« AnteriorContinuar »
rades a an excellent swimmer, boatman, and for stuffs with native brokers. While he was
scholar. At fourteen he was first in the examination for the foundation. His name in gilded letters on the walls of the dormitory, still attests his victory over many older competitors. He stayed two years longer at the school, and was looking forward to a studentship at Christchurch, when an event happened which changed the whole course of his life. Howard Hastings died, bequeathing his nephew to the care of a friend and distant relation, named Chiswick. This gentleman, though he did not absolutely refuse the charge, was desirous to rid himself of it as soon as possible. Dr. Nichols made strong remonstrances against the cruelty of interrupting the studies of a youth who seemed likely to be one of the first scholars of the age. He even offered to bear the expense of sending his favourite pupil to Oxford. But Mr. Chiswick was inflexible. He thought the years which had already been wasted on hexameters and pentameters quite sufficient. He had it in his power to obtain for the lad a writership in the service of the East India Company. Whether the young adventurer, when once shipped off, made a fortune, or died of a liver complaint, he equally ceased to be a burden to anybody. Warren was accordingly removed from Westminster school, and placed for a few months at a commercial academy, to study arithmetic and book-keeping. In January, 1750, a few days after he had completed his seventeenth year, he sailed for Bengal, and arrived at his destination in the October following.
He was immediately placed at a desk in the Secretary's office at Calcutta, and laboured there during two years. Fort William was then a purely commercial settlement. In the south of India the encroaching policy of Dupleix had transformed the servants of the English company, against their will, into diplomatists and generals. The war of the succession was raging in the Carnatic; and the tide had been suddenly turned against the French by the genius of young Robert Clive. But in Bengal, the European settlers, at peace with the natives and with each other, were wholly occupied with Ledgers and Bills of lading.
After two years passed in keeping accounts at Calcutta, Hastings was sent up the country to Cossimbazar, a town which lies on the Hoogly, about a mile from Moorshedabad, and which then bore to Moorshedabad a relation, if we may compare small things with great, such as the city of London bears to Westminster. Moorshedabad was the abode of the prince who, by an authority ostensibly derived from the Mogul, but really independent, ruled the three great provinces of Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar. At Moorshedabad were the court, the harem, and the public offices. Cossimbazar was a port and a place of trade, renowned for the quantity and excellence of the silks which were sold in its marts, and constantly receiving and sending forth fleets of richly laden barges. At this important point, the Company had established a small factory subordinate to that of Fort William. Here, during several years, llasting was employed in making bargains
thus engaged, Surajah Dowlah succeeded to the government, and declared war against the English. The defenceless settlement of Cos simbazar, lying close to the tyrant's capital, was instantly seized Hastings was sent a prisoner to Moorshedabad; but, in conse quence of the humane intervention of the ser vants of the Dutch Company, was treated with indulgence. Meanwhile the Nabob marched on Calcutta; the governor and the commandant fled; the town and citadel were taken, and most of the English prisoners perished in the Blackhole.
In these events originated the greatness of Warren Hastings. The fugitive governor and his companions had taken refuge on the dreary islet of Fulda, near the mouth of the Hoogly. They were naturally desirous to obtain full information respecting the proceedings of the Nabob; and no person seemed so likely to furnish it as Hastings, who was a prisoner at large in the immediate neighbourhood of the court. He thus became a diplomatic agent, and soon established a high character of ability and resolution. The treason which at a later period was fatal to Surajah Dowlah was already in progress; and Hastings was admitted to the deliberations of the conspirators. But the time for striking had not arrived. It was necessary to postpone the execution of the design; and Hastings, who was now in extreme peril. fled to Fulda.
Soon after his arrival at Fulda, the expedi tion from Madras, commanded by Clive, appeared in the Hoogley. Warren, young, intrepid, and excited probably by the example of the commander of the forces, who, having like himself been a mercantile agent of the Company, had been turned by public calamities into a soldier, determined to serve in the ranks. During the early operations of the war he carried a musket. But the quick eye of Clive soon perceived that the head of the young volunteer would be more useful than his arm. When, after the battle of Plassey, Meer Jaffier was proclaimed Nabob of Bengal, Hastings was appointed to reside at the court of the new prince as agent for the Company.
He remained at Moorshedabad till the year 1761, when he became member of Council, and was consequently forced to reside at Calcutta. This was during the interval between Clive's first and second administration-an interva which has left on the fame of the East India Company a stain not wholly effaced by many years of just and humane government. Mr. Vansittart, the Governor, was at the head of a new and anomalous empire. On the one side was a band of English functionaries, daring, intelligent, eager to be rich. On the other side was a great native population, helpless, timid, accustomed to crouch under oppression. To keep the stronger race from preying on the weaker was an undertaking which tasked to the utmost the talents and energy of Clive. Vansittart, with fair intentions, was a feeble and inefficient ruler. The master caste, as was natural, broke loose from all restraint, and then was seen what we believe to be the most frightful of all spectacles, the strength
of civilization without its mercy. To all other | lous, perhaps an unprincipled statesman; but
still he was a statesman, and not a freebooter.
In 1764, Hastings returned to England. He had realized only a very moderate fortune, and that moderate fortune was soon reduced to no
despotism there is a check; imperfect, indeed, and liable to gross abuse, but still sufficient to preserve society from the last extreme of misery. A time comes when the evils of submission are obviously greater than those of re-thing, partly by his praiseworthy liberality and sistance; when fear itself begets a sort of cou- partly by his mismanagement. Towards his rage; when a convulsive burst of popular rage relations he appears to have acted very geneand despair warns tyrants not to presume too rously. The greater part of his savings he far on the patience of mankind. But against left in Bengal, hoping probably to obtain the misgovernment such as then afflicted Bengal high usury of India. But high usury and bad it was impossible to struggle. The superior security generally go together; and Hastings intelligence and energy of the dominant class lost both interest and principal. made their power irresistible. A war of Bengalees against Englishmen was like a war of sheep against wolves, of men against demons. The only protection which the conquered could find was in the moderation, the clemency, the enlarged policy of the conquerors. That protection, at a later period, they found. But at first English power came among them unac-by other servants of the Company merely as companied by English morality. There was the means of communicating with weavers an interval between the time at which they be- and money-changers, his enlarged and accomcame our subjects and the time at which we plished mind sought in Asiatic learning for began to reflect that we were bound to dis-new forms of intellectual enjoyment, and for charge towards them the duty of rulers. Dur- new views of government and society. Pering that interval the business of a servant of haps, like most persons who have paid much the Company was simply to wring out of the attention to departments of knowledge which ratives a hundred or two hundred thousand lie out of the common track, he was inclined pounds as speedily as possible, that he might to overrate the value of his favourite studies. return home before his constitution had suf- He conceived that the cultivation of Persian fered from the heat, to marry a peer's daugh- literature might with advantage be made a part ter, to buy rotten boroughs in Cornwall, and to of the liberal education of an English gentlegive balls in St. James's Square. Of the con- man; and he drew up a plan with that view. duct of Hastings at this time little is known; It is said that the University of Oxford, in but the little that is known, and the circum- which Oriental learning had never, since the stance that little is known, must be considered revival of letters, been wholly neglected, was as honourable to him. He could not protect to be the seat of the institution which he conthe natives; all that he could do was to ab- templated. An endowment was expected from stain from plundering and oppressing them; the munificence of the Company, and profesand this he appears to have done. It is cer- sors thoroughly competent to interpret Hafiz tain that at this time he continued poor; and and Ferdusi were to be engaged in the East. it is equally certain that, by cruelty and dis- Hastings called on Johnson with the hope, as honesty, he might easily have become rich. It it would seem, of interesting in his project a is certain that he was never charged with hav-man who enjoyed the highest literary reputa ing borne a share in the abuses which then tion, and who was particularly connected with prevailed; and it is almost equally certain that, Oxford. The interview appears to have left if he had borne a share in those abuses, the on Johnson's mind a most favourable impres able and bitter enemies who afterwards perse- sion of the talents and attainments of his cuted him would not have failed to discover visiter. Long after, when Hastings was ruling and to proclaim his guilt. The keen, severe, the immense population of British India, the and even malevolent scrutiny to which his old philosopher wrote to him, and referred in whole public life was subjected-a scrutiny the most courtly terms, though with great dig unparalleled, as we believe, in the history of nity, to their short but agreeable intercourse. mankind-is, in one respect, advantageous to his reputation. It brought many lamentable blemishes to light; but it entitles him to be considered pure from every blemish which has not been brought to light.
Hastings soon began to look again towards India. He had little to attach him to England, and his pecuniary embarrassments were great. He solicited his old masters the Directors for employment. They acceded to his request, The truth is, that the temptations to which with high compliments both to his abilities and so many English functionaries yielded in the to his integrity, and appointed him a member time of Mr. Vansittart, were not temptations of Council at Madras. It would be unjust not addressed to the ruling passions of Warren to mention, that though forced to borrow money Hastings. He was not squeamish in pecu- for his outfit, he did not withdraw any portion niary transactions; but he was neither sordid of the sum which he had appropriated to the nor rapacious. He was far too enlightened a relief of his distressed relations. In the spring man to look on a great empire purely as a of 1769 he embarked on board of the "Duke of bucanier would look on a galleon. Had his Grafton," and commenced a voyage distin heart been much worse than it was, his under-guished by incidents which might furnish mai standing would have preserved him from that ter for a novel. extremity of baseness. He was an unscrupu- Among the passengers in the "Duke of Graf
He remained four years in England. Of his life at this time very little is known. But it has been asserted, and is highly probable, that liberal studies and the society of men of letters occupied a great part of his time. It is to be remembered to his honour, that in days when the languages of the East were regarded
We are not inclined to judge either Hastings or the baroness severely. There was undoub► edly much to extenuate their fault. But we can by no means concur with the Rev. Mr. Gleig, who carries his partiality to so injudi cious an extreme, as to describe the conduct of Imhoff-conduct the baseness of which is the best excuse for the lovers-as "wise and judicious."
ton," was a German by the name of Imhoff. | before the sentence should be pronounced, they He called himself a baron, but he was in dis- should continue to live together. It was also tressed circumstances; and was going out to agreed that Hastings should bestow some very Madras as a portrait painter, in the hope of substantial marks of gratitude on the complai picking up some of the pagodas which were sant husband; and should, when the marriage then lightly got and as lightly spent by the was dissolved, make the lady his wife, and English in India. The baron was accompanied adopt the children whom she had already by his wife, a native, we have somewhere read, borne to Imhoff. of Archangel. This young woman, who, born ander the Arctic circle, was destined to play the part of a queen under the tropic of Cancer, had an agreeable person, a cultivated mind, and manners in the highest degree engaging. She despised her husband heartily, and, as the story which we have to tell sufficiently proves, not without reason. She was interested by the conversation and flattered by the attentions of Hastings. The situation was indeed perilous. At Madras Hastings found the trade of the No place is so propitious to the formation Company in a very disorganized state. His either of close friendships or of deadly enmi-own tastes would have led him rather to polities as an Indiaman. There are very few tical than to commercial pursuits; but he knew people who do not find a voyage which lasts that the favour of his employers depended several months insupportably dull. Any thing chiefly on their dividends, and their dividends is welcome which may break that long mono-depended chiefly on the investment. He theretony-a sail, a shark, an albatross, a man over- fore, with great judgment, determined to apply board. Most passengers find some resource his vigorous mind for a time to this depart in eating twice as many meals as on land. But ment of business; which had been much neg the great devices for killing the time are, lected, since the servants of the Company had quarrelling and flirting. The facilities for both ceased to be clerks, and had become warriors these exciting pursuits are great. The inmates and negotiators. of the ship are thrown together far more than In a very few months he effected an import in any country-seat or boarding-house. None ant reform. The Directors notified to him can escape from the rest except by imprison- their high approbation, and were so much ing himself in a cell in which he can hardly pleased with his conduct, that they determined turn. All food, all exercise, is taken in com-to place him at the head of the government of pany. Ceremony is to a great extent banished. Bengal. Early in 1772 he quitted Fort St It is every day in the power of a mischievous George for his new post. The Imhoffs, who person to inflict innumerable annoyances; it is were still man and wife, accompanied him, every day in the power of an amiable person and lived at Calcutta "on the same wise and to confer little services. It not seldom happens judicious plan" (we quote the words of Mr. that serious distress and danger call forth in Gleig) which they had already followed during genuine beauty and deformity heroic virtues more than two years. and abject vices, which, in the ordinary intercourse of good society, might remain during many years unknown even to intimate associates. Under such circumstances met Warren Hastings and the Baroness Imhoff; two persons whose accomplishments would have attracted notice in any court of Europe. The gentleman had no domestic ties. The lady was tied to a husband for whom she had no regard, and who had no regard for his own honour. An attachment sprang up, which was soon strengthened by events such as could hardly have occurred on land. Hastings fell ill. The baroness nursed him with womanly tenderness, gave him his medicines with her own hand, and even sat up in his cabin while he
When Hastings took his seat at the head of the council board, Bengal was still governed according to the system which Clive had de vised-a system which was, perhaps, skilfully contrived for the purpose of facilitating and concealing a great revolution, but which, when that revolution was complete and irrevocable, could produce nothing but inconvenience. There were two governments, the real and the ostensible. The supreme power belonged to the Company, and was in truth the most des potic power that can be conceived. The only restraint on the English masters of the country was that which their own justice and humanity imposed on them. There was no constitu tional check on their will, and resistance to them was utterly hopeless
But though thus absolute in reality, the English had not yet assumed the style of sovereignty. They held their territories as vas
ept. Long before the "Duke of Grafton" reached Madras, Hastings was in love. But his love was of a most characteristic description. Like his hatred, like his ambition, like all his passions, it was strong, but not impetu-sals of the throne of Delhi; they raised their revenues as collectors appointed by the im perial commission; their public seal was inscribed with the imperial titles; and their mint struck only the imperial coin.
It was calm, deep, earnest, patient of delay, unconquerable by time. Imhoff was called into council by his wife and his wife's lover. It was arranged that the baroness should institute a suit for a divorce in the courts of Franconia; that the baron should alford every facility to the proceeding; and bat, during the years which might elapse
There was still a Nabob of Bengal, who stood to the English rulers of his country in the same relation in which Augustulus stood to Odoacer, or the last Merovingians to Charles Martel
and Pepin. He lived at Moorshedabad surrounded by princely magnificence. He was approached with the outward marks of reverence, and his name was used in public instruments; but in the government of the country he had less real share than the youngest writer or cadet in the Company's service.
The English Council which represented the Company at Calcutta, was constituted on a very different plan from that which has since beer adopted. At present the governor is, as to all executive measures, absolute. He can declare war, conclude peace, appoint public functionaries or remove them, in opposition to the unanimous sense of those who sit with him in council. They are, indeed, entitled to know all that is done, to discuss all that is done, to advise, to remonstrate, to send home protests. But it is with the governor that the supreme power resides, and on him that the whole responsibility rests. This system, which was introduced by Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas in spite of the strenuous opposition of Mr. Burke, we conceive to be on the whole the best that was ever devised for the government of a country where no materials can be found for a representative constitution. In the time of Hastings the governor had only one vote in Council, and, in case of an equal division, a casting vote. It therefore happened not unfrequently that he was overruled on the gravest questions; and it was possible that he might be wholly excluded, for years together, from the real direction of public affairs.
The English functionaries at Fort William had as yet paid little or no attention to the interna government of Bengal. The only branch of pics with which they much busied themselves was negotiation with the native princes. The police, the administration of justice, the details of the collection of revenue, they almost entirely neglected. We may remark that the phraseology of the Company's servants still bears the traces of this state of things. To this day they always use the word "political" as synonymous with "diplomatic." We could name a gentleman still living, who was described by the highest authority as an invaluable public servant, eminently fit to be at the head of the departments of finance, revenue, and justice, but unfortunately quite ignorant of all political business.
was responsible to none out the British masters of the country.
A situation so important, lucrative, and splendid, was naturally an object of ambition to the ablest and most powerful natives. Clive had found it difficult to decide between conflicting pretensions. Two candidates stood out prominently from the crowd, each of them the representative of a race and of a religion.
The one was Mohammed Reza Khan, a Mussulman of Persian extraction, able, active, religious after the fashion of his people, and highly esteemed by them. In England, he might perhaps have been regarded as a corrupt and greedy politician. But tried by the lower standard of Indian morality, he might be considered as a man of integrity and honour.
His competitor was a Hindoo Brahmin, whose name has, by a terrible and melancholy event, been inseparably associated with that of Warren Hastings-the Maharajah Nuncomar. This man had played an important part in all the revolutions which, since the time of Surajah Dowlah, had taken place in Bengal. To the consideration which in that country belongs to high and pure caste, he added the weight which is derived from wealth, talents, and experience. Of his moral character it is difficult to give a notion to those who are acquainted with human nature only as it appears in our island. What the Italian is to the Englishman, what the Hindoo is to the Italian, what the Bengalee is to other Hindoos, that was Nuncomar to other Bengalees. The physical organization of the Bengalee is feeble even to effeminacy. He lives in a constant vapour bath. His pursuits are sedentary, his limbs delicate, his movements languid. During many ages he has been trampled upon by men of bolder and more hardy breeds. Courage, independence, veracity, are qualities to which his constitution and his situation are equally unfavourable. His mind bears a singular analogy to his body It is weak even to helplessness, for purposes of manly resistance; but its suppleness and its tact move the children of sterner climates to admiration not unmingled with contempt. All those arts which are the natural defence of the weak, are more familiar with this subtle race than to the Ionian of the times of Juvenal, or to the Jew of the dark ages. What the horns are to the buffalo, what the paw is to the tiger, The internal government of Bengal the Eng- what the sting is to the bee, what beauty, aclish rulers delegated to a great native minister, cording to the old Greek song, is to woman, who was stationed at Moorshedabad. All mi- deceit is to the Bengalee. Large promises, litary affairs, and, with the exception of what smooth excuses, elaborate tissues of circumpertains to mere ceremonial, all foreign affairs, stantial falsehood, chicanery, perjury, forgery, were withdrawn from his control; but the are the weapons, offensive and defensive, of other departments of the administration were the people of the Lower Ganges. All those entirely confided to him. His own stipend millions do not furnish one sepoy to the armies amounted to near a hundred thousand pounds of the Company. But as usurers, as moneysteriing a year. The civil list of the Nabobs, changers, as sharp legal practitioners, no class amounting to more than three hundred thousand of human beings can bear a comparison with pounds a year, passed through the minister's them. With all his softness, the Bengalee is hands, and was, to a great extent, at his dis- by no means placable in his enmities, or prone posal. The collection of the revenue, the su- to pity. The pertinacity with which he ad perintendence of the household of the prince, heres to his purposes, yields only to the immethe administration of justice, the maintenance diate pressure of fear. Nor does he lack a of order, were left to this high functionary; certain kind of courage which is often wantard for the exercise of his immense power he ing in his masters. To inevitable evils he is VOL. IV.-59
sometimes found to oppose a passive fortitude, | dividend to the proprietors of Indian stock, such as the Stoics attributed to their ideal sage. and large relief to the English finances. These A European warrior, who rushes on a battery absurd expectations were disappointed; and of cannon with a loud hurrah, will shriek un- the Directors, naturally enough, chose to attrider the surgeon's knife, and fall into an agony bute the disappointment rather to the mismaof despair at the sentence of death. But the nagement of Mohammed Reza Khan, than to Bengalee would see his country overrun, his their own ignorance of the country intrusted house laid in ashes, his children murdered or to their care. They were confirmed in their dishonoured, without having the spirit to strike error by the agents of Nuncomar; for Nuncoone blow; he has yet been known to endure mar had agents even in Leadenhall Street torture with the firmness of Mucius, and to Soon after Hastings reached Calcutta, he remount the scaffold with the steady step and ceived a letter addressed by the Court of Dieven pulse of Algernon Sydney. rectors, not to the Council generally, but to himself in particular. He was directed to remove Mohammed Reza Khan, to arrest him, together with all his family and all his parti sans, and to institute a strict inquiry into the whole administration of the province. It was added, that the Governor would do well to avail himself of the assistance of Nuncomar in the investigation. The vices of Nuncomar were acknowledged. But even from his vices, it was said, much advantage might at such a conjuncture be derived; and, though he could not safely be trusted, it might still be proper to encourage him by hopes of reward.
In Nuncomar, the national character was strongly and with exaggeration personified. The Company's servants had repeatedly detected him in the most criminal intrigues. On one occasion he brought a false charge against another Hindoo, and tried to substantiate it by producing forged documents. On another occasion it was discovered that, while professing the strongest attachment to the English, he was engaged in several conspiracies against them; and in particular that he was the medium of a correspondence between the court of Delhi and the French authorities in the Carnatic. For these and similar practices, he had been long detained in confinement. But his talents and influence had not only procured his liberation, but had obtained for him a certain degree of consideration even among the British rulers of his country.
The Governor bore no good-will to Nuncomar. Many years before, they had known each other at Moorshedabad; and then a quar rel had risen between them, which all the authority of their superiors could hardly com pose. Widely as they differed in most peints, they resembled each other in this, that both were men of unforgiving natures. To Mohammed Reza Khan, on the other hand, Hast aings had no feelings of hostility. Nevertheless he proceeded to execute the instructions of the Company with an alacrity which he never showed, except when instructions were in per fect conformity with his own views. He had, wisely as we think, determined to get rid of the system of double government in Bengal The orders of the Directors furnished him with the means of effecting his purpose, and dis pensed him from the necessity of discussing the matter with his Council. He took his mea sures with his usual vigour and dexterity. At midnight, the palace of Mohammed Reza Khan, at Moorshedabad, was surrounded by a battalion of sepoys. The minister was roused from his slumbers and informed that he was a prisoner. With the Mussulman gravity, he bent his head and submitted himself to the will of God. He fell not alone. A chief, named Schitab Roy, had been intrusted with the government of Bahar. His valour and his attachment to the English had more than ones been signally proved. On that memorable day on which the people of Patna saw from their walls the whole army of the Mogul scat tered by the little band of Captain Knox, the voice of the British conquerors assigned the palm of gallantry to the brave Asiatic. "1 never," said Knox, when he introduced Schitab Roy, covered with blood and dust, to the Eng lish functionaries assembled in the factory"I never saw a native fight so before." Schitab Roy was involved in the ruin of Mohammed Reza Khan, was deprived of his government, and was placed under arrest. The members
Clive was extremely unwilling to place a Mussulman at the head of the administration of Bengal. On the other hand, he could not tring himself to confer immense power on man to whom every sort of villany had repeatedly been brought home. Therefore, though the Nabob, over whom Nuncomar had by intrigue acquired great influence, begged that the artful Hindoo might be intrusted with the government, Clive, after some hesitation, decided honestly and wisely in favour of Mohammed Reza Khan, who had held his high office seven years when Hastings became Governor. An infant son of Meer Jaffer was now Nabob; and the guardianship of the young prince's person had been confined to the minister.
Nuncomar, stimulated at once by cupidity and inalice, had been constantly attempting to undermine his successful rival. This was not difficult. The revenues of Bengal, under the administration established by Clive, did not yield such a surplus as had been anticipated by the Company; for, at that time, the most absurd notions were entertained in England respecting the wealth of India. Palaces of porphyry, hung with the richest brocade, heaps of pearls and diamonds, vaults from which pagodas and gold mohurs were measured out by the bushel, filled the imagination even of men of business. Nobody seemed to be aware of what nevertheless was most undoubtedly the truth, that India was a much poorer country .han countries which in Europe are reckoned poor-than Ireland, for example, than Portu- | gal, or than Sweden. It was confidently believed by Lords of the Treasury and Members for the City, that Bengal would not only defray its own charges, but would afford an increased