Jane Austen and ...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jane Austen and the Black Hole. Chapter 11

Chapter 11

Warren Hastings and the conquest of India

“That is to say,” cried Marianne contemptuously, “he has told you that in the East Indies the climate is hot, and the mosquitoes are troublesome.”

“He would have told me so, I doubt not, had I made any such inquiries; but they happened to be points on which I had previously been informed.”

“Perhaps,” said Willoughby, “his observations may have extended to the existence of nabobs, mohrs, and palanquins.”

- Marianne Dashwood and Mr. Willoughby discussing Colonel Brandon, returned home from India, in Sense and Sensibility (1811).1

“The Lands had suffer’d unheard of Depopulation by the Famine and Mortality of 1769. The Collections violently kept up to their former Standard, had added to the distress of the Country, and threatened a general Decay of the Revenue, unless immediate Remedies were applied to prevent it. The farming System for a course of Years subjected to proper checks and regulations, seem’d the most likely to afford relief to the Country, and both to ascertain and produce the real value of the Lands without violence to the Ryots.”

- Warren Hastings, letter to the Secret Committee of the East India Company (1772).2

“The civil offices of this government might be reduced to a very scanty number, were their exigency alone to determine the list of your covenanted servants, which at this time consists of no less a number than two hundred and fifty-two, and many of them the sons of the first families in the Kingdom of Great Britain, and everyone aspiring to the rapid acquisition of lakhs (1,00,000 rupees) [sic; = 100,000 rupees] and to return to pass the prime of their life at home.”

- Warren Hastings, letter to the Court of Directors of the East India Company (1781). 3

“Shall you expect to hear from me on Wednesday or not? - I think you will, or I should not write, as the three days & half which have passed since my last letter was sent, have not produced many materials towards filling another sheet of paper. - But like Mrs Hastings , “I do not despair -” & you perhaps like the faithful Maria may feel still more certain of the happy Event.”

- Jane Austen letter to Cassandra (1800) [ their father’s cousin Miss Maria Payne was essentially Mrs Marian Hasting’s companion at Daylesford in Worcestershire ].4

“Nobody ever feels or acts, suffers or enjoys, as one expects! - I do not at all regard Martha’s disappointments on the Island; she will like it better in the end. - I cannot help thinking and re-thinking of your going to the Island so heroically. It puts me in mind of Mrs Hastings’ voyage down the Ganges, and if we had but room to retire into to eat our fruit, we wd have a picture of it hung there.”

- Jane Austen letter to Cassandra (1808) [Cassandra’s trip to the Isle of Wight with Martha Lloyd is related to the William Hodges painting at Daylesford of Mrs Hastings’ heroic Ganges trip in aid of her sick husband.] 5

Warren Hastings returns to India

After the dreadful events of the Great Famine one might have supposed that a chastened Company would have changed its tune significantly and proceeded with somewhat greater sensitivity in its treatment of its Indian subjects. This was not to be despite the fact that the East India Company was now operating in the context of a far better informed and increasingly indignant metropolitan population. After 14 years in Bengal under Robert Clive and Henry Vansittart, Warren Hastings had returned home in 1764 frustrated by the Calcutta Council. However he was to return to India and to glory as recounted in a copious literature dealing specifically with his life 6 or with this period of Indian history. 7 He was recalled to India and given a post as deputy in charge of Madras. In 1772 he was appointed Governor of Fort William to replace John Cartier. Hastings immediately commenced dealing with the aftermath of the Great Bengal Famine and cleaning the stables.8

The dual system of government was finally disposed of: the Nawab and his advisers had no more say in the affairs of Bengal. The Nawab Saif-ud-daulah had died in 1770 and Hastings ensured that the young new Nawab, Mubarak-ud-daulah, was given a greatly reduced allowance. Collectors were appointed to actually raise revenue in the countryside with the help of native assistants. The Collectors also had a judicial function, being in charge of civil law administration in the districts. The Collectors were also in position to advise the Council in Calcutta. While criminal law remained in "native" hands, courts of appeal for civil and criminal law, respectively, were established in Calcutta. Mohammed Reza Khan at Murshidabad and Shaitab Ali in Bihar were removed from office and imprisoned. They were prosecuted for financial irregularities but were eventually acquitted - they had merely done their masters' bidding. A Board of Revenue was established and a 5-year plan for revenue collection put in place.

The Rohilla War

The Marathas gradually recovered from their enormous defeat at Panipat in 1761 and by 1769 were again invading northern India, raiding Rajputana and Rohilkhand and eventually seizing Delhi. The Maratha leader Sindhia returned the Moghal Emperor Shah Alam to Delhi in return for his handing over Allahabad and Kora, cities that the Emperor had received from Clive in 1765 in the settlement following the defeat of Oudh at the Battle of Buxhar in 1764. Hastings responded by formally cutting off the Moghal's tribute (worth about 260,000 pounds per annum), which actually had not been paid anyway since 1769/70. Hastings further concluded the Treaty of Benares in 1773 with the Nawab Wazir of Oudh that specified the return of Allahabad and Kora to Oudh in exchange for 500,000 rupees and a continuing contribution for the support of Company forces. However at this meeting Hastings agreed to assist the Nawab Wazir of Oudh in a campaign against Rohilkhand, thus initiating British involvement in the controversial Rohilla War.

Rohillkhand is a region of 12,000 square miles north of the Gangetic plain. It had a population at that time of about 6 million that was predominantly Hindu. The dominant, ruling tribe were Rohillas and Pathans who had come from Afghanistan. In 1772 the Nawab of Oudh and the head chief of the Rohillas, Hafiz Ramat Khan, concluded a treaty of defence against the increasingly threatening Marathas by which it was agreed that the Rohillas would pay Oudh 400,000 rupees for successful succour in the event of a Maratha invasion. The treaty was witnessed by Sir Robert Barker. In 1773 the Marathas did invade and an army from Oudh, assisted by the British, forced their retreat. However Rohilla refused payment, Oudh requested British assistance to enforce the obligation and Hastings obliged. An army from Oudh and a British force under Colonel Champion invaded Rohilkhand in 1774 and at the Battle of Miranpur Katra the Rohillas were defeated and Hafiz Rahmat Khan slain in battle. Rohilkhand was seized by Oudh and 20,000 Rohillas expelled.

The destructive British involvement against people in a region remote from them and not otherwise in conflict with them was regarded with great disapprobation back in England. Colonel Champion commented at the time on indescribable violence, oppression and cruelty on the part of the Oudh soldiery but he was to soften this in giving evidence at the Parliamentary Hastings Impeachment proceedings a dozen years later back in England.

Parliament intervenes

The growing public perception of the wealth of the returning Company men or "nabobs" and recognition by shareholders in the Company that their due was being intercepted by their employees led to pressure for greater government control over the Company and its affairs in India. This had initially led to the requirement for 400,000 pounds per annum to be paid into the Exchequer by the Company during the period 1769-1772. A compensatory measure was the relief from duty of Company tea being sent to Ireland and to America. Tea thus exported by the Company to America could therefore compete more effectively with smuggled tea. It was East India Company tea that was thrown into Boston Harbor by the "no taxation without representation" American activists in 1773.

The Company had sent out a commission composed of former Governor of Bengal, Henry Vansittart, as well as Colonel Forde and Scrafton in 1769 to investigate Bengal abuses but their ship of passage, the Aurora, was lost with all aboard in the Indian Ocean. Losses of revenue associated with the Bengal famine and the cost of military operations in southern India made a dent in Company profits and in 1773 the Directors successfully obtained a loan of 1 million pounds from the Government to enable the troubled Company to stay afloat. However the quid pro quo of this support was Parliamentary intervention into affairs in India, and the Act of Parliament specifying this loan also regulated dividends and required reporting to the Treasury.

A second Act of Parliament, Lord North's so-called Regulating Act, provided a new constitution for the Company. A board of Directors was to be elected for 4 years, and a quarter were to retire each year and remain unelectable for 1 year. In India the head of the organization would be a Governor-General based in Calcutta and he would preside over a Council composed of 4 other members, the Governor-General having the casting vote. The Council would govern all three Presidencies in India and would report to the Directors in London who would in turn report to the Treasury about finances and to the Secretary of State about other matters. In addition a Supreme Court was set up with a Chief Justice and 3 puisne judges.

The first Governor-General was Warren Hastings, the first Councillors Lieutenant-General Clavering, Monson, Barwell and Philip Francis. The first Chief Justice was Elijah Impey, who had attended the Westminster School with both imperialist Hastings and the sensitive, humanist poet William Cowper. Just as Hastings was intimately connected with the Austen family in the 18th and 19th centuries, so the Impey family became connected by marriage with the Austens in the 19th century.9 The annual salaries are instructive: the Governor-General received 25,000 pounds, each Councillor 10,000 pounds and the Chief Justice 8,000 pounds. However these salaries evidently did not suffice and were generously supplemented in various ways.

Things started badly on the arrival in Calcutta in 1774 of 3 of the Councillors, namely Francis, Monson and Clavering. They objected to an insufficiency of guns in the welcoming salute and quickly made it clear that they were set to constrain Hastings. While condemning the Rohilla War, the Council demanded that Colonel Champion get 400,000 rupees from the Nawab of Oudh in return for the earlier defeat of the Marathas and also ordered Captain Nathaniel Middleton, Resident at Lucknow, to hand over confidential correspondence with Hastings. When the Nawab Wazir of Oudh, Shuja-ud-daulah, died in 1775, the Council upped the payments to the Company by his successor for maintenance of the British forces and also insisted that Benares become Company territory.

The judicial murder of Nandkumar

Hastings was under attack from the Council but, in a process not unconnected with this hostility, was subject to formal complaint to the Council by the leading Hindu dignitary Nandkumar in 1775. It was alleged that Hastings had received a bribe from the widow of Mir Jafar, the indomitable Munni Begum. The allegation was supported by testaments from the Indian community and had some substance in the sense that he had actually received 150,000 rupees from her on a trip to Murshidabad. Hastings fought back: he refused to be arraigned in front of the Council by Nandkumar and dissolved the Council meeting. He refused to pay the money into the Company treasury and brought a charge of conspiracy against Nandkumar. Very conveniently a charge of forgery was now brought against Nandkumar by a Calcutta merchant.

Nandkumar was tried before Chief Justice Elijah Impey and 3 other judges, was found guilty and hanged. The Council did not show mercy towards a man who had helped their purposes and the judicial murder of such a prominent Indian citizen (5 years after the death of 10 million Bengalis in the famine) would have had a salutory effect on the Indian citizenry by demonstrating the consequences of having the temerity to accuse an important person such as Hastings. In addition to having been at school with Hastings, Impey had also benefited from his friend through a generous additional judicial appointment that effectively doubled his salary. It has been argued that if this was a corrupt decision then the other judges would have had to be persuaded as well. This actually seems likely, since isolated men of a common cultural, professional and racial ilk would be expected to stick up for their own in such circumstances. The prolonged duress of widowed, part-European Mary Carey says a lot about such attitudes.10

The execution of Nandkumar shocked the Calcutta community and was one of the grounds for the later impeachment of Warren Hastings. In addition to his deadly faux pas in accusing Hastings, Nandkumar had also informed the Company in London via an intermediary, Robert Gregory, of the gross abuses during the period of the Great Bengal Famine. 11 Nandkumar had collaborated with Mir Jafar and his son Miran, had tried to keep revenue details from the English, insisted upon formal ratification of arrangements with the Mughal Emperor on the accession of Nawab Najm-ud-daulah, opposed Mohammed Reza Khan and was detested by Warren Hastings from the very first. 12 For all that Nandkumar was a wealthy Bengali, he can be legitimately viewed as a patriot. 13 (One is reminded in this of the hanging in 1916 of Irish patriot Roger Casement, the great man who blew the whistle on ghastly Belgian colonial abuses in the Congo). 14 According to T.B. Macaulay “It is a remarkable circumstance that one of the letters of Hastings to Dr. Johnson has been dated a very few hours after the death of Nuncomar” 15 (actually, it appears, 2 days after the hanging). 16

Starvation, trauma and utter impoverishment had crushed physical resistance from the Bengalis. The most potent result of the judicial murder of Nandkumar was the stifling of dissent and complaint. In the words of T.B. Macaulay (1840): “The voices of a thousand informers were silenced in an instant. From that time, what difficulties Hastings might have had to encounter, he was never molested by accusations from natives of India.” 17

Conflict with Mysore, Hyderabad and the Marathas

It is useful at this point to consider the build up of military tensions in the south of India over the preceding decade. The key players were Hyder Ali (who had deposed the previous ruler of Mysore), the Maratha Confederacy (that dominated Central India as well as threatening Bombay, northern India and southern India), the Nizam of Hyderabad and the British. In terms of dangerousness we could rank the British over the Marathas and Mysore, with Hyderabad being the least effective. In 1765 the Company allied itself with Hyderabad against Mysore and the Marathas but the Nizam of Hyderabad had betrayed them. Nevertheless the British under Colonel Smith were able to defeat a combined "native" force at the Pass of Changana and at Trincomali in 1767. However at the subsequent Treaty of Masulipatam in 1768 the Madras Presidency made peace with the Nizam of Hyderabad in terms that were hostile to Mysore. The fighting continued with Mysore (but with Hyderabad standing aside) and eventually Mysore forced the British to a peace in which all conquests were restored and the British agreed to assist Mysore against the Marathas. However when indeed the Marathas invaded Mysore in 1771 the British reneged on their commitment to Mysore and thereby further enhanced the enmity of Hyder Ali.

As we have already seen, these adventures put considerable strains on the finances of the Company at a very difficult time. When Hastings took over as Governor-General in Calcutta his difficulties with his 3 opponents on the Council constrained his ability to deal effectively with the other Presidencies and he was lumbered with consequences of their continuing to indulge in plots and wars with Indian native states.

In 1775 the Bombay Presidency very unwisely signed the Treaty of Surat that supported the claim of Raghunath Rao (Raghoba) to the position of Peshwar of the Marathas in return for the ceding of Bassein and the island of Salsette. Hastings and the Council opposed this unilateral action but major hostilities having broken out, they sent Colonel Upton to Poona to make peace with the Peshwar of the Marathas. Under the Treaty of Purandhar (1776) the British surrendered their gains (except for Salsette) and gave up support for Raghunath Rao. However (with the accompanying delay of transmission), the Directors disapproved and permitted Hastings to renew support for Raghunath Rao, which he did on his casting vote on the Council and against the position of his enemy Francis. This was an expensive and unfortunate decision borne of anti-French paranoia in relation to the presence in Poona of a Frenchman who, it transpired, was not in fact an agent of the French Government.

The Bombay forces were not successful against the Marathas and Bombay concluded an unauthorized Treaty of Wargaon (1779) that surrendered all gains. The Council forces rejected this treaty, resumed hostilities and had some success. In 1780 Goddard marched across India from the Jumna and captured Ahmadabad and Bassein. Popham captured the "impregnable" fortess of Gwalior (1780). However Goddard was unsuccessful in an advance on the Maratha capital Poona and Hastings was forced to an accomodation with the Marathas. Hastings made peace with the Maratha chief Sindhia, who regained territory west of the Jumna at the Treaty of Salbai (1782), Raghunath Rao's claims to be the Peshwar were dissolved and Bombay retained Salsette. After 4 years of war all parties were essentially back to where they had started.

In the south the Madras Presidency supported Mohammed Ali, the Nawab of the Carnatic, in defeating and imprisoning the Raja of Tanjore in 1773. This period was associated with corruption involving the native court and Company men (notably the scandal of the "Nawab of Arcot's debts") and required repeated intervention by the Directors and the Council in Bengal. The confusion of Madras and the misplaced alliance of Bombay with Raghunath Rao, allowed Haidar Ali to collect a confederacy involving Mysore, the Marathas and Hyderabad and to invade the Carnatic in 1780. A British force under Baillie was surrounded and destroyed, Munro had to flee to Madras, leaving behind his guns, and Arcot was captured by Haider Ali. While the French possessions of Pondicherry and Chandernagore had been captured (France having declared war on Britain in 1778), there was the danger of a forthcoming French naval expedition.

Hastings responded effectively to the emergency. Pearse led an army from Bengal to the south, the Raja of Berar was detached from the enemy and the Treaty of Salbai with Sindhia removed the Marathas from the conflict. Eyre Coote defeated Haidar Ali at Porto Novo on the Coromandel coast south of Fort St David in 1781. In this battle a British force of 8,500 lost only 300 men having been opposed by Haidar Ali's force of 65,000. The discipline of the British infantry "squares" together with the help of gunfire from a warship offshore combined to defeat a much larger force of cavalry in a battle that ranks with Buxhar and Plassey as a military tour de force. Eyre Coote, together with Pearse, fought Tipu, Haidar Ali's son at Pollilore. Eyre Coote subsequently defeated Haidar Ali at Solingar. Negapatam and Trincomali were captured. This flow of good fortune was followed by the defeat of Braithwaite by Tipu at Tanjore and the landing of 2,000 Frenchmen by Admiral De Suffrein after an engagement with Admiral Sir Edward Hughes off Pulicat. Haidar Ali and the French captured Cuddalore from the British in 1782. The famous Bussy returned too late to India to team up with Tipu who had gone off to battle on the Malabar coast. Hughes was able to hold De Suffrein in great sea battles but De Suffrein recaptured the crucial port of Trincomali. Nevertheless the French naval forces had to run the gauntlet of the British navy on their way to India and the arrival of a further British fleet under Admiral Sir R. Bickerton tipped the balance for the British.

In 1783 Tipu captured Bednore and put Mangalore under siege. However Fullarton invaded Mysore, capturing Palghat and Coimbatore and threatening the capital Seringapatam before being recalled by Governor Lord Macartney who was sueing for peace. Tipu delayed agreement until Mangalore had fallen and then accepted the Treaty of Mangalore that temporarily restored peace to south India. The conflict against the Marathas and against Tipu would be resumed with great vigour after Hastings left India.

The bullying of Chait Singh of Benares

Because of the expenses incurrred by the adventures in the south and west of India and with the ostensible excuse of the declaration of war by the French, in 1778 Hastings demanded an additional 50,000 pounds for "war expenses" from Chait Singh, the Raja of Benares, in addition to the normal levy of 225,000 pounds. The Raja asked that the levy be confined to 1 year but Hastings insisted on immediate payment. When the Raja asked for a delay of 6 months, Hastings demanded full payment in 5 days and declared that a delay would be treated as outright refusal. In 1779 the demand was repeated and when Company troops moved against him the Raja paid the 50,000 pounds plus a fine of 2,000 pounds for the attendant military expenses.

In 1780 a further demand for 50,000 pounds was made. Chait Singh offered a "present" to Hastings of 20,000 pounds, which Hastings accepted. This was used for the war against the Marathas and the Company Treasurer in Calcutta and Director Sullivan were informed, as were the Directors in London at a later date. Nevertheless the 50,000 pounds was also exacted and Hastings then made further demands. Asked for 2,000 cavalry, the Raja argued this down to 1,000 but did not deliver exactly what was demanded. Accordingly Hastings now demanded a fine of 500,000 pounds from the Raja.

Hastings traveled to Oudh and the Raja met him at Buxhar, but Hastings deferred any reply to his pleas until he arrived at Benares. At Benares Hastings refused a personal interview, reiterated his demands in writing and rejected the Raja's written response. The culmination of this extraordinary bullying was Hastings' arrest of the Raja. At this point the Raja's troops rebelled against the British, slaughtering sepoys and some British officers. Hastings fled to Chanar and the Raja, innocent of the rebellion, also fled. The revolt was put down and the Raja, dispossessed of his domain, fled to the Marathas of Gwalior. He was replaced by his nephew who was compelled to pay an enormously increased annual tribute of 400,000 pounds to the Company.

The consequences of exorbitant demands, bullying and consequent rebellion, war and grievous taxation was the devastation and impoverishment of a formerly prosperous province. This appalling episode was also raised as an item of the Hastings impeachment. As with other actions of Hastings, the treatment of Chait Singh has been justified for various reasons by British Establishment historians. One supposes that gentlemen brought up with the bastardizing and brutality of the English public school fag system would have had a relatively relaxed attitude to this socially destructive episode of remorseless bullying. However for the people of the Gangetic plain, the disruptions of war and the impositions of taxation meant severe exacerbation of the dreadful famine of 1782.

The robbing of the Begums of Oudh

After the death of the old Nawab Wazir of Oudh, Shuja-ud-daulah, his son and successor Asaf-ud-daulah fell into arrears with the Company. In 1775 the widow of Shuja-ud-daulah agreed to the representations of the British Resident to pay her son a further 300,000 pounds on top of 260,000 pounds he had already received, it being agreed that no more payments would be made. The Council agreed to this arrangement. However in 1781, under pressure of his arrears, the Nawab asked for the treaty to be set aside, to which Hastings readily agreed on the dubious excuse that the Begums had supported Chait Singh of Benares. The Nawab had second thoughts about ripping off his mother and grandmother but Hastings insisted and despatched forces to Fyzabad to assist the Nawab's soldiers to effect the robbery of the Begum's treasure and jagirs (estates). Captain Nathaniel Middleton's forces invaded the women's quarters, seized the eunuchs and subjected them to imprisonment and starvation for about a year to extract the whereabouts of the treasure.

The matter of the Begums of Oudh excited further indignation back home in England, not the least because of the unseemliness of Englishmen bullying and robbing noble women of their money, jewels and jagirs and violating the perceived sanctity of their quarters (the zenana). This was further grist to the Impeachment mill several years later. Hastings was to spend much of 1784 organizing the affairs of Benares and Oudh to his satisfaction, his earlier interventions having brought great distress from famine to the province. If people are unable to produce food (because of drought and military activity) and cannot buy food (because of grievous taxation), they simply starve.

The duel with Francis

The domination of the Council by his opponents was a big burden for Hastings that was relieved when Monson died in 1776 and Hastings could use his casting vote to have his way. However his position was seriously jeopardized when his agent in London mistakenly tendered Hastings' resignation as Governor-General. The Directors appointed General Clavering as his successor but Hastings when apprised of the matter resisted and his school chum Chief Justice Impey supported him (but not to the extent of forcing Clavering out as a Councillor and as Commander-in-Chief as Hastings demanded). Clavering died in 1777 and was replaced by the famous Eyre Coote on the Council. When Barwell decided that he wanted to return home to enjoy his profits, a deal was done with Francis so that Hastings would not be disadvantaged in the voting on the Council and the arrangement was set down on paper by the Advocate-General. In the event Francis continued his opposition which Hastings now could consider as "dishonour" and a duel ensued in 1780.

Hastings' second was the heroic Colonel Pearse and Francis' was Colonel Watson. Hastings, on his own account, allowed Francis to fire first but the pistol missed fire. Still resolved to go second, Hastings observed Francis take aim twice and then withdraw. Accordingly he then took aim and fired, Francis' pistol going off at the same time. Francis collapsed wounded but recovered and left Bengal. [We have already seen the connections between Sense and Sensibility and the life of Warren Hastings in Chapter 6. The duel between the cad Willoughby and Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility very likely reflects the celebrated duel between Philip Francis and Warren Hastings.]

That was not to be the end of Philip Francis in Hastings' life. Francis was widely believed to be the author of the caustic “Letters of Junius” published in various journals before his arrival in Bengal and which satirised men of position. He had maintained a position of opposition to Hastings' policies right from the start, although it should be appreciated that Francis' position was more in accord with the formal position of the British Government and his opposition to the Bombay Maratha adventures was sensible. On his return to England he made sure to apprise others of what had been going on in India and this appreciation ultimately led to Hastings' Impeachment.

Impey, Fox, Pitt the Younger and further Parliamentary intervention

In addition to his judicial murder of Nandkumar, the Chief Justice Elijah Impey earned an unpleasant reputation for himself in other matters of adjudication. The Council was in conflict not only with Hastings but with his friend Impey. When the Council overrode their authority and told zamindars to ignore the judges, Impey and his colleagues declared the Council in contempt. Hastings softened the impasse by making Impey the President of the Company's Court of Appeal (worth an additional 6,500 pounds per annum). This was not regarded favourably back home since it appeared to compromise the independence of the Supreme Court (surely compromised rather seriously anyway). In 1781 Parliament passed an Act removing the Governor-General from the authority of the Supreme Court and Impey was brought home. An attempt to impeach Impey on the basis of his bad reputation was unsuccessful.

Parliamentary interest in India began to hot up at this point (fuelled no doubt by whistle-blowing Philip Francis). In 1781 a new Act extended the Company's Charter for 10 years but determined that three quarters of post-dividend surplus was to go into the Treasury and that the Government should have access to Company communications sent to as well as received from India. A select committee and then a secret committee of inquiry into Indian judicial matters were set up that led to the resolution of Parliament in 1782 that Hastings and the President of Bombay should be recalled. Hastings escaped this through the fall of Rockingham's Government but his troubles were just beginning.

In 1783 the Coalition Government of Fox and North proposed major changes by which the Company would be under much greater Government control with Directors being nominated by Parliament. Pitt (the grandson of a famous Company man) vigorously opposed the Bill and although it was passed in the Commons it was defeated in the Lords. When Pitt returned triumphant to Parliament after subsequent elections, his Tory Government brought down the India Act of 1784 that dramatically changed the administration of India. A Board of Control composed of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Secretary of State and 4 Privy Councillors was headed by a Privy Councillor acting as President of the Board and who was to have great executive power. The Board's orders were to go forth to India through a secret committee of the Directors and the shareholders could not countermand decisions of the Board of Control. In India the Governor-General and a Council of 3 would have unambiguous authority over all Presidencies.

Hastings was unhappy with Pitt's India Act, resigned and returned to England in 1785. However the metropolitan concerns about India that had led to parliamentary interventions culminating in Pitt's India Act had built up to an extent resulting in moves for Hastings' impeachment. The Impeachment of Hastings was as close as we have ever come to holding a major War Crimes Trial over the appalling abuses of British imperialism.

2008 Postscript

The present day crucifixion of Occupied Iraq provides a parallel with the British post-Famine exploitation of Bengal. Professor Noam Chomsky has spelled out what ordinary Western citizens had already worked out for themselves before the US, UK and Australian invasion of Iraq – that it was about oil. Thus Professor Chomsky states: “the huge energy resources of the region were recognized by Washington sixty years ago as a “stupendous source of strategic power,” the “strategically most important area of the world,” and “one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” Control over this stupendous prize has been a primary goal of U.S. policy ever since, and threats to it have naturally aroused enormous concern”. 18 Post-invasion violent plus non-violent excess deaths in Occupied Iraq totalled 1.7 - 2.2 million as of March 2008. In addition one can estimate 1.7 million Sanctions excess deaths (1990-2003), 1.2 million under-5 infant deaths under Sanctions, 0.2 million Iraqi Gulf War deaths, 0.6 million post-invasion infant deaths (UNICEF) and 4.5 million Iraqi refugees (UNHCR). 19 The Sanctions, Gulf War and Invasion and Occupation of Iraq have come at a huge human cost and amount to an Iraqi Holocaust and an Iraqi Genocide as defined by the UN Genocide Convention. 20


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