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1781.]

TROUBLES IN OUDE AND BAHAR.

113

assault upon the fortified palace of Ramnaghur, where the rajah had taken refuge. Having no artillery, he was unable to force an entrance, while the insurgents assailed his men from every direction, occupying the houses on each side of the narrow lanes, and pouring down missiles

upon the troops as they advanced. Numbers fell, and among them the commander himself. His death soon terminated the conflict, for the few wounded and terrified survivors, finding themselves without a leader, made a speedy retreat, and hastened with the unwelcome intelligence to the governor-general. Hastings now perceived that he could not much longer maintain his position at Benares, and at once retired to the neighbouring fortress of Chunar, pursued by the jeers and revilings of the fanatical rabble. The slightest reverse suffered by the English in India, has generally been followed by a native rising, and on this occasion many were induced to consider the arrest of the rajah as a wanton insult to their religious feelings. In Oude and Bahar the people refused to pay their taxes, and offered an armed resistance to the officers of the Nabob Vizier. But the insurrection, like almost all oriental revolutions, was easily put down by the firmness and discipline of trained soldiers. Major Popham defeated the rajah's army, and this prince who, when inspirited by his first successes, had boasted that he would speedily drive the English from the continent, now beheld himself reduced to the necessity of an ignominious flight. The governor-general specially excepted his name, and that of his brother, from the amnesty he shortly afterwards issued, while a young nephew, the mere puppet of the English, was placed upon the vacant throne.

The amount of treasure which the rajah possessed at Benares had been grossly exaggerated by rumour, and Hastings was soon obliged to have recourse to some other means of replenishing the almost exhausted coffers of the Company. At this juncture he received a visit from

the young Nabob of Oude, Assou-ood-Dowlah, who had lately succeeded his father, Sujah. He was a weak and pusillanimous tyrant, entirely given up to debauchery, and supported on the throne merely by English bayonets. For this assistance he already owed the Company a large sum, which Hastings now demanded, but which his debtor seemed indisposed to pay. So far indeed, from granting any remission, the governorgeneral had determined in his own mind to extract an extraordinary supply, over and above what was legally due from the Nabob Vizier. Assou-ood-Dowlah pleaded excuse after excuse in vain, and found himself obliged, in return, to listen to several indirect but intelligible intimations that his own worthless extravagance must have occasioned the emptiness of his treasury. Finding all his efforts unavailing, the Nabob resorted to a questionable expedient, by which he might relieve himself from difficulties and satisfy the demands of the English Government.

The mother and grandmother of Assou-ood-Dowlah still survived, and were commonly entitled the Begums or Princesses of Oude. They had inherited from Sujahood-Dowlah the magnificent palace of Feyzabad, with extensive estates and a large sum of ready money, Two eunuchs, who had been in the confidence of the deceased Vizier, directed the affairs of their household. A rumour went abroad that, at their instigation, or at least with their concurrence, the Begums were endeavouring to stir up a rebellion against the Nabob and the English. The accusation appeared vague and scarcely probable, but Hastings might have thought it true. He therefore assented to the proposition of the Nabob that a large sum of money should be extorted from these ladies, while he confiscated their landed property for the benefit of the Company.

The Begums remonstrated, and even Assou-ood-Dowlah seemed indisposed to push matters to extremities, but

1782.]
TORTURE OF THE EUNUCHS.

115 the governor-general turned a deaf ear to their entreaties. The most disgusting part of this disreputable business fell to the Nabob's share, though ignorance cannot be pleaded as an excuse for Hastings. With the connivance of the English authorities, the Begums were starved, imprisoned and plundered, while the two eunuchs endured tortures to which the walls of their miserable dungeons, and the wretches who inflicted these horrors, were the only witnesses. At length a large sum having been obtained in this manner, the unfortunate men recovered their freedom, but the torments they had suffered left an indelible stain upon the character of their persecutors.

It would be unfair to the memory of Hastings, however, if we fail to consider the palliating circumstances which an advocate would have urged in his behalf. A crisis had arisen in the affairs of the country over which he was presiding, and its results might seriously have affected the interests of British India. It was for some time dubious whether the Company would not be obliged to withdraw from the Carnatic; and the loss of their settlements there, must almost have ensured the ruin of Calcutta. Money or total destruction, therefore, were the only alternatives which presented themselves to the mind of Warren Hastings at that eventful period.

Moreover, the humanity of the Englishman who lived in the eighteenth century differed materially from the humanity of the present day. Thanks to the wider diffusion among all classes of a purer and more heartfelt religious feeling, we should regard with abhorrence many spectacles which the contemporary of Hastings would have gazed upon with indifference or unconcern. In his time judicial torture was not abolished—nay, might be enforced by the laws of England. Criminals who refused to plead rendered themselves liable to be pressed to death with heavy weights in one of the courts of Newgate. Men, and even women, were whipped

through the streets, followed by the jeers and brutal merriment of an unfeeling mob, to whom the sufferings of an erring fellow-creature afforded unbounded mirth. Soldiers, for the slightest offence, were scourged almost to death, while slavery, with all its horrors, existed in most of the colonial possessions. Hastings had always shown himself constitutionally humane, but there is no evidence to prove that his sensibilities were in advance of his age, or that he regarded the torture of two eunuchs, a despised and degraded class even in the East, with more concern than an English West India planter of the period would have exhibited, upon receiving the intelligence that a refractory negro had been severely flogged by a strict and rigid overseer.

Something, also, might be said as to the Nabob's share in the nefarious transaction. Hastings' demands for money had been pressing; but he did not prescribe the mode of extorting it from those who were the Nabob's subjects, and therefore not under the governor-generals control. The latter made over to his accomplice the odium and more active tyranny connected with this act of oppression, while he himself reaped the advantages of those deeds of violence which he had not directly commanded. A word from him, doubtless, would have opened the dungeon doors of Lucknow, and restored to the Begums a portion of their plundered estates; the word remained unspoken, and, in succeeding years, Hastings was arraigned before the bar of his country, less for his actual tyranny than for his culpable silence.

The last two years of his rule were passed in peace and prosperity. By his untiring energy, and, above all, by his ample remittances, he had brought the war in the Carnatic to an auspicious termination. The prospects of the French were defeated, and a peace concluded with the aspiring Sultan of Mysore. Nor should his internal administration at Calcutta be defrauded of its just meed of praise. The whole frame

1784.)

POPULARITY OF HASTINGS.

117

work of civil legislation there was created by him. The English found themselves restricted from oppressing the natives, the natives were not permitted to impose upon, or defraud, the English. Unscrupulous with regard to foreign potentates, Hastings showed himself the pattern of justice and humanity towards the people more immediately under his charge. Members of the civil and military services suspended their mutual jealousies to unite in commendation of the great proconsul. To him is due the praise of having been the first to patronise and cultivate the literature of Hindoostan. He understood and spoke the various dialects of northern India, with facility

and elegance, while his knowledge of Persian, still the court language of the Mohammedan princes, has been only equalled by that of Sir William Jones.

The departure of Hastings from the scene of his triumphs called forth an unusual display of popular sympathy. Natives vied with Europeans in expressing their grateful sense of his past services, and their regret at his present retirement. He beguiled the tedium of his voyage home by those literary pursuits, which had always retained a considerable share of his attention, even during the most stormy periods of his administration. He translated into easy flowing verse the Ode of Horace, addressed to Pompeius Grosphus, and could, perhaps, from sad experience of the toils of office, and the cares always attendant on human greatness, bear ample testimony to the truthful sentiment contained in those spirited lines :

“Non enim gazæ, neque consularis

Submovet lictor miseros tumultus
Mentis, et curas laqueata circum
Tecta volantes."*

*“ For neither gold, nor gems combined,
Can heal the foul or suffering mind.

Lo! where their owner lies,
Perch'd on his couch Distemper breathes ;
And Care, like smoke, in turbid wreaths,

Round the gay ceiling flies.”Hor. Book II. Ode x i.

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