Page images
PDF
EPUB

VIZIER ALI KHAN

OR

THE MASSACRE OF BENARES.

The kingdom of Oude is the only portion of the great plain of the Ganges that is not immediately subject to the government of British India; extending from the banks of that great river to the foot of the lower range of Himalaya, and surrounded on three of its sides by the dominions of the Company. Lucnow, the capital, though a large and populous place in early times, became the residence of the court as late as 1775, but soon grew to be one of the wealthiest cities in Hindoostan ;- rivalling those more ancient seats,

Where the gorgeous East, with richest hand,

Shower'd on her kings barbaric pearls and gold.
On the decease of the reigning sovereign,

B

[ocr errors][subsumed]

Asoph ul Dowlah, in 1797, the rulers of British India were compelled,' said Lord Teignmouth, by an extraordinary concurrence of circumstances, to become the arbiters of the disposal of a kingdom. The claim to succession lay between Vizier Ali, the reputed son of the deceased nawaub, and the lineal descendant of his father Sujah ul Dowlah, by name Saadut Ali. After some deliberation on the respective rights of these two claimants, the decision was made in favour of Vizier Ali, the presumptive eldest son and heir-apparent to the deceased sovereign of Oude. The ground of this decision was his acknowledgment of that youth, now seventeen years of age, as his own son, corroborated by a series of corresponding acts and declarations, and by the sentence of the Mahomedan law, which supported the validity of such a claim.

The reign of the young nawaub was, however, destined to be short. Reports and suspicions, at first so faint that they did not prevent his succession, though they had embarrassed the counsels which confirmed it, gained strength as to the spuriousness of his origin. It was ascertained at length, on indu

bitable evidence, that Asoph ul Dowlah, who had no sons of his own, had purchased his mother, the wife of a Fraush or menial person, a short time previous to the birth of Vizier Ali, and adopted the child as his own. The abandoned conduct of the youth after his undeserved elevation seemed to argue a spurious and ignoble nature; but he was not long able to abuse the station to which he was so little entitled.

The consciousness of his insecure position probably led to his entertaining those hostile and treacherous designs towards the English which tended only to hasten his downfall. By nature he was fearless, sanguinary, and uncontrollable; in conduct debauched, and unbounded in profusion. His proceedings soon showed that he was determined to maintain his position at all risks—et quærere conscius arma.' Immediately after Vizier Ali's succession to the musnud of Oude, and before any question arose as to his right, the Governor-General of India had planned a visit to Lucnow. Before his arrival, the letters from the British resident at that court stated, what was afterwards proved, the early determination

of the young nawaub to establish his own power, if possible, by the subversion of the influence of the Company.

On the morning when the intended visit had been intimated through the resident, the state of affairs at Lucnow wore a most alarming appearance.

Ten or twelve battalions of troops were called in, the artillery was served with ammunition, and a confederacy formed with hostile designs. The result of his deliberations with his adherents was a letter, described by the resident as requiring for answer either the most implicit acquiescence or the ultima ratio of the sword. Shief Ali, the father-in-law of the nawaub, was with difficulty induced to prevail on him to substitute one rather more temperate, and which the governor-general received on his approach from Calcutta.

The particulars communicated by the minister, Zehseen Ali Khan, the secret adherent of the rightful claims of Saadut Ali, were very unfavourable. He stated that the conduct of Vizier Ali since his accession had exhibited a course of meanness, profligacy, and vice. He had avowed to the minister, who urged the

obligations of his predecessor to the Company, that he would submit to no dependency. His own expressions, in the letter received from him, sufficiently confirmed this. “I am confident,' said he, óthat no one will dare to annihilate my authority and dignity. The minister added, as his own opinion, that if Vizier Ali's power were at all equal to resistance, he would oppose any interference on the part of the British by force; and that he meditated such a course might be inferred from the fact of his exacting oaths from his commanders to be faithful to him.

The measures of Vizier Ali, soon after his accession, had been directed to the degradation of the minister, who was generally considered as favourable to the brother of the late nawaub, and a friend of the English. He repeatedly interdicted, under threats of severe punishment, all persons from attending the disgraced functionary. The official duties of the minister were, by order, absolutely suspended, while Vizier Ali assumed the entire authority over the military, whom he conciliated with the most unbounded profusion. The ad ce and remonstrance of the British

« PreviousContinue »