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and disorder: the Mahratta sovereigns, or rajahs, were accustomed to employ a council of eight Brahmins, who distributed among themselves the principal offices of state; of this council the chief's name was Peishwah; and, like the antient mayors of the palace in France, this great functionary had now usurped the sovereign power, and confined the lawful Prince at Satarah, while he himself carried on the business of government at Poonah. At the period to which we now allude, quarrels between the Peishwah and the Council of Brahmins had proceeded to open violence, and the Peishwah had been compelled to take refuge with Govind Row in the kingdom of Guzerat. The Guicawar, however, was himself engaged in a civil war with his brother, when Ragoba (the Peishwah) arrived in his camp, and, therefore, could not, had he been inclined, have yielded him any effectual aid. Ragoba now turned his eyes towards Bombay, and offered terms of alliance to the English. They had just completed the ruin of the Nuwaub of Baroach, whom they had long been persecuting for money, when Ragoba applied to them for assistance. This they regarded as a favourable accident; for having been disappointed for many years in their attempts to obtain from the Mahratta Government the cession of Salsette and Bassein, an island and peninsula which commanded the entrance into the bay, it now appeared likely that the distresses of the Peishwah would place him entirely at their mercy. While they were negotiating with Ragoba, a rumour reached Bombay that the Portuguese were about to fit out an expedition to recover Salsette and Bassein, with their other lost possessions. This determined the policy of the Presidency: without waiting for the consent of the Peishwah, they seized forthwith upon the places in question, pretending to Ragoba that they did so merely to prevent their falling into the hands of the Portuguese. Though the Peishwah was exceedingly anxious to obtain the aid of the English, and quite willing to make them very large concessions, he could not be prevailed upon to relinquish his right to Salsette and Bassein, but, instead, offered to cede to them large territories in the neighbourhood of Surat.
It was during these proceedings that the letter from the Supreme Council in Bengal arrived, in the beginning of December 1774. In their answer, despatched the same month, the Presidency intimated their intention to aid Ragoba in the recovery of his authority, mentioning also the acquisition of Salsette and Bassein. In the meanwhile, Ragoba was again defeated by his enemies, the ministers, and compelled to fly from the field with only a small body of horse. This disaster, which happened before their treaty with the Peishwah was concluded, enabled the Presidency to renew their applications for Bassein and Salsette, which were now no longer refused. A treaty was concluded in March 1775, by the terms of which Ragoba yielded up the desired places, with the Mahratta share of the revenues of Baroach, &c., to the amount of twenty-two and a half lacs of rupees.
The English now despatched a small army, under command of
Colonel Keating, to the assistance of Ragoba and Govind Row, whose routed forces had made good their retreat to the fort of Copperwange, about fifty coss from Cambay. Immediately upon the union of the troops, they marched towards the enemy, who were encamped on the Sabermatty; and not being able to bring them to a decisive engagement, advanced towards the Deccan, in the hope of reaching Poonah before the commencement of the rains. The enemy, who constantly hovered upon their march, now perceiving their intention, gave them battle on the plains of Arras; and though the English were victorious, their success cost them extremely dear. Eighty men, two hundred sepoys, and seven officers, fell in the engagement. Notwithstanding this success, the Peishwah's troops, to whom large arrears of pay were due, refused to advance across the Nerbuddah till their demands should be satisfied; and the season of the rains being at hand, the English retired into quarters at Dhuboy, a large fortified city, about fifty miles from Baroach, while Ragoba encamped about ten miles distance at Bellapoor, on the river Dahder. Perceiving the fortunate turn Ragoba's affairs were now likely to take, Futty Sing, Govind Row's rebellious brother, entered into an alliance with the Peishwah. Govind Row had been already satisfied by the promises of Ragoba. Futty Sing confirmed the grants which had been made to the English in the Guicawar dominions, made other large concessions, and engaged besides to furnish twenty-six lacs of rupees for carrying on the war.
These transactions embroiled the Bombay Government with the Supreme Council of Calcutta ; not that the Members of Council disapproved of the course pursued, considered in itself; they were offended merely because an inferior Presidency had presumed to proceed in an important business without their orders. Upon receiving intelligence, therefore, of the negotiation with Ragoba, they returned answer, forbidding the Bombay Government to conclude the treaty begun; and afterwards wrote another letter, peremptorily commanding them to cancel it when concluded, to withdraw what troops they might have despatched to the aid of the Peishwah, and to enter into a treaty with his enemies, the Mutseddies. And further, lest they might be disobeyed in this point, it was resolved to send, direct from Calcutta, a minister to treat with the Mutseddies; but lest Ragoba should, in the meanwhile, have succeeded, a letter for that Prince also was delivered to their agent, who, in such case, was directed to treat with him.
When these things became known at Bombay, the Governor and Council of that place remonstrated warmly with the Supreme Council on the disgrace put upon them, by compelling them to breach of treaty; and in the hope that the Bengal Government might still submit to reason, despatched a deputy to Calcutta to represent the matter to the Supreme Council anew. The majority, however, could not be moved; all they would consent to, was to make some stipulations in favour of Ragoba, and to allow him a retreat at Bombay, in case
of personal danger. Nevertheless, their notions were quickly altered on the arrival of their agent at Poonah. The Mutseddies conducted themselves in the most haughty manner, and, supposing that fear was the motive which induced the Supreme Council to negotiate with them, even proceeded to insolent enaces. On receiving this intelligence, the Supreme Council instantly changed their tone, and determined at once to maintain the pretensions of Ragoba, and to keep possession of Salsette, re-demanded by the Mutseddies, a place for the seizure of which they had previously condemned the Bombay Government in the most pointed manner. To render the whole transaction completely absurd, the Mutseddies now softened their pretensions, consented to yield up Salsette to the English, (who were, however, to relinquish Bassein,) and likewise to guarantee several other advantages to the Company. Betrayed by his allies, and deserted by his troops, Ragoba retired to live in obscurity at Surat, with only 200 attendants. A treaty was now concluded with the Mahrattas, upon terms much less advantageous than those formerly obtained of Ragoba, by the treaty which the Supreme Council had compelled the Bombay Government to cancel; and it is a remarkable circumstance, and one which must have given much pain to the majority, that immediately upon the conclusion of this treaty, letters from the Directors arrived, approving entirely of that which had formerly been transacted by the Bombay Government.
During the summer of 1776, the attention of the Bengal Government was again drawn to the affairs of the imperial Court: it was reported that the Emperor, the Mahrattas, the Seiks, and the Rohillas, had entered into a league to invade the dominions of Asoff ul Dowla, who had been compelled, by pecuniary distress, to disband a portion of his forces, and whose weak and vicious character was incapable of effort or decision. Nujeef Khan, formerly Commander-in-Chief to the Emperor, was now in possession of a precarious sovereignty in the Jaat country; and with him the English were solicitous to form an alliance. There were, however, certain difficulties to be removed, and the negociation was protracted or suspended. Asoff ul Dowla, for services very opportunely performed, was now honoured with the name of Vizir; the reality no longer existed.
While these affairs were transacting, a new subject of contention among the Members of Council arose: Tillook Chund, Rajah and Zemindar of Burdwan, lately deceased, had left his son and successor, a minor only nine years of age, under the guardianship of his widow, called the Ranee of Burdwan. The English, however, had intruded themselves into the offices of the zemindary, and removed her son from under her authority. Offended at the indignity, and moreover perceiving that corruption was practised by the chief Dewan in the administration of the revenue, who, through bribery, had obtained the support of the British Resident, she presented a petition to the Bengal Government, in December 1774, setting forth her injuries, and naming the guilty individuals. The majority in Council,
giving credit to the complaints of the Ranee, resolved to recal the Resident, and permit the Ranee and her son to repair to Calcutta. Hastings and Mr. Barwell opposed them, pretending a regard for justice, which, they said, the majority designed to violate in the person of the Resident. Early in January 1775, a letter from the Resident himself arrived, in which the Ranee was described as an artful and dangerous person, and the writer as every thing amiable and virtuous. In the accusations of bribery preferred by the Ranee, Hastings himself, and several other servants of the Company, were implicated. It was not possible, however, to prove incontestibly that these individuals had received the money; it was only clear that some one had received it, and the strongest presumptions were against them. Hastings was now no longer mild and cool; but, because his colleagues had dared to listen to the accusations of the Ranee, pronounced them to be his accusers, and, therefore, incapable of acting as judges of his conduct; and shortly afterwards, upon their resolution to compliment the Ranee with the insignia of office, dissolved the Council, and quitted the chair. This did not interrupt the business of Government; his adversaries voted the first Member of Council into the chair, and continued their proceedings.
Another charge of bribery was now preferred against the GovernorGeneral: the Phousdar of Hoogly was paid 72,000 rupees as his annual salary; of this it was now asserted that Hastings received 36,000, and his banyan, or Native secretary, 4000 more. The author of the accusation offered to discharge the office for 32,000 rupees, the sum hitherto retained by the Phousdar, and thus exempt the Company from the payment of 40,000 rupees, annually paid in bribery to the Governor-General and his secretary. The majority in Council were satisfied with the evidence produced, though Mr. Hastings vehemently protested against their competency to institute inquiries into his conduct, and, as before, dissolved the Council, and retired with his solitary coadjutor, Mr. Barwell. The Phousdar, however, was removed from his office, and another appointed in his stead, at the reduced salary of 36,000 rupees annually.
Next followed the celebrated transaction with Munny Begum, which was first brought to light by Mr. Grant, accountant to the Provincial Council of Moorshedabad. It was found that the Begum had received nine lacs and sixty-seven thousand six hundred and ninetythree rupees more than she had expended or could account for. The papers containing these accounts, and now laid before the Council, were obtained through the means of a clerk, formerly in the treasuryoffice of the Nuwaub. It was stated also, that large rewards had been offered to this individual by the Begum's chief eunuch, to induce him to return the papers; and the same applications, as Mr. Grant was ready to assert upon oath, had been made to himself. Mr. Hastings earnestly opposed all investigation of the accounts of the Begum; but the decision of the majority prevailed, and Mr. Goring was despatched to Moorshedabad with full powers to enter
into the most minute inquiry. The power hitherto enjoyed by the Begum was transferred to Rajah Goordass, the son of Nuncomar. Upon investigation, the papers appeared to be authentic; the Begum herself acknowledged that she had given a lac and a half of rupees to Mr. Hastings, and the same sum to Mr. Middleton. The latter did not deny the receipt of the bribe, nor set up any defence; nor did Mr. Hastings deny receiving the money, but he endeavoured to screen himself by various subterfuges: he asserted that he had been induced to accept the sum in order to save the treasury of the Company, from which his expenses, during his visit to Moorshedabad, must otherwise have been drawn. These expenses must, at this rate, have amounted to 2000 rupees per day, or 73,000l. per annum ; but, upon inquiry, it was found that the Company's treasury had not been spared, 30,000 rupees having been drawn thence as travelling charges, besides a large amount for the expenses of his colleagues and attendants. This pretext, therefore, was unfounded and false.
But the Governor-General now saw a more formidable personage advance among his accusers; it was the Rajah Nuncomar. On the 11th of March 1776, he delivered a paper to the Council, in which he accused Mr. Hastings of bribery, in the affair of Mohammed Reza and Raja Shitabroy, and also of having received other bribes, amounting to three lacs and a half, for the appointment of Munny Begum, and Nuncomar's own son, Rajah Goordass. He was to appear on the 13th before the Council to substantiate these charges. But Warren Hastings did not choose to confront his accuser; he protested against the authority of the Council; and, as before, pronounced the Council dissolved, and, together with his faithul coadjutor, Mr. Barwell, quitted the Board. The majority, however, proceeded. When Nuncomar came before them, he stated what sums he himself had paid the Governor-General; named the persons who were present; and produced a letter from Munny Begum to himself, in which she mentioned having given the Governor-General two lacs of rupees. The amount of these bribes, the Council now required Mr. Hastings to refund to the Company; but he denied their authority, and refused
The Governor-General now became sensible, however, that something more than mere contemptuous silence was necessary to preserve his authority and reputation; he was conscious, too, that he could not face the accusations of Nuncomar; there was, therefore, no course left but to seal the lips of his accuser by death. A plot was quickly hatched against the witness, which, to save appearances as much as possible, was at first made to aim at two other individuals. The indictment, at the instance of the Governor-General, Mr. Barwell, Mr. Vansittart, Mr. Hastings's secretary, and the Native agent of finance, charged the Rajah and his accomplices with a certain conspiracy against the prosecutors. Upon examination, one of the individuals was discharged, and all the prosecutors, except the GovernorGeneral and Mr. Vansittart, withdrew. Nuncomar and his associate