Hyder-ali Et Alia
A.D. 1767 TO A.D. 1773
While Clive was laying the foundation-stones both of the Indian Empire
and the Indian Civil Service in Bengal, Madras had had its share of
wars and rumours of wars. It will be impossible, however, to treat of
them in detail. All that can be done is to pick out of the seething
mass of intrigue, of incident, those things which are necessary
to be known, in order that fut
re events shall find their proper
The Peace of Paris, signed in 1763, gave back to France her
possessions on the Coromandel Coast, and further stipulated that the
English nominee, Mahomed-Ali, Nawab of Arcot, should be recognised by
both parties as lawful Nawab of the Carnatic, and Salabut-Jung, the
French nominee, as Nizam of the Dekkan.
Regarding the latter, there is grim humour in the fact, that three
years before the Peace was signed poor Salabut had been ousted and
imprisoned by his brother Nizam-Ali, and that he was promptly murdered
by him the moment news of the treaty reached India! It is not always
safe to have the support of the ignorant!
But the Treaty of Paris did more mischief than the murder of the poor
prince. It put wind into Mahomed-Ali's head, embroiled him with the
Nizam, led to complications with the Madras Company, which in the year
1765 found itself in the unenviable position of having to pay L900,000
to the Nizam as tribute for the Northern Circars, instead of holding
them rent free from the Great Moghul, as arranged for by Lord Clive.
It was a gross piece of mismanagement, and carried with it the
perfectly monstrous provision that the Company should furnish troops
ready to "settle, in everything right and proper, the affairs of His
Highness's government." That is to say, the Nizam had the right to
call the tune without paying the piper!
[Map: India to A.D. 1757]
The very first thing he did was to involve England in a war with
Hyder-Ali, an adventurer pur et simple who, beginning by being an
uncontrolled youth divided between licentious pleasure and life in the
woods, free, untamed as any wild creature, forced himself up from one
position to another till he held half the territories of the Rajah of
Mysore, and had usurped the whole government of that country. Lawless,
fierce, without any scruples of any kind, he sided first with one ally
then with another, until finally, in 1766, he found himself faced with
the fact that Mahdu Rao the Mahratta, the Nizam, and the Company, were
leagued together for his destruction. The latter had, some time
previously, tried to bribe him to proper behaviour, but had failed;
for he was, briefly, quite untamable.
Hyder-Ali set to work with his usual fierce energy. He first
deliberately bought off the Mahratta mercenaries by parting with
certain outlying portions of his stolen territories, and the gift of
L350,000 out of his bursting treasures. It was a big bribe, but
Hyder-Ali's finances could stand it; for he was a super-excellent
robber, with a well-organised army of free-lances for backers.
Meanwhile, the Nizam's forces and those of the Company under Colonel
Smith were approaching Mysore from different sides. It was agreed,
however, that the two armies should, when they reached fighting
distance, join forces in one camp, so as to show their inviolable
unity. But alas! when this happy consummation was reached, the English
troops had the mortification of seeing the Nizam's troops march out as
they marched in!
Hyder had been successful with his money-bags once more, and after an
absurd and futile farce of palavering on the part of the Company,
Colonel Smith prepared to face the enemy's seventy thousand men and
one hundred and nine guns with his own meagre seven thousand and
sixteen guns. It is astonishing to think how he won his battle and
managed to retreat in safety, though he had against his poor thousand
of cavalry over forty-two thousand of mounted men, pure freebooters by
trade. He seems to have had mettle, this almost unheard-of Colonel
Smith, for immediately he received reinforcements he resumed the
offensive, and after a time completely defeated Hyder and the Nizam at
Trincomalee. Concerning this battle a nice little story is told. The
Nizam, as is the custom of Eastern potentates, had taken his favourite
women with him to the fight mounted on elephants, which stood in line
at the rear. The Nizam, seeing the tide of war going against him, gave
orders for the elephants to turn and retire, when from one howdah
arose a clear, scornful, feminine voice: "This elephant has not been
taught so to turn; he follows the standard of Empire."
And follow it he did, standing alone amid shot and shell, till the
royal standards, flying in hot haste, gave him the lead.
But not even this sort of thing could avail. And Hyder's money-bags
failed him also in an attempt to suborn an English commandant, who
replied to the second flag of truce sent in with a bribe, that if
Hyder-Ali wished to spare the lives of his ambassadors, he had better
refrain from sending more, as they would be hanged in his sight.
Still, bursting money-bags do much, and ever since the sacking of
Bednore, an ancient Hindu city where he had found treasures worth over
L12,000,000, Hyder had never been crippled by any lack of gold.
Nothing held him. He was here, there, everywhere. Recovering lost
territory one day, losing it the next, fighting everybody, even the
Mahrattas, like a wild cat, and inwardly raging at his failure to
crush the English, who had just entered into a new treaty with his
former ally the Nizam, by which the latter again acknowledged the
rights of the Company to the Northern Circars, and further ceded to
it, for the annual payment of L700,000, the whole district of Mysore.
Thus Madras gained its diwani as well as Bengal.
There is something almost ludicrous in the ease with which territory
changed hands in those days, and we are left with the picture in our
mind's eye of a be-jewelled potentate and a be-stocked officer
hobnobbing over bags of rupees, silk-paper documents, and large seals.
This treaty was a bitter pill to Hyder, who retaliated in every
possible way, until one day, by deft stratagem, he took his enemies in
the rear, appeared by forced marches before the very walls of Madras,
so, with the pleasure-gardens and houses of the councillors at his
mercy, almost compelled a treaty of mutual aid and defence.
A volte face indeed! Small wonder that the Directors at home, who
had been complaining ineffectively of the expenses of the war, became
bewildered by the sudden change of venue. The general public also,
seeing the price of East India stock go down 60 per cent., became
uneasy; there is nothing like a drop in Trust-Securities for rousing
the national conscience! Dividends were declining, debts were
increasing, the glorious hopes of unbounded riches from India had
faded; actuaries, nicely balancing debit and credit against the
Company, discovered that no less than one and a quarter million of the
original stock of four and a quarter of millions had gone,
Fateful disclosures these! Public outcry rose loud; voices that had
kept discreet silence while profit seemed the certain result of wars,
and treaties, and giftings, were now uplifted against rapacity,
misconduct, corruption; in the midst of which the alarming discovery
was made that the Company required a loan of L1,000,000 from this same
public in order to carry on the business. Yet, unless the business was
carried on, how could the yearly payments of L400,000 to the royal
exchequer, on which the public had insisted, be continued?
Could mismanagement further go?
So three supervisors, vested with full powers, were appointed, and set
sail for India in one of His Majesty's frigates. But Fate intervened.
They passed the Cape in safety, but were never heard of again.
This was too much. A victim must be found. Therefore Clive was
arraigned. That story has already been told, so we can pass on to the
mutual recriminations in Parliament, the growing determination on the
part of John Bull, honest and dishonest, that something must be done,
which found fruit in the first Regulating Act "for the better
management of the affairs of the East India Company as well in India
as in Europe." By this Act a governor-generalship with a salary of
L25,000 was created, together with four councillorships of L8,000.
Bombay and Madras were made subordinate to Calcutta, and a Supreme
Court of Judicature, appointed by the Crown, was established at the
latter place. All the other appointments were to be subject to the
confirmation of Parliament, and all the holders of these offices were
excluded from commercial pursuits.
The scheme sounded well, but it provided very little aid in reforming
the abuses which undoubtedly existed.
It increased the charges upon revenues already overburdened, and the
attempt to introduce English ideas of law was calculated to produce
more injustice, more oppression, and rouse more alarm and distrust
than the previous absence of it had done.
But the dividend for the year 1773 had sunk to 6 per cent.
It was manifestly time to be up and doing--something!