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habad and Corah, sold them to the Nabob Vizier of Oude, Sujah Dowlah. He did more. Sujah Dowlah was anxious to annex to his dominions the district of Rohilcund. This region had, for many years, been occupied by the Rohillas, a warlike and independent race of Afghan descent, who came originally from Cabul and Candahar. Valiant in the field, and high-spirited in their habits and demeanour, their tribes resembled greatly the Scottish Highlanders of the period anterior to 1745. But, like them, they had proved themselves dangerous neighbours to the unwarlike inhabitants of the plains, whom they at once despised and plundered. Sujah Dowlah felt that he was too weak to encounter alone the descendants of Mahmoud of Ghuznee. He, therefore, resolved to obtain the aid of the English, and for that purpose sought an interview with Hastings. The governor had just been engaged in sending forth an expedition against Bootan, which he subsequently annexed to the dominions of the Company. He had also repressed with vigour and success the incursions of a host of Saniyassies, or religious mendicants, who, under the pretence of possessing supernatural powers, overran the country, and committed all kinds of excesses. Having chased these fanatics beyond the boundaries of India, Hastings was now at leisure to listen to the Nabob's representations. Upon condition that Sujah Dowlah should pay to the Company forty lacs of rupees, and discharge the expenses of the war, the governor agreed to furnish him with an English force under Colonel Champion. Some delay ensued before the troops advanced, but at length they were joined by the Nabob, and the war commenced. Champion soon found that he was compelled to engage the enemy by himself, the Nabob refusing him, under various pretences, the aid of a solitary gun, or of a single troop of cavalry, until he saw the enemy defeated, when his men rushed forward, with unwonted alacrity, to plunder the Rohilla camp. Moved with indignation and con
89 tempt, Champion wrote to his superior, “We have the honour of the day, and these banditti the profit.”
The once fertile district of Rohilcund was now exposed to all the horrors of war. The English commander remonstrated vehemently against these barbarities, and Hastings, through his political agent, Mr. Middleton, constantly inculcated upon the Vizier the duty of according to the vanquished humane and considerate treatment. But Sujah Dowlah invariably turned a deaf ear to these suggestions. A coward is always cruel when he has the means of being so; and the Nabob on this occasion disgraced himself, and partially dishonoured his allies, by the most wanton and unparalleled tyranny. The remnant of the Rohillas, however, under their chief, Fyzoola Khan, still offered a bold front to their oppressor, and Sujah Dowlah, admonished by the evident disgust of the English officers for his sanguinary proceedings, forbore to drive the vanquished to desperation, and finally concluded a peace with their leader.
In 1773, a measure, termed the Regulating Act, passed through the British Parliament. It made Bengal the chief of the three Presidencies in India, and placed over it a governor-general, assisted by four councillors, whose authority had been limited to a period of five years. In addition to these officials, a supreme court of justice was established in Calcutta, consisting of one principal, and three subordinate judges.
Hastings received the appointment of governorgeneral, his councillors being Mr. Philip Francis, General Clavering, Mr. Monson, and Mr. Barwell, an old servant of the Company. Of these the former only possessed already an English reputation, which he still retains. Rumour attached to him the composition of the Letters of Junius, a production yet enveloped in seemingly impenetrable mystery. The character of Francis agrees tolerably, however, with that which imagination might assign to the anonymous politician. Stern, fearless, and haughty, with talents of the highest order, but irritable and malignant by turns, Philip Francis seemed the exact counterpart of those turbulent tribunes who played so prominent a part in the dissensions of republican Rome. Soon after his arrival in India, he manifested a spirit of insubordination, which produced ultimately the most fatal and lamentable results. To Hastings he was opposed from the first, and the commanding energy of his character induced Clavering and Monson to rank themselves under his banner against the governor-general. From personal friendship and that professional spirit which impels members of the same service to support each other, Barwell allied himself to Hastings; and thus, even at the commencement of the new administration, two factions existed, whose mutual animosities impeded that unity of operation which is essential in all countries to success; and still more so when the few rule over the many, and are surrounded, as in India, by hostile, or at least unfriendly, powers. Hastings derived additional weight from the arrival of his old schoolfellow Sir Elijah Impey, who had been nominated Chief Justice of Calcutta, and one of whose first duties was to give sentence against Francis in a court of law, wherein the latter appeared as defendant.
Hating the governor-general and the chief-justice with equal rancour, Francis stirred up his colleagues to. annoy the former in every possible way. His measures were stigmatized, his plans rendered abortive, by the majority in the council. All affairs, whether internal or external, these political novices handled with rash impetuosity, and being wholly inexperienced with regard to oriental questions, they soon involved everything in hopeless confusion. Reduced to a mere cipher, Hastings, as well as the natives who surrounded him, quickly discovered that the governor-general was now but the powerless shadow of a mighty name.
1774.] ACCUSATION OF HASTINGS BY NUNCOMAR.
91 The Nabob Sujah Dowlah being dead, his son and successor Assouf-ood-Dowlah was compelled by the council to transfer to them the possessions of Cheyte Sing, Rajah of Benares, over which he could not claim the slightest authority. They then interfered between the Presidency of Bombay and the Mahrattas, a proceeding that terminated in the surrender by the Supreme Council of all the advantages gained by the Bombay troops to a confederacy of Mahratta chiefs, while Ragoba, the ally for whom the war had been undertaken, was refused an asylum from the vengeance of his enemies.
The governor-general offered strenuous though useless opposition to these impolitic measures, but soon found himself compelled to defend his own honour and integrity against his bitter opponents. He was accused of receiving bribes, and of putting up offices for sale; the accuser being none other than his old antagonist the Brahmin Nuncomar. This unprincipled schemer had long watched, with feelings of gratified revenge, the vexations of one whom he accounted his deadliest foe. He now allied himself to Francis and the majority, who called upon Hastings to answer the charge in their presence, and before Nuncomar. The governor-general indignantly refused to be confronted with a man so utterly depraved and worthless; but the prejudices of his auditors being impervious to argument, he broke up the council, and followed by Barwell left the room. Nuncomar was then examined by the remaining three; his statements, though false, seemed specious, and were supported by an ample supply of documents, forged for the occasion, or extorted from the fears of his countrymen. The latter he well knew how to intimidate, by representing that the downfall of the governor-general was at hand, and that they would best consult their interests, if they secured the good-will of the triumphant members of the Council. Hastings found himself placed in so difficult a position that he forwarded his resignation
to Colonel Maclean, his agent in England, who received instructions to make use of it, in case the Directors should refuse to support his principal.
But the intrigues of Nuncomar were now drawing to a close. He was suddenly arrested, on a charge of forgery committed six years before, and tried for his life before Sir Elijah Impey. The jury found the prisoner guilty, and the judge pronounced upon him the sentence of death. No legal objection could hold against the fairness of this trial. The crime was fully brought home to the accused, and the laws of England, now established in Calcutta by the Regulating Act, doomed a convicted forger to expiate his crime upon the gallows. But the verdict excited at the time considerable discussion, and provoked no slight censure.
It was urged that the chief-justice should have granted a respite until the proceedings had undergone the investigation and received the sanction of higher authorities at home. The spirit of faction led Francis and his party to speak of the fraudulent Brahmin, as a victim sacrificed to the vengeance of the governorgeneral by a chief-justice who had ever been the warmest supporter and most confidential friend of Warren Hastings.
And now the sheriff of Calcutta entered the cell of the prisoner to admonish him of his impending fate. Nuncomar received the mournful intelligence with that calm composure which, even under the pressure of the severest calamity, still characterises the weakest and most effeminate of his race. He sent his compliments to Francis, Clavering, and Monson, commending to their protection his son, Rajah Goordas; and then occupied himself in writing letters and accounts during the remainder of the day. On the ensuing morning a large crowd assembled to see him die. The majority indeed were drawn thither from motives the least akin to morbid curiosity. The Brahminical caste of Nuncomar,