« PreviousContinue »
principles of their policy, which either prohibit connexion, or oblige us to a connexion very different from what we have hitherto used towards them, I shall leave it to your lordships' judgment, whether you will suffer such fair monuments of wisdom and benevolence to be defaced by the rapacity of your governours. I hope I have not gone out of my way to bring before you any circumstance relative to the Gentû religion and manners, further than as they relate to the spirit of our government over them; for though there never was such food for the curiosity of the human mind, as is found in the manners of this people, I pass it totally over.
I wish to divide this preliminary view into six periods ; and your lordships will consider that of the Hindûs, which I have now mentioned, as the first era.
The second era is an era of great misfortune to that country, and to the world in general; I mean, the time of the prophet Mahomed. The enthusiasm, which animated his first followers, the despotiek power, which religion obtained through that enthusiasm, and the advantages, derived from both, over the enervated great empires, and broken, disunited lesser governments of the world, extended the influence of that proud and domineering sect from the banks of the Ganges to the banks of the Loire.
This second period is the era of the Arabs. ple made a great and lasting impression on India. They established, very early, Mahomedan sovereigns in all parts of it; particularly in the kingdom of Bengal, which is the principal object of our present inquiry. They held that kingdom, for a long series of years, under a dynasty of thirtythree kings; having begun their conquest, and founded their dominion in Bengal, not very long after the time of their prophet.
These people, when they first settled in India, attempted with the ferocious arm of their prophetick sword to change the religion and manners of that country ; but at length perceiving, that their cruelty wearied out itself, and never could touch the constancy of the sufferers, they permitted the native people of the country to remain in quiet, and left the Mahomedan religion to operate upon them as it could by ap
pealing to the ambition or avarice of the great, or by taking the lower people, who have lost their casts, into this new sect; and thus, from the refuse of the Gentû, increasing the bounds of the Mahomedan religion. They left many of the antient rajahs of the country possessed of an inferiour sovereignty ; and, where the strength of the country or other circumstances would not permit this subordination, they suffered them to continue in a separate state, approaching to independence, if not wholly independent.
The Mahomedans, during the period of the Arabs, never expelled or destroyed the native Gentù nobility, zemindars, or landholders of the country. They all, or almost all, remained fixed in their places, properties, and dignities ; and the shadows of several of them remain under our jurisdiction.
The next, which is the third era, is an era the more necessary to observe upon, because Mr. Hastings has made many applications to it in his defence before the Commons; namely, the invasion of the Tartars, or the era of Tamerlane. These Tartars did not establish themselves on the ruins of the Hindus.
Their conquests were over the other Mahomedans : for Tamerlane invaded Hindostan, as he invaded other countries, in the character of the great reformer of the Mahomedan religion. He came as a sort of successour to the rights of the prophet upon a divine title. He struck at all the Mahomedan princes, who reigned at that time. He considered them as apostates, or at least as degenerated from the faith, and as tyrants abusing their power. To facilitate his conquests over these, he was often obliged to come to a sort of a composition with the people of the country he invaded. Tamerlane had neither time, nor means, nor inclination, to dispossess the antient rajahs of the country.
Your lordships will observe, that I propose nothing more, than to give you an idea of the principles of policy, which prevailed in these several revolutions, and not an history of the furious military achievements of a barbarous invader. Historians, indeed, are generally very liberal of their information concerning every thing but what we ought to be ve
ry anxious to know. They tell us, that India was conquered by Tamerlane, and conquered in such a year. will be found to coincide somewhere, I believe, with the end of the fourteenth century. Thinking the mere fact as of little moment, and its chronology as nothing, but thinking the policy very material, which, indeed, is to be collected only here and there, in various books written with various views, I shall beg leave to lay before you a very remarkable circumstance relative to that policy, and taken from the same book to which I formerly referred, Mr. Holwell's.
" When the Hindû rajahs, or princes of Hindostan, submitted to Tamerlane, it was on these eapital stipulations :
-that the emperour should marry a daughter of Rajah Cheit Sing's house ; that the head of this house should be in perpetuity governours of the citadel of Agra, and anoint the king at his coronation; and that the emperours should never impose the jessera (or poll-tax) upon the Hindûs.”
Here was a conquerour, as he is called, coming in upon terms; mixing his blood with that of the native nobility of the country he conquered ; and, in consequence of this mixture, placing them in succession upon the throne of the country he subdued ; making one of them even hereditary constable of the capital of his kingdom, and thereby putting his posterity as a pledge into their hands.
What is full as remarkable, he freed the Hindûs for ever from that tax, which the Mahomedans have laid upon every country, over which the sword of Mahomed prevailed ; namely, a capitation tax upon all, who do not profess the religion of the Mahomedans. But the Hindús, by express charter, were exempted from that mark of servitude, and thereby declared not to be a conquered people. The native princes, in all their transactions with the Mogul government, carried the evident marks of this free condition in a noble independency of spirit. Within their own districts the authority of many of them seemed entire. We are often led into mistakes concerning the government of Hindostan, by comparing it with those governments where the prince is armed with a full, speculative, entire authority; and where the great people have, with great titles, no privileges at all; or, having privileges, have those
privileges only as subjects. But in Hindostan the modes, the degrees, the circumstances of subjection, varied infinitely. In some places hardly a trace at all of subjection was to be discerned ; in some the rajahs were almost assessors of the throne, as in this case of the Rajah Cheit Sing. These circumstances mark, that Tamerlane, however he may be indicated by the odious names of Tartar and conquerour, was no barbarian ;—that the people, who submitted to him, did not submit with the abject submission of slaves to the sword of a conquerour, but admitted a great, supreme emperour, who was just, prudent, and politick, instead of the ferocious, oppressive lesser Mahomedan sovereigns, who had before forced their way by the sword into the country.
That country resembled more a republick of princes with a great chief at their head, than a territory in absolute, uniform, systematick subjection from one end to the other ; in which light Mr. llastings and others of late have thought proper to consider it. According to them, if a subordinate prince, like Cheit Sing, was not ready to pay any exorbitant sum on instant demand, or submit to any extent of fine, which should be inflicted upon him by the mere will of the person,
who called robbery a fine, and who took the measure of that fine without either considering the means of paying, or the degree of delinquency, that justified it ; their properties, liberties and lives were instantly forfeited.
The rajahs of that country were armed ;--they had fortresses for their security ;--they had troops. In the receipt of both their own and the imperial revenue, their securities for justice were in their own hands: but the policy of the Mogul princes very rarely led them to push that people to such extremity, as it is supposed, that, on every slight occasion, we have a right to push those, who are the subjects of our pretended conquest.
Mr. Holwell throws much light on this policy, which became the standing law of the empire.--
“ In the unfortunate wars, which followed the death of Manz O’Din Sevajee, Cheit Sing (the great rajah we have just mentioned) with a select body of Rhajapoots, by a well conducted retreat, recovered Agra ; and was soon after re
conciled to the king (the Mogul) and admitted to his favour; conformable to the steady policy of this government in keeping a good understanding with the principal rajahs, and more especially with the head of this house, who is ever capable of raising and fomenting a very formidable party upon any intended revolution in this despotick and precarious monarchy."
You see, that it was the monarchy, that was precarious, not the rights of the subordinate chiefs. Your lordships see, that notwithstanding our ideas of oriental despotism, under the successours of Tamerlane, these principal rajahs, instead of being called wretches, and treated as such, as Mr. Hastings has thought it becoming to call and treat them, when they were in arms against their sovereign, were regarded with respect, and were admitted to easy reconciliations; because in reality, in their occasional hostilities, they were not properly rebellious subjects, but princes, often asserting their natural rights, and the just constitution of the country.
This view of the policy, which prevailed during the dynasty of Tamerlane, naturally conducts me to the next, which is the fourth era in this history- I mean the era of the em
He was the first of the successours of Tamerlane, who obtained possession of Bengal. show of what nature his conquest was. It was over the last Mahomedan dynasty. He too, like his predecessor Tamerlane, conquered the prince, not the country. It is a certain mark, that it was not a conquered country in the sense, in which we commonly call a country conquered,--that the natives, great men and landholders, continued in every part in the possession of their estates, and of the jurisdictions annexed to them. It is true, that in the several wars for the succession to the Mogul empire, and in other of their internal wars, severe revenges were taken, which bore resemblance to those taken in the war of the Roses in this country, where it was the common course, in the heat of blood," off with his head, so much for Buckingham.”—Yet, where the country again recovered its form and settlement, it recovered the spirit of a mild government. Whatever rigour was used with regard to the Mahomedan adventurers from Persia, Turkey,
It is easy to