguous territory. On the eve of the war with Tippoo, Wellesley required the Nabob to contribute a

The Nabob


vol. iii. pp. 20-44 ; cf. Malcolm's Political History of India, vol. i. p. 200 seq. Extracts from the despatch are also given in Mr. Torrens' uncompleted life of Lord Wellesley, p. 137 seq.

1 Pearce's Wellesley, vol. i. pp. 178, 187, 202, 303, 319; Marshman's India, vol. ii. pp. 83–99; Thornton's India, vol. iii. pp. 34-96; Malcolm's Political History of India, vol. i. pp. 212-241.

2 Ibid., vol. i. p. 96.

« AnteriorContinuar »