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ART. IV.-1. Malcolm's (Sir J.) Memoir of Central India,
3rd Edition. 2 vols. 8vo.-London. 1823. 2. The Bengal Hurkaru, The Englishman, The Friend of
THREE and thirty years ago, the few British statesmen, who in those days paid any attention to the affairs of India, or were interested in its welfare, knew that the time had arrived, when a great effort on the part of the British power was inevitable. They were aware that that power—from its character and constitution, the friend of order and of security of person and property-was necessarily in permanent antagonism to the chaotic misrule and licence, which were devastating not only Central India, but also all the adjacent territories. Our statesmen felt, therefore, that the decisive struggle between the Anglo-Indian armies and their numerous, but ill-organized, opponents could not be longer deferred. The conflict was for the ascendancy of good or evil. Never, in the course of our rapid rise to supremacy in India, has the sword been drawn more justly, or with more humane motives, than by the Marquis of Hastings in 1817; and seldom did God grant a good cause more entire success.
In these times, it is not easy to realize in idea the state, into which the ceaseless strife and turmoil (internal and external) of the Mahratta Governments, and of the Rajput principalities, abetted by the common foe of all, the Pindarris, had plunged the wretched people of Central India. One and thirty years of comparative calm have not yet effaced from the minds of chiefs and people those days of affliction : and, well as Malcolm and others of our Indian historians have sketched the miserable condition of society during the “times of trouble," as they are still emphatically designated, they have barely succeeded in giving more than a faint outline of the reality. Talk to the elders, whether of chiefs or people to those whose years admit of their instituting a comparison between the scenes in which youth was passed, and the repose in which old age is closing—and the vividness of human speech and feeling brings home to the heart the misery, in which the largest and wortbiest classes of the population were, to all appearance, irretrievably immersed. An Englishman can with difficulty pourtray to himself so woful a state of society. The scenes, with which revolutionary war has made them acquainted, might enable a Croat or Hungarian to do so : but, on the con-' tinent of Europe, licence and oppression, under the mask of liberty, are of a less chronic character, and civil war, with Christian lands for its theatre, falls short of the horrors of a Pindarri incursion; even Red Republicans are scarce so basely and systematically cruel.
Our purpose is not here to follow the events, by which Providence gave peace to these long distracted countries. We shall not trace the assembly of the British Armies; their simultaneous advance from the Nerbuddah and the Jumna; the ancillary political negociations; the conduct of doubtful allies ; the treachery of compulsory ones; the sweep over Malwa by Malcolm, Adams, Marshall, scattering before them the Pindarri hordes; the battle of Mahedpur; the entire dispersion of the Pindarris; and the capture, surrender, or destruction of their leaders. Our business is rather to avoid achievements so well known and so well told, and to content ourselves with the endeavour, to lay before the reader a general view of the system, which took the place of the anarchy, to which we have alluded.
From the period that the Mahrattas gained the ascendant in Central India, and the Mogul Empire ceased to be otherwise than nominally supreme, the once controlling power of the latter was succeeded by no correspondent authority. True it is, that the influence of the Mogul Emperors over the more distant portions of their dominions was uncertain, and oscillated with the personal character and renown of the individual on the throne-being shadowy, or real, in proportion to his wisdom and strength ; but, even in the weakest hands, the Emperor's authority had a form and substance, which were wanting to that of the Paishwa. The controul of the latter over the Mahratta states, which had loosely aggregated, rather than formed themselves, from the debrîs of the empire, was, when compared with the influence of the Mogul Emperors over their territorial subordinates, a mere mockery of supremacy. The Mahratta rule and institutions, with their peculiar basis of Hindu thought and feeling, lacked the principle of concentration. Even in the event of the Mahratta powers not having been so circumstanced, as to be early brought into conflict on various points with growing and vigorous Anglo-Indian Governments, it may be doubted, whether the Paishwa, or any other Mahratta Prince, such as Holkar, or Scindia, would ever have succeeded in establishing a virtual supremacy over the countries under the sway of the various Mahratta Rulers. The battle of Paniput tested the pith and quality of a Mahratta confederation.
Satisfactorily to assign a reason for these centrifugal tendencies is difficult. Enlisting, as they necessarily must have done, the sympathies of the Rajput Princes and of the great mass of the Hindu population, both of whom they freed from a yoke galling and obnoxious, the Mahrattas had much to favour the consolidation of their acquisitions and conquests into an empire of some solidity of fabric. A very loose confederacy was, how. ever, the utmost to which it attained. The fact is a remarkable one. We may observe, however, that among the very numerous sects classed under the generic name, Hindu, though there exist points of strong sympathy, these are not sufficient to counteract the isolating and repellent properties of Hinduism, as a system; for its whole tendency is to split its votaries into a multiplicity of petty communities, having with each other nothing but distant and constrained social intercourse and relations. The bars to intimacy are insuperable; and encroachments on the petty demarcations, not only of caste, but of sects of castes, are jealously watched. Minds, trained from infancy in such a school, are imbued with the contractile spirit of pertinacious sectarianism; and, though they may he greedy of power and wealth, and extremely patient and subtile in their pursuit, yet they enter upon such a career, incapacitated for the entertainment of those comprehensive views, which enable ambition to establish empire. The case is different with the Mussulman. His creed, in these respects, is in marked contrast to that of the Hindu, and has a direct tendency to mould the mind to the idea of concentration of power. The Deism of the one is not more opposed to the Polytheism of the other, than are the several tendencies of these two great classes of India to monocracy and polycracy.
Though no ocean divided them from their mother coun. try, the Mabratta colonies, for such they may be styled, owed but a nominal allegiance to the Paishwa. His supremacy was a phantom, if not a nullity. After the battle of Mahedpur, not only the Paishwa's, but the real influence of the Mahratta States of Holkar and Scindia, were dissolved, and replaced by British supremacy. The latter came to a chaotic inheritance; and, in order to judge how the restorers of order performed their high duty, it must be shown, however faultily and inadequately, what the establishment of our authority involved. Within the limits at our disposal, we cannot attempt to review in detail the conduct and labours of the various subordinate agents of the AngloIndian Government. Nor is this necessary in order to obtain a general idea of that, which had to be accomplished. If we confine ourselves to a general summary of the duties entrusted to the ministerial representatives of British power, and to the circumstances under which they have been placed and
power. The Deism of mind to the
pore opposed to the
acted, the patience of the reader will be spared at the same time that he obtains a sufficient insight into the system, which succeeded to that of the Mahratta ascendancy.
Most men in India have read Sir J. Malcolm's instructions to the assistants and officers acting under his orders : and, whilst from these the spirit, in which the British agents entered upon the exercise of power, may be gleaned, a reference to Malcolm's appendix to his valuable work on Central India will make the reader acquainted with the number of States, petty Chiefs, Grassiahs, Bhìls, and Pindarris, whose affairs had to be adjusted by the intervention of functionaries, who earnestly and ably applied themselves to the work, in the spirit of conciliation, which pervaded their Chief's orders.
None of these States, or Chiefships, were otherwise than dependent on the paramount authority; and it must be borne in mind, that this dependence was, notwithstanding that some had entered into treaties with the British Government, often most indefinite; that their relations with each other were frequently peculiar, and, in cases of tribute, often delicate and complicated ; that, however small the state or principality, extreme jealousy of encroachment on their territory, or of neglect of their dignity, was a common characteristic; that, in consequence of the distracted condition of the country and the repeated changes and revolutions, which every State, small or great, had undergone, the boundaries of all were unsettled ; that, as a general rule, the power to assert and keep had been the definer of each State's boundary; that the latter had therefore expanded or contracted, according as accidental circumstances favoured, or were adverse to a Chief's pretensions; that, besides the number of different petty States and Chiefs with ill-defined possessions, both Holkar's and Scindia's territories were strangely intermixed with them; that Scindia had outlying districts, isolated from his main possessions, and cast, as provocatives of discord and misrule, in the midst of the domains of otber States; and finally, that none of these States, or Principalities, had anything deserving the name of a systematic internal administration. The necessities of the Rulers drove them to extort as much as possible from the people; the Revenue Department, therefore, was an object of much and constant solicitude; but justice, civil or criminal, was rather regarded, as a subordinate branch of their fiscal system, than as an important department of good government,
each State, small or great, and with no fixed rule but that of the will of the Chief, and the moderation of his unchecked
tax-gatherers, usually the farmers of the revenue. The people, exposed to violence from their neighbours and to frequent robbery, and unable to secure redress, had recourse to retaliation; and thus habits of plunder, particularly of cattle-stealing, became very general amongst the village communities. The custom of reprisals soon passes into confirmed predatory habits, and rapidly demoralizes a people. To crown the whole, many Chiefs and Thakurs did not scruple to share in the proceeds of the plundering expeditions of their subjects—thus encouraging their adventures as profitable sources of income.
Little reflection is necessary in order to imagine that, when, under such circumstances, a paramount power of overwhelming strength suddenly appeared upon the scene, and scattered its agents--men of undoubted integrity-over the face of the country to watch events and maintain tranquillity, these representatives of a power (resolved to have, and able to enforce, order) became the foci of reference on a host of subjects from a multiplicity of different quarters and people. They found themselves forced to take up questions of every class and character : and it would be hard to say, whether the military, political, financial, or judicial prevailed. The importance of the matters, which came before them, of course varied; but it would be a misnomer to apply the term “international cases” to the greater part of the requests for the intervention of the British officers. Private international cases, though circumlocutory, would be a more appropriate designation : they seldom have risen to the dignity of national negociations or controversies, but have turned in general upon private interests and common business. If, in the United States, where municipal administration is well understood, and the common law of England forms the basis of the Lex Loci, it has been found that very complicated private relations and rights arise between the citizens of some six or seven and twenty independent States, and that there is a necessity for the constant administration of extra municipal principles (as one of their juris-consults terms them), how much more ought this to prove the case in a country like Central India ? Any common law is unknown: the country is studded with petty but independent States and principalities, acknowledging as their heads, here a Mahratta, there a Rajput, further on a Mussulman ; each has its own local laws and customs, and often its distinct religion; and there is not even a common basis, such as affords some bond to the United States of America. Should it be asked, What was the code furnished to the British agents for their guidance under these circumstances of incontrovertible difficulty ? the reply is simple-None whatever. But as men