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1775.]

EXECUTION OF NUNCOMAR.

93

the high position which he had hitherto occupied, the comparatively slight estimate formed by the majority of his countrymen of the crime for which he was to suffer, tended to excite in the breasts of that vast concourse feelings of sympathy mingled with horror. They could scarcely believe that the strangers would dare to pollute their soil with the blood of a sacred Brahmin.

The prisoner arrived at the place of execution, preserving his composure to the last. The drop fell; and a shriek of horror, succeeded by the loud wailings of despair, burst from the multitude. Alarm and dismay penetrated even remote districts, while the spectators of the scene retained for many months the recollection of an event which had 'stirred up feelings ordinarily so alien to their apathetic minds.

CHAPTER VIII.

APPOINTMENT OF GENERAL CLAVERING TO REPLACE HASTINGS-REIN.

STATEMENT OF THE LATTER-THE MAHRATTAS-DUEL BETWEEN HASTINGS AND FRANCIS—HYDER ALI-CAMPAIGN IN THE CARNATIC DEFEAT OF BAILLIE-RETURN OF BUSSY-THE SUCCESSION OF TIPPOO -CUDDALORE-BERNADOTTE-CAPTURE OF BEDNORE-EXPEDITION OF COLONEL FULLARTON-PEACE WITH TIPPOO,

1775—1784.

THE reports from Bengal forwarded by the majority in the Calcutta Council were not likely to secure popularity for Hastings at home. The Directors blamed with justice the Rohilla war, and the minister of the day, Lord North, felt anxious to promote his political supporter, Clavering to the post of governor-general. He was, therefore, disposed to view the conduct of Hastings through the medium of a strong party bias, influenced by which, he endeavoured to procure his recal. The agent of the governor-general, alarmed at this combination, produced the letter of resignation; the Directors readily accepted it, and despatched Mr. Wheler to fill the vacant post. They determined, however, that, in the interim, General Clavering should hold the reins of government until the arrival of his successor.

But before the intelligence of these alterations reached Calcutta, the death of Monson had given Hastings a majority in the Council. He at once, therefore, rescinded his former determination, and protested that his resignation had been tendered by Colonel Maclean and accepted by the Directors, in consequence of the former having misunderstood his real meaning. This plea, though not clearly made out, seemed plausible, and very

1775.]

DECISION OF SIR ELIJAH IMPEY.

95

little show of reason would have satisfied the English and native inhabitants of Calcutta, who were all disposed to favour Hastings. But Clavering, a man of hasty temperament, insisted that the instructions of the Directors should be fully carried out. He assumed at once the name and rank of governor-general, held a council, of which Francis constituted the sole member, and demanded the keys of the fort and treasury. Hastings defended his position with temperance and moderation. While he took the precaution of issuing a general notification, commanding all military officers in the Presidency to obey no orders but his, he offered to submit the point in dispute to the arbitration of the Supreme Court. This the opposing parties could not refuse, and Sir Elijah Impey decided at once in favour of Hastings, who it was arranged should retain his post until further instructions arrived from home.

The defeated members of council might have raised an objection to the arbitration of Impey, on account of his strong party-feeling for their opponent; but they were at the same time aware that among their countrymen in Calcutta they should meet with neither sympathy nor support. The execution of Nuncomar against the expressed wishes of those who clearly constituted the majority in Council had struck awe into the natives, none of whom, however ambitious or intriguing, dared now to cross the path of the governor-general. Mortified at his failure, which sensibly affected a frame already enfeebled by sickness, General Clavering did not long survive the triumph of his rival. Mr. Wheler, who reached India soon afterwards, took his seat as a member of council, and in that capacity generally sided with Francis. Still the governor-general possessed the casting vote, and this, with the staunch support of Barwell, enabled him to overbear all opposition. The Directors, being convinced of his merits, reappointed him when the allotted term of five years had expired, while Lord North, whose attention was engrossed by matters nearer home, gladly acquiesced in their choice.

The Indian empire indeed required at this period the guidance of a steady and experienced statesman. In Europe war was impending with France, Spain, and Holland; while two of these powers possessed the means of stirring up against us the princes of Hindoostan. On that continent the power most feared by Hastings was the Mahratta confederacy, which, though in reality composed of various distinct tribes, acknowledged one head the Rajah of Sattara-and preserved at least the appearance of union amongst themselves. It seems ever the tendency of oriental despotisms to degenerate into ministerial tyranny. The dominion, founded originally by some daring adventurer, passes from his vigorous hands to those of descendants nursed in luxury and pampered by excess. A sense of incompetency produces afterwards the transfer of authority to a minister capable of wielding it, who frequently ends by tyrannising over both prince and people. The nominal Rajah of the Mahrattas was no exception to this rule. As heir to Sevajee, the founder of the Mahratta monarchy, his supremacy remained uncontested; but the real power rested with the Peishwa, his chief minister, who resided in great state at Poona, and ruled over the provinces of Aurungabad and Bejapoor.

Under the sway of this potentate were ranged various semi-independent chiefs, somewhat resembling the great feudatories of the middle ages, except that their connection with their superior or liege was more fluctuating and less direct. The Rajahs of Tanjore, for instance, made peace or war without reference to the Peishwa, who, on the other hand, did not always feel himself bound to aid his vassals in their contests with the neighbouring powers. Still

, a great emergency, in the issue of which all felt themselves interested, could cement in an instant a bond of union that would oppose to an invader the undivided strength of the Mahratta tribes,

1779.]

FIRST MAHRATTA WAR.

97

Hastings had received information which led him to believe that the French were carrying on secret negotiations with the Peishwa, at Poona. An envoy had ar rived there, it was said, bearing presents from Louis XVI., and charged with the task of arranging an alliance against the English. Hastings resolved to crush at once the Peishwa and his plots. Ragoba, another Mahratta chief, had for some time coveted the post of prime minister to the descendant of Sevajee. His claims, therefore, the governor-general determined to support; and as the season was not propitious for a voyage by sea, he proposed in council that the army should advance on land directly across the continent. This plan excited the ridicule of Francis and Wheler, but Hastings was inexorable, and took measures at once for the purpose of carrying out his project. The command of these troops had been given, in the first instance, to Colonel Leslie, but the expedition in his hands did not prosper, and Hastings sent Colonel Goddard to supersede him. Goddard showed himself a man of energy and resolution; he crossed the Nerbudda without delay, and received an intimation from the Bombay authorities that their detachment, under Colonel Egerton, should meet him in the neighbourhood of Poona. Unhappily two commissioners accompanied Egerton, and as civilians rarelyinterfere successfully in military details, they so mismanaged matters, that the Mahrattas inflicted serious injury upon our army; and wrung from its chiefs a treaty, whereby the English gave up several important possessions, and pledged themselves to despatch Colonel Goddard back to Bengal. That officer, however, on his arrival, refused to sanction a compact so unworthy of the national reputation; and, pursuing his march, entered Surat in triumph, having performed an exploit which, in those days, was regarded with unmitigated astonishment.

Colonel Goddard, who had now been promoted to the rank of general, being in possession of the most ample

H

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