Read this article to learn about problems faced by Lord Moira or Lord Moira or Lord Hastings (1813-1823).
Nepal War (1814-1816):
Expansion of the Gurkha dominions over Newar kingdom by Gurkha King Prithvinarayan and his gradual conquest of whole of Nepal by 1768 had brought the borders of Nepal near to the dominions of the Nawab of Oudh.
In 1801 the Nawab of Oudh had ceded Gorakhpur area to the English which brought the boundary of the English possession to touch that of Nepal.
In the hilly terrain of the Anglo-Nepalese borders there was no clear line of demarcation.
This gave rise to repeated violation of borders by both sides and there would be occasional skirmishes.
Ultimately the border conflict developed into a full-fledged war in 1814. Lord Moira gave command of the English troops to General Ochterlony. The war began with some reverses for the English but ultimately General Ochterlony succeeded in defeating Amar Singh, the intrepid Nepalese General.
The war, however, lingered for some time even after the defeat of Amar Singh but in 1816 Nepal agreed to sign the treaty of Sagauli by which the war came to an end. By the treaty of Sagauli (1816) the king of Nepal agreed to receive an English Resident at Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. Simla, Almorah, Nainital, Landor, etc. were surrendered by Nepal to the English.
The Nepalese had to withdraw their troops from Sikkim. The latter entered into a friendly alliance with the English in 1817. As a mark of this friendly relation a small part of the territorial gains, from the treaty of Sagauli was given to Sikkim. Lord Moira was rewarded with the title of Marquess of Hastings.
Supression of the Pindaries:
In early nineteenth century a band of marauders called Pindaries began depredations in wide areas covering Malwa, Mewar, Marwar, Berar, etc, and gradually into the territories of the Peshwa and the Nizam. The Pindary freebooters had a military background and naturally performed their activities in a quick disciplined way. They were originally in the Maratha army. But when the Maratha Power became weak and fell asunder, the Pindaries organised themselves into a band of freebooters attacking different areas.
The number of the Pindaries went on increasing for the disbanded troops, unemployed roughs found easy entry into the Pindary bands. Most of the Pindaries came from the Muslim community. Malcolm has given us a detailed description of the Pindaries.
The Pindaries did not believe in any religious distinction and according to Malcolm the wives of the Pindaries who came from the Muslim community would live like Hindu women performing every Hindu rite as the Hindu women did The Pindaries were ruthless marauders who found pleasure in killing, looting and committing crimes on women.
The English had no reason to turn their attention to the Pindaries till they began carrying on depredations in the Company’s territories. In 1812 the Pindaries entered the Company’s dominions and reduced South Bihar and Mirzapur into shambles. In 1816 again they attacked the Northern Sircars, looted many villages and killed 182 villagers.
The Calcutta Council and the Court of Directors found it necessary to suppress the Pindaries. Lord Hastings ordered the suppression of the Pindaries. In the meantime the direction from the Court of Directors to take immediate steps towards to suppress the Pindary menace also reached the Governor-General.
It did not take even a full year for the Company’s troops to compel the leader of the Pindaries, Karim Khan, to surrender. The Company granted him a small allowance on condition of his giving up the marauding practice. The Chief leader of the Pindaries, Amir Khan, had in the meantime surrendered without any armed conflict with the English and by an agreement with them became a Jagirdar in Tonk in Raiputana. Under the Company. Another Pindary leader, Chitu, refusing to surrender to the English took refuse in the forests of Asirgarh where he was devoured by a tiger. Wasil Mohammad, another Pindary leader, escaped falling into the hands of the English by committing suicide. The Pindary menace was thus completely liquidated.
Lord Hastings: Third Anglo-Maratha War:
The Peshwa Baji Rao II and other Maratha chiefs who had been restored to their dominions through the English help, nurtured in their heart of hearts feelings of jealousy and hatred towards the English which awaited an opportunity to burst forth and a final trial of strength between the Marathas and the English lay in the logic of history. To Baji Rao II, the English interference and supremacy became daily more and more galling to him.
He had in the meantime reduced the overbearing jagirdars and thereby made himself strong. This was naturally an additional ground for seeking freedom from the English authority. Baji Rao II appointed a clever diplomat named Trimbakji Danglia as his Prime Minister. Trimbakji was as unscrupulous as scheming. He encouraged Baji Rao II to carry on secret negotiations with the Scindia, Bhonsle, and Holkar in order to oust the English.
A dispute had arisen in respect of certain claims of the Peshwa over the Gaikwar’s kingdom of Baroda. In 1814, the Gaikwar sent his Diwan Gangadhar Sastri to Poona under British protection to negotiate about the dispute. Trimbakji got Gangadhar Sastri secretly murdered whereupon the British Resident at Poona, Elphinstone, demanded surrender of Trimbakji which the Peshwa refused to do. Elphinstone got Trimbakji arrested but with the indirect help of the Peshwa Trimbakji fled from custody and with financial help from the Peshwa put himself heart and soul in the task of organising an anti-British conspiracy. The Peshwa Baji Rao II also began secretly to prepare for war with the English.
The English soon got the proof of the Peshwa’s secret organisation of troops for war against them and compelled him to sign a fresh agreement (June, 1817) by which the Peshwa had to give up the leadership of the Marathas. It was also stipulated that the Peshwa would not be permitted to carry on correspondence with any native or foreign power without the knowledge of the British Resident.
For the maintenance of English troops for the security of the Peshwa’s dominions so long the Peshwa used to pay the cost in cash. But now it was decided by the agreement that Peshwa would surrender Malwa, Bundelkhand, etc. to the Company in lieu of cash payment. The revenue income of these places was 34 lacs per annum. The Peshwa had also to surrender all his claims against Baroda in lieu of 4 lacs annual tribute.
It goes without saying that the Peshwa signed the agreement of 1817 under duress and under compulsion of the circumstances of time. This naturally enhanced his animosity against the English manifold and he was looking for an opportunity to take revenge against the English. When the English army was busy in supressing the Pindaries, the newly appointed Prime Minister of the Peshwa named Gokla encouraged the Peshwa to declare war against the English. The Peshwa peremptorily demanded withdrawal of the British troops from Poona (1817).
In the meantime on the death of Raghuji Bhonsle in 1816 his kingdom had fallen into disorder. Raghuji’s son, Parsvaji, was both weak and worthless. Appa Sahib became the virtual ruler of the kingdom. The English opened negotiation with Appa Sahib and brought him to sign Subsidiary Alliance with the English in 1816. In this way Bhonsle’s Kingdom of Nagpur came under the British supremacy.
In 1817 Lord Hastings in order to avoid any possible conflict with Scindia if English troops would pursue the Pindary marauders into the territories of the Scindia, entered into an agreement with him and obtained permission to suppress the Pindaries even within Scindia’s territories.
Despite all the above agreements and relations between the English and the Maratha leaders the Peshwa’s Prime Minister, Gokla, as also the Peshwa himself brought the leaders of the Maratha Confederacy—the Bhonsle, Scindia, Holkar and the Peshwa together in an effort to revamp the lost Maratha greatness by ousting the English. The Peshwa was the first to take anti-British role by setting fire to the residence of Elphinstone who fled to the British military centre at Kirke.
The Peshwa attacked Kirke twice but failed to take it. As the English army proceeded towards Poona, the Peshwa fled and Poona was taken possession of by the English. Appa Sahib also was defeated in the battles of Sitabaldi and Nagpur and he fled for his life to Jodhpur. In the meantime the army of Malhar Rao Holkar could not make any headway against the English and was signally defeated in the battle of Mahidpur (Dec. 1817).
Peshwa had fled from Poona but his minister Gokla continued his fight against the English but the defeat at the battles of Koregaon and Ashti sealed the fate of the Peshwa. Gokla died in the battle field and the Peshwa had no way out but to surrender to Sir John Malcolm (June 1818).
Lord Hastings was determined to ensure that no trouble might come from the Peshwa family. He sent Baji Rao II to a place named Bithur where the latter was kept under military surveillance. Trimbakji, the former Minister of the Peshwa, was put into prison for life. A part of the Peswa’s dominions was handed over to Pratap Singh, a descendant of Sivaji. This was a stroke of statesmanship which earned for Lord Hastings the goodwill of the Maratha who were still loyal to the family of Shivaji. The rest of the dominions of the Peshwa was annexed to the Company’s territories.
As a punishment to Appa Sahib’s joining the anti-British war the kingdom of the Bhonsle was parcelled out between the Company and a stooge of the British.
In 1818, Tantia Jog, the Minister of the Holkar and the English, entered into an agreement by which Holkar surrendered his claims over the Rajput States and that of Amir Khan. The Holkar had also to maintain a British army at his own cost and not to enter into any negotiation with any power without the knowledge of the English.
Lord Hastings and the Rajput States:
In the early years of the nineteenth century the once valiant and powerful Rajputs had become disunited, disrupted and despondent as a result of repeated Maratha inroads. The English were also, in fact, more or less unmindful of the Rajputs, the only exception being Lord Wellesley who had entered into friendly alliance with Jaipur and Jodhpur.
Had the Rajputs received any help from the English it might have been possible for them to ward off the Maratha menace as also to suppress the Pindaries and thereby prevent the Rajput states from being reduced to shambles. In 1817 Lord Hastings had negotiated an agreement with Daulat Rao Scindia by which the later agreed to allow the English to suppress the Pindaries within the Rajput states and also to enter into agreements with them by the English.
In pursuance of the agreement Lord Hastings entered into negotiations with large and small Rajput States and got them accept Subsidiary Alliance with the Company. The Rajput Chiefs agreed not to communicate with any third power without the knowledge of the British Resident and to pay annual tribute to the Company towards the cost of the English army to be maintained for the security of the Rajput States.
The period of Lord Hastings’s rule saw extension of Company’s territories by inclusion of important and strategic places and enhancement of the Company’s power and influence in India.
Fall of the Maratha Power:
By the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the Marathas had reached the greased incline of their fall, and all those elements that go for the strength and the growth of a Power were fast being overlooked by the Maratha leaders. The character of the Maratha State was personal despotism and the personality of the head of the State meant much for efficiency and existence of the State.
But during last quarter of the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries, the Marathas did not produce leaders like Baji Rao I or Mahadji Scindia. Mutual jealousy, selfishness led to a hopelessly confused and gloomy state of affairs in the Maratha Confederacy with miserable economic condition.
There was also lack of political acumen to see the advantage of the policy of non-intervention followed by the British for some years after Wellesley. The Maratha Power rose on the ruins of the Mughals and was definitely superior to the dissipated Mughal forces. But the Maratha lacked the unity and dynamism as also scientific weapons to deal effectively with the English.
The causes of their downfall were both inherent and circumstantial:
1. Wherever the power of the State rests on the personality of the head of the State and there is no settled constitution to guide the destinies of the State, removal of man of personality would invariably lead to a sudden gap that often becomes difficult to bridge. Thus was the condition of the Maratha Power after leaders like Baji Rao I, Mahadji Scindia, Nana Fadnavis, etc. had been no more.
Baji Rao II and Daulat Rao Scindia who controlled the Supreme Government at Poona were, in the language of Sardesai, responsible for moral degradation of Marathas. “Their misdeeds brought the Poona Court and Society to such moral degradation that no one’s life, property or honour was safe. People even in the distant parts of the land had to suffer terrible misery through misrule, oppression, plunder and devastation. The sirdars and the jagirdars, particularly of the southern Maratha country, were so completely alienated that they rushed into the arms of the English.”
Baji Rao II’s misrule and oppression drove many a loyal sirdar to the enemy’s camp and when he himself found the situation, too hot he ran into the English camp and bartered away the Maratha independence by signing the treaty of Bassein. The Scindia Daulat Rao was an indolent pleasure-loving man who was extremely light-hearted. For such people it was not possible to retain the Maratha Power.
2. The ignominous collapse of the great Maratha Power built by the genius and military ability of Shivaji, and revived by the able Peshwa Baji Rao I after a short period of decline, was largely due to the inherent defect of the Maratha State. Sir Jadunath remarks that “There was no attempt at well-thought out organised communal improvement, spread of education, or reunification of the people, either under Shivaji or under the Peshwas. The cohesion of the peoples of the Maratha State was not organic but artificial, accidental, therefore precarious.” This defect of the Maratha Slate became manifest when it stood face to face with the organised and dynamic power like the English.
3. Another inherent drawback of the Maratha State was lack of sound economic policy. The political development of a nation is impossible without a sound, stable economic policy and satisfactory financial arrangements. The miserly produce of the sterile soil of Maharastra held out little prospect of flourishing agriculture, trade or industry. Further whatever little agriculture was possible had been negatived by the prolonged wars against Aurangzeb. Peasants gave up cultivation and joined the army. The Maratha State had therefore to depend on precarious and uncertain sources of income like Chauth and Sardeshmukhi. Forced collection of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi cost the Marathas the sincere cooperation of other indigenous powers. After the death of Shivaji the Marathas revived the jagirdar system which worked as the most highly disintegrating force in the State. The Maratha jagirdars who kept their gaze on self-interest plunged the country into quarrels and intrigues.
4. The Maratha chiefs of the later period indulged more in finesse than well calculated statesmanship which brought disastrous consequences on the Maratha State and when the Marathas were confronted with superior diplomacy of the British towards the end of the eighteenth and early years of the nineteenth century they could not hold their own. Lack of unity among the Maratha Chiefs made the task of isolating the Maratha Chief against whom the English took arms facilitated their task. An instance in point is the ease with which the English succeeded in winning over the Gaikwar and the Southern Marathas on their side.
5. Military intelligence is of supreme importance in war. While the British officers when touring the country made themselves well-informed of the Maratha military strength, strategy, etc. the Marathas did not take care of this vitally important aspect of warfare. Further, quite a number of the English men learnt Marathi language which facilitated their understanding the Maratha attitude, the Marathas on that part remained ignorant about the English and their language. The Company’s Residents at Maratha Courts ran an efficient espionage system and acquired full details about the military potentials of the Marathas. C. W. Malet, Palmer, etc. may be mentioned as collectors of information about the families of Scindia, Holkar, Gaikwar, etc.
6. Casteism among the Marathas was responsible for their backward outlook Baji Rao II cared more for the Brahmin class in distribution of jobs and patronage for religious merits. This gave rise to resentment among the Marathas and Sir Jadunath observes that Maratha-Brahmin differences sapped the vitality of the Maratha State. Forrest also refers to the jealousy between the Maratha Chiefs and the Brahmins as one of the most formidable causes of the failure of the Marathas to unite the empire on a strong basis.
Sir Thomas Munro remarked that the very character of the native resistance was such that there was little chance of protracted opposition from them. Predatory invasion of the Company’s territories had no power to meet the English armies or to prolong the contest. The power of Daulat Rao Scindia and Jaswant Rao Holkar’s government had so declined since 1805 that they scarcely had any power to combine to oppose the British.
Dr. S. N. Sen summarised the causes of the fall of the Marathas as:
(i) The revival of feudalism after the death of Shambhuji,
(ii) Forsaking of Shivaji’s ideal of racial amity based on religion and called Hindupadpadshahi, and
(iii) Failure of the Maratha leaders to keep pace with the scientific progress in other parts of the world.
Thus causes both inherent and circumstantial combined to bring about the downfall of the Marathas, the only native power that might have otherwise been successors to the Mughals.