Read this article to learn about the aims, policy and estimate of Wellesly.

Aims of Wellesly:

Wellesley’s aims were expansionism and imperialism. He wan­ted to expand the British dominions in India to such an extent that it should become the sovereign power in India.

His expansionist mind would not remain content with British remaining one of the powers in India, as such he set himself to the task of converting India into an empire of Britain. Another aim, which was ancillary to his main objective, was removal of French influence from India and to make possibility of French territorial expansion of India impossible.

To achieve the above main aims, Wellesley naturally followed a policy of unabashed imperialism and taking advantage of the eager­ness of the native princes and powers to enlist British support in their mutual power-struggle, he wanted to make them absolutely dependent on the British. This policy goes by the name Subsidiary Alliance. But it may be mentioned here that although this policy is usually referred to as have been introduced by Wellessley, fact is that Clive and Warren Hastings followed the same policy.


What Wellessley did was to invest it with a name and follow it with greater success and apply it more extensively.

Policy of Wellesly:

(i) Those native princes or rulers who would enter into Subsidiary Alliance would not be free to declare war against any other power, nor enter into negotiations with, any power, native or otherwise without the con­sent of the English,

(ii) The princes who were comparatively strong and powerful would be permitted to retain their armies, but their armies must be placed under British generals,

(iii) The security of the dominion of a prince who would enter into Subsidiary Alliance would be the responsibility of the English but the expenses of forces that the latter would maintain for the purpose had to be borne by the prince for which adequate area of his dominion had to be surren­dered to the English.


It goes without saying that imperialist expansion was the real motive behind this policy of Wellesley. A successful implementing of this policy would in consequence totally diminish the French in­fluence and stop the possibility of French territorial expansion in India.

In the application of the policy of Subsidiary Alliance, the first Indian ruler that fell a victim was the weak-kneed Nizam of Hydera­bad. In the battle of Kharda, 1795, the English country to them earlier stipulation did not render any assistance to the Nizam. This made Nizam disgruntled and turned him into an enemy of the Com­pany. Wellesley Drought him back to the English side and not only that he succeeded in making him accept the Subsidiary Alliance but Nizam who signed the alliance ceded his territories south of the Tungabhadra and the Krishna to the Company towards maintenance of English troops for security of the Nizam’s dominions. These were known as the Ceded Districts.

The security of Oudh had been the responsibility of the Com­pany ever since the signing of the treaty with it by Warren Hast­ings. The Nawab of Oudh had to pay a stipulated amount annually to the Company for its security. Under John Shore the amount was fixed at 76 lacks per year. Wellesley got the Nawab sign a new treaty in 1801 by which the Nawab had to cede Rohilkhand, Gorakhpur, and a part of the Doab to the Company in lieu of annual cash payment for the maintenance of the Company’s troops for the security of the Nawab’s dominions. By the provision of this treaty the Nawab of Oudh disbanded his in-disciplined, inefficient army and a contingent of the Company’s troops was placed in Oudh. The Nawab of Oudh became a party to the Subsidiary Alliance.

As long as the Maratha leader, Nana Fadnavis, was alive none of the Maratha Confederacy even dreamt of entering into any alli­ance with the English, far less an alliance at the cost of indepen­dence. But with his death in 1800 the void created in the Maratha leadership was not filled in. The five States of the Maratha Con­federacy, namely, under Peshwa, Hollar, Scindia, Bhonsle and Gaikwar fell apart and an internecine struggle soon began. Jaswant Rao Holkar invaded Poona, capital of Peshwa, and defeated the combined forces of the Peshwa and Scindia in a battle not far from Poona.


Peshwa Baji Rao II fled and sought asylum with the English. The opportunity was utilise by the English and the Peshwa was prevailed upon to sign the Subsidiary Alliance with them (1802). This is known as the treaty of Bassein. Acceptance of the terms of the Subsidiary Alliance had practically dug at the foundations of the Maratha Con­federacy. Subsequently the English succeeded in bringing the Scindia and Bhonsle within the fold of the Subsidiary Alliance thereby liqui­dating the greatest rival of the English, namely, the Marathas on the Indian soil.

In the meantime in 1799 a succession dispute put everything in the Kingdom of Tanjore in a melting pot which naturally attracted Wellesley’s attention. He brought the King of Tanjore under the Company’s fold and made him make over his kingdom to the Com­pany in return for an annual allowance.

A similar situation arose in Surat which was also brought under the Company’s rule by refusing to recognise the brother of deceased King of Surat as heir. A pittance was granted to him as allowance. It may be pointed out here that Surat was under the English influ­ence ever since the time of the East India Company’s coming to India for trade.

After the Second Carnatic War Mohammad Ali was placed as the Nawab there. The English whose help Mohamad Ali received in order to occupy the Nawabship of the Carnatic made him a virtual subordinate ally of the English who established a dual government in the kingdom of Mohammad Ali and made the latter a cat’s paw in their hands. On the death of Mohammad Ali in 1795 his son Umdat Ali, entered into secret negotiations with Tipu of Mysore in order to make a common cause to oust the English.

The English were not too late in getting the intelligence of the secret negotiations but before anything was done Umdat died (1801). Wellesley brought Carnatic under the Company and by refusing to recognise Umdat’s son as Nawab placed one of his choice on the throne of Carnatic as a formal Nawab. In this way Wellesley not only expanded the British dominions in India but liquidated the possibility of the French expansion in India, and laid the foundations of a vast British Indian empire making the English the supreme power in India.

Estimate of Wellesley:

Wellesley’s ever-bearing conduct, attitude of independence even to the point of disobeying the authorities at home, and his expansion of territories even when the Company was meeting its expenses on loan, led to his recall. But he was decidedly one of those few Governor-Generals who contributed to the building up of the British empire in India.

Wellesley assumed as Governor-General at a time when the Company was faced with a crop of intractable problems.

He tackled the problems with a masterly astuteness and efficiency and strengthened the position of the Company by solving them. The Marathas, the Nizam, Tipu were all put down and a grave Challenge to the Company had been liquidated. Not only that, he made the Peshwa, Bhonsle and Scindia dependent on the Company by bringing them to enter into Subsidiary Alliance with the Company. It was Wellesley who was the first to contemplate to turn India into a British empire, an idea and policy which had been followed by Lord Dalhousie.

Wellesley found, on his assumption of charge as Governor-General, that the French influence was fast growing in South India. Both in Mysore and Hyderabad the French influence was not only established but was growing. His policy of Subsidiary Alliance so successfully applied and implemented by him while made the native powers dependent on the English military support, liquidated the French in­fluence in the bargain.

He had also mooted the idea of invading Mauritius, the French base, so that ultimately he could drive out the French from India altogether. But the home authorities did not agree to his suggestion. His plan to oust the Dutch who were friends of the French, from Ceylon and Batavia was turned down by the home authorities. His policy, thus was building up of a British empire in India and to render it secure by driving out the other European powers from India and the neighbourhood. He succeeded in the first but due to want of sanction from the home authorities he only suc­ceeded in liquidating the French influence from South India.

Wellesley’s perspective was as wide as his vast imperialistic plan. He saw the danger of Napoleon’s invasion of India through Egypt and despatched a contingent to Egypt against Napoleon. But the troops did not have any engagement with the troops of Napoleon as he had already left for France after his victory at the battle of Pyramids.

Likewise he would not allow French influence to grow in Persia and in particular he saw the danger of Russian expansion towards Persia. To prevent these possibilities and to counter the French in­fluence in Persia, Wellesley sent a mission under John Malcolm to the Persian Court. The Mission succeeded in obtaining certain poli­tical and commercial concession from the Persian King.

Wellesley was a stout annexationist and a ruthless imperialist. His treatment of the Nawabs of Oudh, and the Carnatic and the King of Tanjore and Surat was too narrow, selfish and unfair. True, his policy towards these native states expanded the influence and territories of the. Company but the English control and influence in these states were not beneficent to their people. Making the rulers dependent on the Company’s strength he paved the way for their becoming more and more autocratic.

Historians like Dr. Smith and others have remarked that Welles­ley was totally inattentive to the problems of internal administration and did not attempt to make the administration strong and efficient. But it must be pointed out that although his preoccupations in solving the more desperate and imminent problems had called for his abiding intention yet he was not altogether unmindful of the needs of an efficient, judicious and strong administration. This is evident from his occasional utterances.

It was Wellesley who saw the need of training up the newly appointed officers of the Company who came from England without any experience or knowledge of the Indian affairs. He established a college at Fort William for the purpose, but the Directors did not accept Wellesley’s plan in full, they converted the College into one for teaching Indian languages.

Wellesley was imperious in nature and somewhat self-willed, yet his imaginativeness and power of perception gave him rare ability to foresee the future and ably tackle the present. He was a great judge of men and things and had a Jeep insight into the inherent qualities of persons who worked with him. Metcalfe, Munro, Elphinstone, Malcolm etc. who proved themselves extraordinarily capable adminis­trators were all his creation.

The expansionist policy; of Wellesley became a matter of great uneasiness with the home authorities, and particularly the mounting deficit of the Company’s finances unnerved them. For a profit mak­ing Company which did not see beyond their immediate profit figures, Wellesley’s building up of an empire which in future sustained the English nation for one and a half centuries was beyond comprehen­sion and naturally looked upon with displeasure and disapproval.

It was at this time when the home authorities were very much dis­satisfied with Wellesley’s policy; Munro was signally defeated by Jaswant Rao Holkar. This wa9 the last straw on the camel’s back and Wellesley was recalled. Yet we cannot but recognise the fact that British imperialism was to a large extent indebted to Wellesley.

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