Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 47.djvu/258

There was a problem when proofreading this page.

state, which, on the deposition of the péshwa in 1818, had been reconstituted under a treaty made by Lord Hastings with a successor of Sivaji, then a pensioned captive kept in durance vile by Bají Rao, was under the supervision of the government of Bombay, upon whom it devolved in the first instance to express an opinion on the question of recognising the adoption [see Hastings, Francis Rawdon-, first Marquis of Hastings]. The first rájá under the treaty, which imposed somewhat severe restrictions upon his authority, had been deposed by the government of India in 1839 in consequence of his intrigues and various acts of contumacy. His brother, just deceased, had been placed upon the throne, and had exercised his powers with wisdom and moderation. Having no son of his own, he had repeatedly requested permission to adopt one, who should succeed to the principality, but his request had not been granted. The governor of Bombay, Sir George Clerk, a very able Indian statesman, who has been described as ‘the foremost champion of the native chiefs’ (Marshman, History of India, iii. 382), was strongly in favour of acknowledging the adopted boy as rájá of Sattára. The resident, Bartle (afterwards Sir Henry Bartle Edward) Frere [q. v.], held the same opinion; but the members of council at Bombay took a different view, one of them, John Pollard Willoughby, recording an elaborate minute, in which he embodied the experience and information acquired in a long service in the political department. Lord Falkland, who succeeded Sir George Clerk before the question was decided, agreed with the view taken by the council, and Dalhousie, after full consideration of the minutes and of other documents bearing upon the case, recommended that the ráj should lapse. In making this recommendation Dalhousie was influenced by two considerations—first, that of the welfare of the people of Sattára, which he believed would be promoted by the transfer of the state to British rule; and, secondly, that of strengthening the British power in India. On the first point he declared his opinion that the abolition of the ráj would ‘ensure to the population of the state a perpetuity of that just and mild government they have lately enjoyed,’ but ‘which they will hold by a poor and uncertain tenure if we resolve to continue the ráj, and to deliver it over to the government of a boy brought up in obscurity, selected for adoption almost by chance, and of whose character and qualities nothing whatever was known to the rájá who adopted him.’ On the second point he expressed his concurrence with Willoughby as to the policy of taking advantage of every just opportunity of consolidating the territories that already belonged to us, and of getting rid of those petty intervening principalities which might be a means of annoyance, but could never be a source of strength. The court of directors sanctioned the extinction of the ráj, observing that by the general law and custom of India a dependent principality like that of Sattára cannot pass to an adopted heir without the consent of the paramount power; ‘we are under no pledge, direct or constructive, to give such consent, and the general interests committed to our charge are best consulted by withholding it.’

Subsequently a similar question arose with reference to the important state of Nagpur and the smaller state of Jhánsi, and was decided in each case in a similar manner. In the case of Nagpur there had been no adoption; but the British resident, Mansel, advocated the continuance of a native government on the ground that it would conciliate the prejudices of a native aristocracy, admitting at the same time that ‘if the public voice were polled it would be greatly in favour of escaping from the chance of a rule like that of the late chief in his latter years.’ Mansel's proposal was supported by Colonel (afterwards Sir John) Low [q. v.], but was negatived by Dalhousie and the other members of the council. In the minute recorded by him on the subject, Dalhousie remarked that we had not been successful in the experiments we had made in setting up native sovereigns to govern territories which we had acquired by war. He illustrated the signal failure of the policy of supporting native rulers by examples drawn from the recent history of Mysore, Sattára, and Nagpur. While affirming that, unless he believed that the prosperity and happiness of the inhabitants of the state would be promoted by their being placed permanently under British rule, ‘no other advantages which could arise out of the measure would move him to propose it,’ he pointed out the benefits to England and to the British empire in India which would accrue from the annexation in placing under British management the great cotton fields in the valley of Berár, in constructing a railway to convey the produce to the port of Bombay, in surrounding by British territory the dominions of the nizam, and in establishing a direct line of communication between Bombay and Calcutta.

In the case of Jhánsi, a small state in Bundelkhand, there had been an adoption the day before the late rájá died; but the government had already set aside an un-