Page images

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, that 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 advice and remonstrance of the British resident were repeated without effect; and the governor-general was subsequently convinced, that nothing but his determination to proceed to Lucnow with a respectable force would have prevented the subversion of the English influence in Oude, or the alternative of hostilities to preserve it.

The approach of Vizier Ali and the governor-general, from Lucnow and Juanpore respectively, bore all the aspect of doubtful friendship. The nawaub had at one time determined to advance with a large force and a numerous train of artillery; but this measure was relinquished at the advice of the mother of the late sovereign, the Begum, or queendowager, and he in consequence announced that he should be accompanied by a very small escort. The language of his letters to Sir John Shore was civil and submissive, and such it had been to the resident, at the same time that he was secretly undermining his position. Many respectable persons were deterred from waiting on the governor-general by the fear of offending the nawaub.

Some days after his arrival at Lucnow, Sir John Shore was cautioned, through various channels, not to put his person in the power of Vizier Ali, under the impression that assassination was intended. Information was subsequently communicated that troops to a large amount had been secretly introduced into the town, and that orders had been sent to different battalions to march in. Two actually approached from the neighbourhood; the nawaub admitted the fact, but denied that they came by his orders, and remanded one of them. These circumstances determined the governorgeneral to quit his residence in the city of Lucnow, and to occupy a garden-house of the nawaub at the distance of about five miles from his residence.

This removal had the apparent effect of alarming the nawaub, who on the following day quitted Lucnow, and encamped at a small distance from the place occupied by the governor-general. He was here attacked by a disorder which prevented his meeting Sir John Shore for a considerable interval, during which the latter had an opportunity of prosecuting inquiries, the result of which led him to say that he had never been involved in a scene of greater perplexity and profligacy.'


« PreviousContinue »