Manners Morals And Missionaries

A.D. 1850 TO A.D. 1857

Beyond the second Burmese war and the annexation of Oude there is

little to be recorded in this short period of seven years. The former

passed on, as did every war, to annexation; yet once again there seems

little doubt that this was brought about by obstinate refusal to keep

the treaty which ensured "the utmost protection and security" to

British ships trading to Burm
se ports.

The question of the annexation of Oude, however, falls into another

category, and is so often cited as one of the chief causes of the

Great Mutiny of 1857, that it is best discussed among the many other

reasons for resentment and rebellion which undoubtedly existed in

India at this time. One of these was the change of manners in the

ruling white-faced race.

In the old days of a good year's voyaging and sea-sickness round the

Cape few women had been found to face it; and so the Englishmen in

India had formed irregular connections with native women, often of

very good birth. These connections, though, of course, contrary to our

marriage laws, were not exactly immoral; they were, indeed, often as

regular as the differing codes of Christianity, Hinduism, and

Mahomedanism would allow. And, naturally, they greatly bridged over

the gulf between the rulers and the ruled.

The short sea-passage changed all this. English ladies came out in

crowds, and seeing themselves surrounded by native sister-subjects who

thought differently to what they did on almost every conceivable

social subject, held up holy hands of horror at everything they saw,

oblivious, apparently, of the obvious fact, that if the native sister

appeared a bogey to them, they also must have been a bogey to the

native sister.

She, however, by her very seclusion, was prevented from airing her

opinion. Not so the Englishwomen and young girls who began to come to

live amongst those who were generally called the heathen. There is no

more charitable and kindly soul than the average British matron, and

in the days before '57 she was beyond measure romantic. This was the

time when, escaping from the stern rule of papa and mama, who had been

ready with bread and water for "miss" if she refused an eligible

parti, the English girl looked on Love with a big L, as something

only a trifle less divine than the God whom she worshipped. She was

not, therefore, likely to find anything but militant pity and charity

for a social system which began by ignoring love as synonymous with

passion. Thus the Englishwoman was no factor for peace in the new

order of things. Then the changes inaugurated by the inclusion of the

"introduction of religious and moral improvement" as a licensable

trade had borne much fruit. One has only to read missionary reports to

find out how enormously organised effort to convert the people of

India had increased since 1813, and still more from 1833. In the year

1840 Dr Duff's Christian college at Calcutta numbered over six hundred

pupils, and in 1845 came the added interest to the cause of Missions

brought by the great Evangelical movement, not only in the Church of

England, but throughout all Europe. This wave of religiosity left no

Christian sect untouched, and part of its result was the introduction

into India of a race of Church-Militant officials, admirable in

character, in work, who, despite their faithful performance of duties

to Caesar which demanded absolute impartiality, could not divest

themselves absolutely of their other duty (as they held it) to God;

that is to say, to influence the natives for good--in other words, to

Christianity. Without attempting praise or blame, it is impossible to

deny that the example of such strong and militant Christians as the

Lawrences, as Havelock, as half a hundred other well-known names, to

say nothing of the hundreds of lesser-known ones who in civil stations

and cantonments were encouraging mission work with all their might and

main, must inevitably have attracted the attention of pandits and

moulvies, whose profession, whose bare living, was bound up in

so-called heathendom.

Then, ever since the days of Lord William Bentinck, legislation had

favoured the new faith. It will be remembered that he was mixed up

with the mutiny at Vellore--a mutiny, if ever there was one, caused by

abject fear of enforced conversion. His abolition of suttee, his

tinkering with Indian law so as to free Hindu converts to Christianity

from disabilities in succession (or as it has been put, "to free them

from the trammels of their former superstitions and secure them in the

full possession of Christian freedom"), had passed muster at the time,

but as their effects became palpable, their interference in matters of

custom and religion was resented. The very inauguration of female

education was an offence, and as the years went on, bringing ever more

and more missionary effort, and, above all, more support to that

effort on the part of the ruling race, fear of wholesale conversion

sprang up amongst the ignorant people, and was carefully fostered by

the priests and preachers who had all to gain and nothing to lose by


And behind all this lay slumbering a great resentment. Say what folk

would, be the excuse what it might, the fact remained that the last

hundred years had seen every Indian prince reduced to the position of

a pensioner, his land annexed. And the years between 1850 and 1857

produced a large crop of such annexations and usurpations. To begin

with the petty state of Sattarah. When Pertap-Singh the ruler

(given his chiefship by the British who hunted him up, prisoned,

poverty-stricken) had to be deposed childless, England forebore to

annex, and placed a brother on the cushion of State; but when that

brother, also childless, adopted a son but a few hours before his

death, she refused to recognise his right to do so in regard to the

succession. Such a son was legal heir to personal property, but

Sattarah, being a dependency, could not by Indian law pass by adoption

without the permission of the lord-paramount, which in this case had

not been asked. Legally, she was right; but the sting of annexation


Then the case of Kerowli occurred, in which adoption was made without

permission; but here the Governor-General's order was over-ruled by

the Directors, who held that though "Sattarah had been originally a

gift and creation of the British Government, Kerowli was one of the

oldest Rajput states, and merited different treatment." Annexation was

not, therefore, carried out; but the very considerateness of the

decision intensified feeling in the other case.

Following this came the Jhansi case, involving an area of about

2,000 square miles. Here, again, no issue--almost no collateral

relationships--was the cause of an unauthorised adoption which,

because the chiefship was, again, a creation of the English, was held


Then, as if these three almost forced annexations, occurring in

1849,1852, and 1853 respectively, were not enough to damn British

policy in the eyes of disaffection, yet another case came up for

settlement in 1853; for on the 11th of December died Ragoji-Bonsla,

the Rajah of Berar. He left neither issue nor collateral heir, neither

had he attempted to supply their place by adoption; thus the question

of the state lapsing to the Crown arose in its simplest and clearest

form. The decision was, naturally, that by the Rajah's "death without

any heir whatever, the possession of his territories has reverted to

the British Government which gave them"; a decision without any doubt


Now, ere passing on to the annexation of Oude, which stands on a

totally different footing, it is as well to notice the drift of what

may be read between the lines of this long record of principalities

passing by lack of heirs of the body to the lord-paramount. What does

it mean? Doubtless, it points first to degeneracy, to the fading away

of families which is due to dissolute life. But this life in high

places was no new thing; the English had found it rampant when they

came. Therefore some other reason for the necessity of State

interference must be found. What was this?

Plainly, on the very face of things, the answer is to be found. It was

the order, the law, the freedom from conspiracy, assassination,

self-aggrandisement, which English protection had ensured. In the old

times an heirless rajah of past fifty would have been the centre of a

snatching crowd of nobles, and the strongest would have asserted his

right, and possibly hurried on the death of the dying king, or ever

the lord-paramount had time to interfere; and then a payment in gold

would have satisfied authority! So degeneracy did not matter; a new

family always took the place of the dead one.

Now there was a hard and fast law which had to be obeyed by king and

subject alike; a bitter lesson for any Oriental to learn, whose very

idea of kingship is its superiority to order.

The trouble in Oude began--when did it not begin!

In 1760 Sujah-ud-daula, its hereditary wazir, well beaten by the

Company for aggression on Bengal, ceded Allahabad and Korah, but was

left undisputed master of the rest of his territories. In 1768, again

in consequence of defeat, he was bound over to reduce his army. In

1773 he once more bound himself to further dependence in return for

troops. In 1775 Sujah-ud-daula died, and his son Asaf-ud-daula, in

return for "good consideration," ceded territory as perpetual payment

of the said troops, and afterwards, by various treaties, promised, in

return for the guarantee of the possession, protection, and

administration of Oude, to govern "in such a manner as would be

conducive to the prosperity of his subjects"; also, to act on the

advice of the British Government. Sa'adut-Ali, his successor, ratified

these treaties, and showed, by the mere fact of his amassing treasure

to the amount of L14,000,000 during his reign of fifteen years, that

they were not, at least, pecuniarily hard. Ghazi-ud-din, the next

Nawab or wazir, regained a certain independence, not by treaty, but by

loaning out his father's millions to the Company. The sop of being

allowed to assert his independence of Delhi and call himself King was

thrown to him; but he was no ruler, and the aid of British troops

being refused him, "except in support of just and legitimate demands,"

he defied the treaty which limited his own army, and kept sixty

thousand native troops, two-thirds of whom were entirely without

discipline, living naturally by rapine and robbery. His son

Nasir-ud-din, hopeless debauchee, continued and increased these

evils, drawing down on himself the solemn warning of Lord William

Bentinck in 1829, that deposition must surely follow on such misrule.

Unfortunately, however, advice how to rule was refused, and on

Nasir-ud-din's death--of course without issue--advantage was taken of

the accession of the old man--almost in his dotage--Nasir-ud-daula, to

obtain a fresh and still more stringent treaty, by which, if misrule

continued, the British Government reserved the 'right to administer,

rendering account to the Nawab,' and so far as possible maintaining

existing forms so as to 'facilitate the future restoration of power

to its rightful owner.' In other words the Nawab was, if

contumacious, to be put under trustees for the time. This was in 1837.

At Nasir-ud-daula's death in 1842 his son succeeded, and in 1847

another son rose to the throne by his brother's death--of course

without issue. Now Wajid-Ali-Shah, the last Nawab or King of Oude, was

utterly worthless. One has but to read the journal of the Resident,

General Sleeman, to recognise how hopeless was the problem of peace,

prosperity, or progress, under his rule. Surrounded by fiddlers,

prostitutes, poetasters, eunuchs, he wasted half the revenues on these

creatures, by whom he was led about, a silly imbecile, with drugged

brain and diseased body.

"There is not, I believe," writes General Sleeman--a man of infinite

knowledge of the native, infinite sympathy with them--"another

Government in India so entirely opposed to the best interests and most

earnest wishes of the people as that of Oude now is. People of all

classes have become utterly weary of it."

No better case for deposition, for the removing of a whole people from

the grip of fatuous immorality and crass misrule, could be found than

this; but the means chosen to effect the desirable consummation were

mean in the extreme. There were two definite treaties regarding the

government of Oude. The one signed in 1837, gave as the punishment for

misrule, the placing of the administration under trustees only. That

signed in 1801 gave a guarantee of British protection in return for

the cession of certain territories, provided the administration of

Oude coincided with the advice of the Company. In this case,

therefore, the only penalty was palpably the withdrawal of


Neither of these penalties satisfied the desire for a total change of

policy. Instead of saying this openly, instead of boldly running up

the flag of England, and saying: "This passes! It can no longer be

permitted, that, under the protection of England such vice, such

fraud, such extortion, such downright devilry, should exist. This

crazy, imbecile, lecherous, drunken scoundrel shall take his pension

and cease to be a tyrant." Instead of all this, with at least some

backbone of righteous indignation to carry it through, Lord Dalhousie

the Governor-General and his advisers informed the Nawab that the

treaty of 1837 had never been ratified in England, but that by some

mistake the fact had never been notified to him! And this after Lord

Hardinge in 1847 had threatened the Nawab with the penalty laid down

in that treaty, and no other!

It is almost incredible! But there is more to tell. By thus setting

the treaty of 1837 aside, that of 1801 remained, under which the

English had no power to do more than withdraw their protection from

Oude. Thus annexation stood less justified than ever, except on the

plain ground of the greatest good of the greatest number.

Oude was annexed in 1856. It was the recruiting-ground of a large

portion of our native armies, and there is no doubt whatever that we

have here the great political cause of disloyalty. In the previous two

or three years, also, many measures had been passed to rouse religious

resentment and suspicion, such as the Hindu widows re-marriage Act,

and the Act to remove all forfeiture of property due to a change of

religion. Nor were these things, as of old, too remote to touch on the

common lives of the people. In Lord Dalhousie's term of office alone

4,000 miles of electric telegraph wires had spread a network over

India, railways were every day eating into the heart of the land, a

road, metalled, duly laid out for posting, stretched 2,000 miles from

Culcutta to Peshawar, schools were starting up in the rural districts,

and letters--stamped letters--carrying God knows what of lies born of

fear or fraud, were being delivered for a trifle to almost every town

and hamlet in India.

A mighty change this, bringing with it at every point the defiling

touch of the Feringhi.

Nor was this all. Government was changing. It might be for the

better--at any rate, it could not be for the worse--but still it was

strange. The man to whom the revenue would in future be paid would

have a white face, and that in itself was disturbing.

Yes! without doubt, the West was encroaching fast

Oude, it has been said, was the great recruiting-ground of our native

cavalry, but also for our table attendants. The first went home to

hear tales of annexation, of order which gave the brotherhood-of-arms

that had remained at home no chance of plunder as in the past. The

latter took home with them on their holidays long tales of the

mem-sahibas, and the sahibs' command that all servants should attend

family prayers; and of the bakshish of kindness to be gained by

professing interest in the new faith.

So, fostered by professional agitators, by disappointed

claimants--even as the present unrest is fostered in India

nowadays--the indefinite fear of something grew in the years between

'fifty and 'fifty-seven.