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Scots in India
Mountstuart Elphinstone


ELPHINSTONE is chiefly famous for his work in Western India: to this day his memory is revered in Bombay by Englishmen and Indians alike for his nobility of character, his justice, and his encouragement of education. Besides being a diplomatist and an administrator, he was an historian, and his history of India has won for him a permanent place in literature. He was practically the maker of South-West India, and as such he takes rank as a Ruler of India. A sketch of his career is practically a sketch of the overthrow of Mahratta supremacy, and of the introduction of British rule in the Deccan.

He was one of the many distinguished men who helped to carry out the policy designed by the master mind of the great Marquis Wellesley, and among his contemporaries were such men as Metcalfe, Malcolm, and Munro. One striking characteristic of this period of British-Indian history is the extremely youthful age at which so many of the men who were afterwards so famous in the annals of British India were launched into active careers in India. Thus Malcolm obtained his cadetship at the age of twelve, and landed at Madras before he was fourteen. Metcalfe was a writer in Calcutta at the age of fifteen. Elphinstone was only fifteen when he left home, and Munro was eighteen. It was an age of adventure fitted to stimulate the energies of the young, and youth proved no bar to their rapid advancement and promotion. Instances are not wanting in the history of Eastern nations of practically young boys being invested with responsibility and power: thus Baber was only twelve when he became King of Ferghana, and Akbar became Emperor of India at the age of eighteen.

Another characteristic that marks this generation of Anglo-Indian officials was the union of bodily activity with great intellectual accomplishments: they lived an open- air life, and were equally at home in the camp, the hunting- field, and the Darbar, and owing to the greater leisure they possessed they had greater facilities for study, perhaps, than their successors: considering that they had been thus launched into public life when most boys are still at school, and considering, moreover, that the stock of learning they started with could not, under the circumstances, have been large, it redounded all the more to their credit that they should have become the scholars that most of them did become. The record of Elphinstone's reading during one of his long journeys, when he was only twenty- one, would have done credit to that ' Prince of Readers, Lord Macaulay'. He generally travelled with two camel- loads of books, so arranged that he could readily lay his hands on any volume he wanted. His love of study did not prevent his being at the same time distinguished for his soldierly qualities. The great Duke himself, who saw him under fire at Argaum and at Assaye, remarked that he had mistaken his vocation, and ought to have been a soldier. He was also an administrator of no mean order, and his bearing at the native courts he was accredited to, proved him to be possessed of rare diplomatic powers. In him were all combined: 'The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's eye, tongue, sword.' He became Governor of Bombay at the early age of thirty-nine, and more than once, after his retirement, he refused the high office of Governor-General of India.

Elphinstone came of distinguished ancestry: his father, who had fought under Wolfe in Canada, and his uncles had all done conspicuous public service. His brothers also held high office. Examples of devotion in their country's service were not wanting, therefore, had lie required such to stimulate his own devotion. As a boy, his ambition had been to enter the Army, but lie was content to accept a writership on the Bengal Establishment. He had to leave for India direct from his school in London, and was thus unable, to his own great sorrow, to bid farewell to his mother and sisters in their home in Scotland.

Sir John Shore was Governor-General when he landed in India in 1796, after a voyage from England of eight months. His first appointment was to Benares, which was the frontier station of Bengal to the North-West at this period. His quiet career here was suddenly interrupted by the rising against the English which was organized by the deposed sovereign of Oudh, the Nawab Wazir Ali, who was living at Benares at the time, under the surveillance of the British authorities. The Resident, Mr. Cherry, was murdered, and Elphinstone himself had to flee for his life. This affair led to his receiving his first diplomatic mission, which was to find out how far certain natives of high rank at Benares were implicated in the plot. It was at Benares, under the influence of his chief, Mr. Davis, a noted Sanskrit scholar, that Elphinstone seems to have acquired that taste for reading that became his most congenial occupation in his leisure hours.

Having received an offer of the post of assistant-secretary to the Resident at Puna, Elphinstone hesitated about accepting the appointment until he had consulted Mr. Davis on the subject. Mr. Davis's only reply was a quotation from the great World-Poet Shakespeare: 'What pleasure, sir, find we in life to lock it from action and adventure?' This quotation, which Elphinstone said ever after rang in his ears, decided the matter: he accepted the appointment. He travelled to his new station with another young civilian, in a very leisurely manner, and by a long detour. The journey took them the better part of a year. In passing through Orissa, which was then Mahratta territory, they could not help noticing the change in the demeanour of the people from what it was in British territory: they were not actually rude, but they showed no respect. They would crowd round the encampment in the evening, and watch the young Englishmen going through their exercises, which consisted of throwing the spear, sword exercise, and firing at a mark with pistols. A curious incident that occurred at Pun, when they were close to the Temple of Jagannath, 'Lord of the World,' impressed their imagination; they met a Faqir, who called the young men to him and said, 'Listen, when will you take this country? This country needs you. The Hindus here are villains, but you are true men, when will you take this country?' We answered, 'Never.' He replied, 'Yes, you will certainly take it.' Within a short two years indeed the British did take the country, and the strange prophecy of the Faqir was fulfilled. At Seringapatam, they were the guests of Colonel Arthur Wellesley. They spent three months at the court of Haidarabad, then, as now, the most magnificent court in India. The Resident was a Major Kirkpatrick: he had married the Persian minister's daughter, and Elphinstone describes him as an Orientalized Englishman. 'His manners were affected, and his conversation most affected; he wore mustachios, and dyed his fingers with henna, but in other respects he resembled an Englishman. In the presence of the Nizam, he behaved like a native of the country, and with great propriety.'

On arriving at his destination, Elphinstone was presented to the Peshwa. In a comparison of the meanness of the Peshwa's court, as compared with the magnificence of the Nizam's court, he remarked that none of the Mahratta chiefs were even like native gentlemen. He had not yet learnt that this so called meanness was really a characteristic of the simplicity that is so marked a feature of the true Mahratta gentleman, especially in his dress and personal habits. The Mahratta temperament, moreover, differs essentially from that of the Muharnmadan: he loves power, it is true, but he cares not for the trappings of power or display.

About a year after Elphinstone's arrival at his post, the second Mahratta War broke out. The Mahrattas were the only Native Power that had steadily refused to recognize the British Government as the paramount Power in India. When, therefore, the Peshwa of Puna, Baji Rao, signed the Treaty of Bassein with the British, by which he agreed to have no diplomatic relations with other Powers, except through them, the other Mahratta princes considered this tantamount to a recognition of British supremacy: this they refused to accept, and hence the war: apart from this, they had long determined to try conclusions again with the British. The campaign, once started, was soon completely successful; the operations had been carried on in three different parts of the country: in Hindustan, under Lord Lake; in the Deccan, under Sir Arthur Wellesley; and in Orissa. Owing to the illness of Sir John Malcolm; Elphinstonc was deputed to attend Sir Arthur Wellesley in a more or less undefined capacity as his confidential secretary he acted chiefly as interpreter, an office which he was very well capable of holding, owing to his great linguistic attainments: he was a good Mahratti, Persian, and Hindustani scholar. He was also the head of the intelligence department: he does not seem, however, to have been very hard worked. The soldiering life, especially with so distinguished an exponent of the art of war as Sir Arthur Wellesley, was thoroughly to his taste. What he especially enjoyed was 'the combination of society, study, business, action, and adventure'. Amongst the booty taken at Ahmadnagar had been an Arabic Prayer- Book, and Elphinstone records how Sir Arthur Wellesley restored it to its owner, a very famous Dervish, who had predicted the fall of the Fortress-City. Earl Roberts, it may be noted, displayed a similar reverence for the religious feelings of those he was fighting against, when he ordered the restoration to their owners of all sacred books captured in the course of the Boer War. Elphinstone rode by the general's side throughout the day of the battle of Assaye; he and another member of the staff were the only two who were not touched, though they seemed to have had some very narrow escapes. Sir Arthur Wellesley displayed his usual coolness of bearing, and Elphinstone noted how at one critical moment of the battle, he had galloped close up to the enemy's line by mistake: three horses of the party were knocked over': upon some one remarking, 'Sir, that is the enemy's line,' the general replied, ' Is it? Ha, damme, so it is,' and turned his horse. At the battle of Argaum, in Berar, Elphinstone again rode by the general's side, and took part in the great cavalry charge. He has thus recorded his experiences: 'The balls knocked up the dust under our horses' feet, I had no narrow escapes this time, arid I felt quite unconcerned, never winced, nor cared how the shot came about the worst time. And all the while I was at pains to see how the people looked, and every gentleman seemed at ease as much as if he were riding a-hunting.' One of the most realistic descriptions of a cavalry charge in literature occurs in that most realistic of M. Zola's novels, La Débücle it is almost possible to hear the thunder of the horses' hoofs as they charge madly across the plain. Elphinstone picked up a wounded Hindustani soldier on the field of battle next morning; the man became his servant, and remained in his service till he finally left India, a period of more than twenty-five years. Elphinstone's graphic description of the storming of a fort in which he took part is of special interest, as being the description of a man who, a soldier at heart, was also a philosopher and an historian: 'Our advance was silent, deliberate, and even solemn. When we went on to the breach, I thought I was going to a great danger; but my mind was so made up to it that I did not care for anything, the party going to the storm put me in mind of the eighth and ninth verses of the third book of the Iliad of Homer:"Forward advanced the Greeks, in silence breathing threats, each passionately eager to outdo each other." And after one gets over the breach, one is too busy and animated to think of anything but how to get on.'

This campaign had been Elphinstone's opportunity: he had proved his worth, and the road to rapid promotion was now made comparatively easy for him. A word from Sir Arthur Wellesley to his brother, the Marquis, and Elphinstone received the important appointment of Resident at the court of the Bhonsla, which carried with it a salary of three thousand rupees a month. He was only twenty-four at the time. It was no easy task that he had thus entered upon, and he knew it from the first. He realized that another struggle with the Mahrattas was impending, and that all that could be done was to postpone the evil day. One of his duties was to get intelligence as to what was going on at the Raja's court: he knew that there were intrigues, but it was not in his nature to meet intrigue with intrigue, and anything like what is significantly called espionage was abhorrent to him. The difficulty was to get the intelligence he wanted, and at the same time to avoid anything like secret methods in obtaining it. The conclusion he finally came to is given in his own words: 'I must never forget to be always and absolutely open; if I try cunning management, I act contrary to my own character, and that of my nation, and perhaps fail after all. My diplomatic motto ought to be: "Fair and above-board in all my dealings, avoiding all dissimulation and deceit."' Characteristically, he illustrates his remarks with a classical quotation: 'He is as inimical to me as are the Gates of Hades, who hides one thing in his thoughts, and utters another.' The success of Elphinstone's diplomacy was especially gratifying to the Marquis Wellesley, one of the features of whose system of training his young civilians was their early initiation into the arts of diplomacy, and he complimented him upon it.

Certain incidents that occurred at court in Elphinstone's time go to show that the Raja himself was of a less truculent disposition than the men about him, who had been giving Elphinstone so much trouble by their war proclivities. He has thus recorded two such incidents: 'A servant on one occasion washed the Raja's hands with scalding water, the courtiers were all for putting the man to death: the Raja, however, forgave him. On another occasion, when the Raja wanted water, he found the lotah, that is the brass vessel in common use, filled with ghi: again the courtiers called out to have the man who had brought it killed at once; and one of them, indeed, was on the point of killing him; but the Raja said, "Let him go: it is easy to kill a man, but not so easy to make another." 'And yet these very men, who were ready enough to kill in order to satisfy a whim, were not prepared to do so to satisfy the ends of justice: Elphinstone had asked the minister to execute some men who had really deserved death as robbers and murderers, and the minister had replied 'He knew the English put people to death for such offences, but his Highness shuddered at the name of an execution.' But to the Western imagination the workings of the Oriental mind ever appear inconsistent and illogical. Elphinstone describes the answer as 'a mirror of slavish ideas and Hindustani manners'.

Elphinstone had a fairly tranquil time of it at Nagpur, varied occasionally by alarms from the Pindaris. He himself had a narrow escape on one of his marches: some of his tent equipage and followers were carried off, while straggling in the rear. The Pindaris travelled with incredible swiftness; beaten off at one place, they would appear somewhere else sixty miles off the same day: they thus succeeded in ravaging wide tracts of territory within a very short space of time. The native sports of hawking and coursing afforded him a means of relaxation during this period, together with an occasional beat for pig and for tigers; but reading formed his principal relaxation with Prospero he could say :-

My Library
Is Dukedom large enough.

In order to enjoy his favourite pursuit undisturbed he built himself a bungalow some little distance out of Nagpur, and called it 'Falconer's Hall'. In one of his Minutes on Education, issued when he was Governor of Bombay, he has recorded his opinion of classical poetry as a valuable factor in education, in these terms: ' Other compositions may fall into disuse and oblivion as knowledge increases with a people, but not so their poetry: the standard works maintain their reputation undiminished in every age : they form the models of composition, and the fountains of classical language, and the writers of the rudest ages are those who contribute the most to the delight and refinement of the most improved of their posterity.' Classical poetry formed his favourite reading in this retreat, but he found himself compelled to give up reading Persian poetry, as it gave him, he said, ' the blue devils.' Had he known Sanskrit, he would have found in the grand and sonorous cadence of the language of its poetry something to stimulate his imagination, and to contribute to his peace of mind quite as much as did Greek poetry, to which he was obliged to return, when he found Persian poetry having a depressing effect upon his mind.

After some four years spent in Nagpur, Elphinstone took furlough in India for a year. On his way to Calcutta, he passed through Chhota Nagpur, then a forest-clad and almost unexplored hill-country: lie visited and had much conversation with the Chief of Udaipur in that country on sport, and especially on the Gond methods of killing tigers. The chiefs of this part of the country have not altered much in this respect; they are still as great sportsmen as ever, and their sons are initiated into the ' Sport of Kings at a very early age. He was still young, as his remarks on hisenjoyment of the gay doings in the capital evidence Such lots of women, and laughing and philandering, that I was in Heaven.'

Soon after his return to Nagpur, Elphinstone received orders to join the court of Scindia. The Maharaja was at the time moving about the country with an enormous camp, somewhat after the manner of the Mogul Emperors, whose camps were almost like towns on the march. He was only about two months with Scindia, when he was ordered to Delhi to take charge of an embassy that was to proceed to the court of the Amir of Afghanistan.

At Delhi he met Metcalfe, who was starting on a similar mission to the court of Ianjit Singh at Lahore. The danger that seemed to threaten the British position in India at this period was an invasion of India by Napoleon Buonaparte, who was now at the height of his power, and was known to have designs on India: he is said even to have chosen his route: it was to guard against this danger that Lord Minto resolved to establish friendly relations with the several Powers holding the keys of the North-Western Frontiers, as they then were. Besides the missions of 'Metcalfe and Elphinstone, another under Malcolm was dispatched to Persia: as well as missions on a smaller scale to Sindh and Biluehistan. Elplminstone's mission was on a magnificent scale: he had a staff of thirteen selected British officers. He found the Amir, Shah Shuja., at Peshawar, and soon discovered that his position was by no means so secure as had been thought and, indeed, within a few weeks of his signing a Treaty between himself and the British, he had been driven from his throne, and had become an exile in the Punjab. He still, however, kept up the show of royal magnificence, and much of the ceremonial traditional with the court of the Amirs of Afghanistan. Elphinstone gives an amusing picture of the ancient ceremonial ambassador to be introduced is brought into court by two officers, who hold him firmly by the arms on coming in sight of the king, who appears at a high window, the ambassador is made to run forward for a certain distance, when lie stops for a moment and prays for the king. He is then made to run forward again, and prays once more, and after another run the king calls out "Khullat", a dress, which is followed by the Turkish word, "Getshin," begone, from an Officer of State, and the unfortunate ambassador is made to run out of the court, and sees no more of the king, unless summoned to a private audience.' Needless to say, Elphinstone did not conform to this ancient etiquette; he was received with courtesy and dignity. He has recorded his impressions of the Shah: 'It will scarcely be believed of an Eastern monarch how much he had the manners of a gentleman, or how well he preserved his dignity, while he seemed only anxious to please.' Elphinstono did not see more than the borders of Afghanistan, but he acquired a good deal of information through his usual practice of mixing and conversing with all classes of people: he was especially charmed with the conversation of two Afghan gentlemen he met, one of whom astonished him with his knowledge of European history and politics, and the other by his taste for mathematics and his acquisition of Sanskrit, which he was learning solely in order to discover the treasures of Hindu learning. He was also pleased with the civility he and his party received from the country people, who constantly pressed them to partake of hospitality, and would take no refusal. In the light of the various expeditions that have been forced on the British Government by the raids of the border tribes round and about Peshawar on British territory in these later days, it is interesting to record the remark of an Afghan chief to Elphinstone on the characteristics of the people generally: 'We are content with discord, we are content with alarms, we are content with blood; but we will never be content with a master.' The British Government has ever shown great patience in dealing with these border tribes, but cannot be content with discord, or alarms, or bloodshed in its own territories, and expeditions against them have from time to time been inevitable. A proverb current among these people, which was recently quoted by The Times, proves that they are the first to acknowledge the justice of this: 'The patience of the British Government is as long as a summer day, but its arm is as long as a winter night.' The mission was eventually broken up at Delhi, and Elphinstone was ordered to Calcutta, where he presented his report.

Elphinstone was next appointed Resident at the court of Puna, an appointment which he took up without much enthusiasm; and he looked forward to retirement at the end of it. He had already shown that he was a diplomatist, he was now to show that he could be an administrator as well, and one of the first rank. On his voyage from Calcutta to Bombay by sea, he had Henry Martyn, the great missionary, as one of his fellow travellers. He thus describes him: 'He is an excellent scholar, and one of the mildest, cheerfullest, and pleasantest men I ever saw, who, though extremely religious, talks on all subjects, sacred and profane, and laughs and makes others laugh as heartily as he could do if he were an infidel.'

One of his first acts in his new appointment was to intervene on behalf of the class of Jaghirdars, the hereditary nobles of the Southern Mahratta country, who had received their grants of rent-free lands from the Mogul Emperors. The claim of the Peshwa to their military service was acknowledged, but they were guaranteed against further exactions by a pledge of security from the British Government. The Chief of Koihapur was at the same time recognized as an independent sovereign in return for his surrender of a fort and harbour in the Konkan, which had long been a nest of pirates. On one of his marches he came across an extraordinary scene: 'A manservant of a Mahratta gentleman, in performance of a vow for a child, was rolling along the road from Puna to Pandarpur: he had been a month at it, and had become so expert that he went on smoothly and without pausing, and kept rolling evenly along the middle of the road over stones and everything; he travelled at the rate of eight miles a day.' Those who have lived much in the country districts of India are not unacquainted with similar instances of religious zeal: pilgrims walking backwards from one shrine to another, others measuring their length at every step along the road, may thus not uncommonly be met with. He published his History of Kabul during this period of his career, a work which cost him immense labour, and which still remains the standard authority on Afghanistan. He led a very simple life, and his diet was spare almost to austerity while his lunch consisted of a few sandwiches and figs, and a glass of water, he often dined off a few potatoes, and a glass or two of claret; he never neglected either his long ride in the morning and his gymnastic exercises twice a day, or his private reading in the afternoons; public business occupied his mornings.

With the appointment of Lord Moira, afterwards the Marquis of Hastings, to the head of affairs, a more vigorous policy in connexion with the Native States was inaugurated. The Governor-General determined to crush the great predatory hordes of Pindaris that were the primary cause of the suffering and anarchy prevailing over a very large portion of the Deccan. They were largely encouraged and supported by the Mahratta Princes; and there were not wanting signs that these princes themselves were becoming restless, and anxious to try conclusions again with the British. Elphinstone had organized an intelligence department of his own, and knew all that was going on, even to the colour of the javelin carried by the news-writers whom he found were being utilized to convey correspondence between the several Mahratta courts from the head quarters at Puna. Each court had its distinctive colour painted on the javelins carried by its messengers it was a sort of livery and was recognized as such by the officials of the several princes; similar javelins were used by the bankers of the different cities in the Native States, but they were for the most part painted in one colour. The system of news-writers is a very ancient one in the East, and to this day there is not a family of any eminence in India that has not its own service. Elphinstone describes the precautions that he found it necessary to observe in connexion with all official correspondence at this critical time: 'All correspondence had to be written on the smallest slips of paper rolled up and conveyed in quills, like Birliis.' The usual form in which tobacco is smoked in Central India is a kind of tobacco-leafed cigarette, called a Birhi.

The crisis arrived at last in connexion with a man named Trimbakji I)anglia, one of the favourites of Baji Rao lie had been a menial servant whom Baji lao had raised to the rank of a minister. This man had barbarously murdered an envoy from the Baroda State who was travelling under a safe-conduct from the British Government. Elphinstone demanded his surrender, and the Peshwa had only acceded to the demand after Elphinstone had moved up a strong body of troops. rllrilnbakji was imprisoned in a fort, and a European guard placed in charge. He managed to escape, and a romantic story is attached to the manner of his escape. A Mahratta groom took service with an officer of the garrison, and while daily walking his master's horse UI) and down under the windows of the fort, used to recite a chant : the English sentry of course could not understand the tenor of it the prisoner learnt from it that arrangements were in progress for his escape. When all was ready, a hole was dug through the wall, and Trimbakji escaped, and took refuge among the mountains of the Western Ghats. A Mahratta ballad, which is still sung by wandering bards who may be met with all over the Deccan, tells, with picturesque additions, the romantic story. Trimbakji was subsequently recaptured, but only after the close of the war, of which lie was a primary cause, and was again imprisoned this time at the Chunar Fort on the Ganges. Some years afterwards lie was visited by Bishop Heber, who has thus versified the chant of the Maliratta groom:

Behind the bush the bowmen hide,
The horse beneath the tree
Where shall I find a Knight will ride
The jungle paths with me?
There are five and fifty coursers there,
And four and fifty men
When the fifty-fifth shall mount his steed,
The Deccan thrives again.

With Trinibakji's escape, in the autumn of 1816, the crisis again became acute. Elphinstone was informed that the Peshwa was collecting forces at a Temple of Mahadeo, the National Deity of the Mahrattas, somewhere in the hills, and he also received the still more disquieting information that a general rising was in contemplation. While addressing remonstrances to the Peshwa, Elphinstone went on with his military preparations, as he felt that at any moment disturbances might break out: indeed, they very nearly did break out on the very night of the day on which the Peshwa had apparently submitted to Elphinstone's demands. He was playing cards when an officer reported that Puna was full of armed men and that the Peshwa was in full Darbar discussing with his nobles the question of immediate war. For a moment the idea was conceived of attacking the city at once from the British cantonments but fortunately his usual coolness did not forsake Elphinstone: he decided to wait for the morning. The Pesliwa, it transpired, could not summon up courage to give the signal for attack, and so the danger passed, but temporarily only. Elphinstone, however, realized that the time for action had arrived, and he resolved to issue his ultimatum, without waiting for a reply to the dispatches he had sent to Calcutta on the situation. His personal courage at this crisis may be illustrated from the fact that he visited the Peshwa in person the night before he issued his ultimatum, knowing full well the risk he was running in doing so. But he could not help liking Baji Rao, with all his faults, and he has thus recorded his feelings on the occasion. 'I thought it possible that in these extremities he might seize me for a hostage, and carry me off to Singarh, but he seemed not to have the most distant thought that way: with all his crimes and all his perfidy, I shall be sorry if Baji Rao throws away his sovereignty.' The Peshwa accepted the ultimatum, and agreed to surrender three important forts, as securities for the capture of Trimbakji within a month. Meanwhile the expected dispatches from the Governor-General arrived : these imposed still harder terms. A new Treaty was to be signed, the Peshwa was to renounce all claim to the titular headship of the Mahratta Confederacy, and to acknowledge his entire dependence upon the British Government: he was further required to surrender territory for the maintenance of the subsidiary force, and to acknowledge on the face of the Treaty his belief in Trirnbakji's guilt. These humiliating conditions, however, were to be insisted oil in the event of the Peshwa taking no active measures for the arrest of Trimbakji. The Peshwa would do nothing in this direction, and so Elphinstone had no alternative but to force the Treaty upon him. The Peshwa signed it, but both parties to it were fully aware that only the military superiority of the British would secure its fulfilment, and that that military superiority would very shortly be put to the test. It was to be shown once for all who were to be the supreme Power in India, the Mahrattas, or the British.

The war that ensued is known in history as the third Mahratta War. It was the great Pindari Hunt, as Elphinstone called it, which had been organized by the Marquis of Hastings for the final suppression of these predatory hordes, that eventually brought the British into collision with the Mahrattas. And the war owes its real importance to the part played in it by the Pesllwa, the Raja of Nagpur, and Holkar of Indore. Malcolm had been specially deputed by the Governor-General to visit these princes, that he might have the opportunity of consulting the Residents at their courts, and of reassuring the minds of the princes. He thus visited the court of the Peshwa, and he seems to have placed more confidence in his protestations of fidelity than Elphinstonc had done: he even went so far as to reverse much of the latter's policy. Elphinstone, though he doubted the wisdom of Malcolm's acts, loyally supported him, as he knew he was acting under superior orders. Events proved that Elphinstone was right, and Malcolm wrong in his estimate of the Peshswa's character. Within two months of Malcolm's departure from Puna the crisis arrived. The Peshiwa began ostentatiously to prepare for war, and Elphinstone was obliged to order back to Puna the British forces which had been sent away by Malcolm; he had the cantonments removed to the high ground overlooking the city of Puna. With his usual courage, he remained at the Residency, though he was well aware of the plot formed by some of the Peshwa's followers for his assassination. The Peshwa then openly demanded the withdrawal of the British troops; Elphinstone sent him a pacific message, saying that he was still anxious for peace, but that, if the Mahratta forces advanced, he would attack them. The Peshwa's reply was to move his troops out in the direction of the new cantonments: this of course meant war. Elphinstone had barely time to escape from the Residency simply 'with the clothes on his back' before the whole of it was in a blaze. All his personal effects, including his valuable library, were burnt. The battle that ensued, known as the battle of Kirki, resulted in the dispersal of the Mahratta army. The Peshwa fled from his capital, which he was never destined to see again. Desultory fighting still went on for some five months. One incident occurred during this period which Elphinstone has described as 'a strong incitement never to despair': this was the heroic stand made by a small body of Sepoys under a few British officers at a place called Koregaum, against the whole Mahratta army. The incident is thus described: 'The detachment had been marching all night when it found itself face to face with the enemy; Baji Rao himself with his sardars sat on a hill two miles off to watch the battle; it lasted throughout the whole day and part of the next night; and just as the situation seemed most desperate, the Mahratta army drew off, alarmed at the approach of a British general with the main body of the British army.' The Peshwa finally surrendered to Malcolm. Elphinstone had meanwhile been protecting the city of Puna from the vengeance of his own Sepoys, thus, as he remarked, 'maintaining our general reputation and conciliating friends.' At the close of the campaign Elphinstone issued a proclamation to the people of the Deccan, in which he recited the story of the perfidy of the Peshwa, which had compelled the British to drive him from his throne, and he stated that a portion of his territory would be reserved for the Raja of Sattara. Mr. Canning, in moving a vote of thanks to the Marquis of Hastings and the Army, after the conclusion of the war, paid a special tribute to Elphinstone's services: 'On that, and not on that occasion only, but on many others in the course of this singular campaign, Mr. Elphinstone displayed talents and resources which would have rendered him no mean general in a country where generals are of no mean excellence and reputation.'

Elphinstone was appointed Commissioner of the Deccan early in 1818; and pending the complete restoration of civil authority he had the pleasing task of formally restoring the young Raja of Sattara to the throne of Sivaji. The Marquis of Hastings had left it to Elphinstone whether to give a sovereignty or simply a jaghir, or grant of rent-free lands; Elphinstone had chosen to make a king. He did not regret his choice; the young prince had many good qualities which attracted Elphinstone, and he formed a good opinion both of his business capacity and of his character in these early days. The young prince, moreover, showed himself eager to requite the good will shown him. Elphinstone gives a pleasing picture of his daily routine: 'He had invited me to visit him in his private office; he produced his civil and criminal register, and his minute of revenue demands, collections, and balances for the last quarter, and began explaining the state of his country as eagerly as a young collector; he always sits in his court of justice, and conducts his business with the utmost regularity; he has his country in excellent order, and everything, to his roads and aqueducts, in a style that would do credit to a European. The furniture in his private sitting-room is extremely simple; it contains a single table covered with green velvet, at which the descendant of Sivaji sits and writes letters, as well as a journal of his transactions, with his own hand. He gave me at parting the celebrated Bagh Nakh, or tiger's claws, with which Sivaji had slain Afzul Khan.' His conduct in the hunting-field one day especially struck Elphinstone, who thus records it: 'A young gentleman just in front of me had a bad fall, and lay for dead. When I got off, I found a horseman dismounted and supporting his head, and, to my surprise, it was the Raja who had let his horse go, and run to his assistance.'

In his settlement of the new country, Elphinstone thought it his first duty to preserve as much as possible of the existing system of administration as the best for the circumstances, and for the time, though not ideally the best. He knew that British Courts of Law and Regulations would ultimately have to he introduced, but he was desirous of postponing their introduction, and of developing in the meantime all that could be discovered of good in the native institutions. He used to tell a story to illustrate the dread which British Courts of Law and Regulations used to inspire in the early days of the introduction of British rule in a newly acquired Province, and before the people had grown familiarized with British justice and impartiality: ' When the North-'West was first annexed, the inhabitants of a newly occupied village were encountered in full flight: asked if Lord Lake was coming, they replied, "No, the Adalat is coining."' The Adalat was the British Tribunal, now represented by the Civil Courts. The task that Elphinstone had before him was the twofold one of conciliation and inquiry. Like his two great contemporaries, Munro and Malcolm, the leading principles of his administration were sympathy and a general recognition of native prejudices and native aspirations. He ever kept before himself the duty of investigating thoroughly the indigenous institutions, and the importance of introducing as few changes as possible.

Much tact was necessary on Elphinstone's part in dealing with the different classes in the country, to enable him to arrive at a satisfactory settlement. He had already shown that he had no intention of disregarding Mahratta sentiment, so far as the way had been prepared by the cessation of organized opposition on the part of the people; at the same time he knew that he could not expect the contented acquiescence of all in the new state of affairs. The cultivators had indeed accepted the position with their usual phlegm, but there were plenty of men, who had been officials under the old régime, who were ready to use their influence against active contentment on their part. Elphinstone did his best to relieve this class from the excessive demands they had been accustomed to, and especially to do away with that engine of exaction, the farming system. There was not much difficulty experienced with the more important class of the landed proprietors, the greater Jaghirdars: Elphinstone had at an earlier period interested himself in establishing their status on a satisfactory footing; he had, however, to bring special tact to bear upon one member of this class, whom he described as a man 'possessing a narrow and crooked understanding, a litigious spirit, and a capricious temper'; it says much for Elphinstone's conciliatory powers that his talk with him completely restored his good humour, and made him apparently cordially satisfied. The case of the lesser Jaghirdars, however, caused him much thought and anxiety; he wished, as far as he could, to preserve their status as an upper class intermediate between the cultivators and the officials, and to prevent their decay, though he saw that in most cases this was inevitable. He succeeded in obtaining many privileges for this class, which they specially valued one of these was their exemption from the ordinary procedure of the Civil Courts, and making them subject in criminal matters to the jurisdiction of the collector, in his capacity as political agent, after previous references to the commissioner. The most difficult class of all whom Elphinstone had to deal with were the Mahratta Brahnians. From having been the recognized depositaries of learning they had become practically mendicants, living on the bounty of the Peshwa, who used to distribute amongst them £50,000 a year. In a country where mendicancy is recognized as one of the honourable professions, this had not diminished their old influence in the country. Elphinstone described them as being generally discontented and only restrained by fear from being treasonable; of course there were exceptions, and Elphinstone was able to say: There are among them many instances of decent and respectable lives, and although they are generally subtle and insincere, I have met with some upon whom I could depend for sound and candid opinions.' Conspicuous generosity marked Elphinstone's treatment of this class he publicly proclaimed that they would be allowed quiet possession of their lands and pecuniary allowances, and he distributed liberal alms amongst them. And yet it was from this class that the only serious attempt came to over- throw British rule. Elphinstone discovered that they had formed a plot to massacre all Europeans, to seize all hill forts, and to get possession of the person of the young Raja of Sattara. He showed them then that he could be as righteously stern as he had been conspicuously generous he had the leading conspirators blown from guns. Of this mode of execution Elphinstone said: 'It contained two valuable elements of capital punishment: it is painless to the criminal and terrible to the beholder.' The then Governor of Bombay suggested that Elphinstone should get an indemnity for his act from the Supreme Government; to this his characteristic reply was: 'If I have done wrong, I deserve to be punished: if I have done right, I do not require an indemnity.'

In his inquiries into police matters, he was very favourably impressed with the indigenous system of village watch and ward. Much responsibility attached to the office of village watchman: he required to be a man of much acuteness of character, with keen powers of inquisitiveness and observation, for one of his duties was to know the character of every man in the village. In the department of criminal justice, Elphinstone found a state of things prevailing which he could only describe as beggaring description: there was no recognized code of law, and no prescribed form of trial ; all the revenue officers had judicial powers; punishments were left more or less to the caprice of the officials, with the natural result that some were too dreadful to be inflicted, and others were too trifling to be deterrent'. Elphinstone took care to introduce his reforms with scrupulous regard, as far as possible, to native sentiment and prejudices. With the exception of capital punishment, all criminal jurisdiction was vested in the collector; Elphinstone also made several suggestions on the subject of imprisonment, many of which formed a model for future action. In the department of civil justice, Elphinstone found no regular judicial officers, except in the great towns, where an official styled 'President of Equity', tried cases in the name of the Peshwa. The old primitive system of the Panchayat, or Council of Five Members', was, however, in full force in all the country districts. He recognized the respect for the authority of this Council as one of the fundamental principles that held Hindu society together; he mentions an old proverb in illustration of this: 'Panchayat men Parameshwar,' 'The Lord is in the Council of Five.' Its special advantage to him lay in the consideration that the interest of the people was enlisted in ascertaining and protecting their own rights, while litigiousness was not encouraged. He did his best therefore to preserve this old institution while ridding it of some of its objectionable features; he arranged that an appeal should be to the collector from a decision of the Council, but only in a case of gross corruption or injustice: the object of this appeal being rather to watch over the purity of the court than to amend its decisions.

After lie had held office as Commissioner of the Deccan for rather more than a year, Elphinstone received the higher appointment of Governor of Bombay. This appointment was the tribute which the British Government paid to the exceptional ability lie had displayed during his career in India; a similar tribute was paid to Munro, who became Governor of Madras, and to Malcolm, who succeeded Elphinstone in the Governorship of Bombay. The new Province that Elphinstone had been administering was, moreover, about to be incorporated in the Presidency of Bombay, and it was considered desirable to have the benefit of his experience while the incorporation was taking effect, and a new and larger Presidency being created. Elphinstone bade farewell to the Deccan in these terms: 'I feel a sort of respect, as well as attachment, for this fine picturesque country, which I am leaving for the fiat and crowded roads of Bombay, and I cannot but think with affectionate regret of the romantic scenes and manly sports of the Deccan.' He characteristically concluded with a classical quotation from the Idylls of Theocritus :-

Oh ! farewell to wolves, and jackals, and bears,
Ye denizens wild of the jungles and hills,
In brake, and in grove, in the forests' deep shade
A herdsman and huntsman, no more shall I roam.
Oh Ye springs and ye rivers a long farewell.

Bishop Heber, that acute observer of men and things, has left on record his impressions of Elphinstone as Governor of Bombay: 'No Government in India pays so much attention to schools and public institutions for education in none are the taxes lighter, and in the administration of justice to the natives in their own languages, in the establishment of Panchayats, in the degree in which lie employs the natives in official situations, and the countenance and familiarity he extends to all the natives of rank who approach him, ho seems to have reduced to practice almost all the reforms which had struck me as most required in the system of government in those Provinces of our Eastern Empire which I had previously visited. All other public men had their enemies and their friends, but of Mr. Elpliinstone everybody spoke highly.' During his eight years' rule he visited every part of his large charge twice. The British districts gave him but little trouble. During his tours in the Native States lie did his best to minimize some of the inevitable hardships incidental to the inauguration of a reign of law and order, succeeding a more or less free and independent regime under which every man did what was right in his own eyes. He was glad to find, however, that on the whole the introduction of the British Courts of Justice was not unpopular with the people generally. To make them more popular, he had Guzerati substituted for Persian in the courts of the extreme west of his Province, where Guzerati was the vernacular of the people, and by removing the Civil Court from Bombay to Surat he rendered it easier for the people to settle their civil disputes.

Press criticism could be as embarrassing to a Ruler in those days as in these, but Government had its own way of dealing with any editor who over-stepped the limits of what was considered legitimate criticism. The Press was not the free and independent agent it now is; and Elphinstone found it necessary to deport the editor of a local paper in consequence of his strictures on the judges of the High Court. Prestige has always gone for much in the East; and the maintenance of British prestige, and especially the prestige of British Courts of Justice, was almost a matter of life and death in those early days of the establishment of British rule; and Elphinstone considered his action fully justified by these considerations.

One subject that Elphinstono had always had at heart was the preparation of a complete digest of Hindu Civil Law, based partly upon the written books and partly upon existing customs. It proved a task beyond even his great powers and knowledge; and none knew the real difficulties better than himself, as a letter ho wrote to a celebrated jurist shows 'The written law was that of the Hindus, always vague and iitiknown to the bulk of the people, often absurd, and still oftener entirely disused. The unwritten law was composed of the maxims that occur to people of common sense in a country not remarkably enlightened, modified by Hindu law and Hindu opinion, and constantly influenced by the direct lawful interference of the prince, who was the fountain of all law, and by the weight of rank, and wealth, and interest. Besides, what we call Hindu law applies to the Brah mans only ;each caste has separate laws andcustoms of its own, and even these vary according to the part of the country in which the different portions of a caste are settled.' The task was entrusted to a committee, and it must have appeared from the very outset a hopeless one. Notwithstanding, immense labour was expended on the work, and a vast mass of information collected and embodied in reports a Sanskrit work on inheritance was, moreover, translated; eventually, however, the scheme in its entirety was dropped when Elphinstone left Bombay.

Elphinstone was a great advocate for the admission of Indians to high office, and he looked forward to the time when Indians would be found eligible for the Council of the Governor-General. Though his schemes did not come to fruition during his tenure of office, still under the liberal policy that has actuated successive Rulers of India, most of them did before his death : the path of distinction has been gradually opened, until at the present day Indians are found in the highest offices, and drawing salaries far greater than Elphinstone ever dreamed of; and not only are they found in the Council of the Governor-General, but in that of the Secretary of State for India in England itself, and immediately under the aegis of the British Parliament.

In Elphinstone's time education was the great difficulty: he wrote several minutes on the subject, and most of the schemes he propounded have been put into operation since his day. He has been called the founder of that system of instruction both in the Vernacular and in English that has given the Bombay Presidency the high place it holds among the other Provinces of the Indian Empire. He saw clearly that in education lay the best hope of arneliorating the condition of the people of India, both materially and morally. The problem that has taxed the minds of all Rulers of India, how best to promote morality and to find the teaching of morality a place in any scheme of general education for the people, also presented itself to his mind; and he looked at the subject from the point of view of a philosopher. While realizing that morality must finally rest upon the sanctions of religion, he also realized how impossible it was for a British Government to be otherwise than neutral in the sphere of religion. His own idea of how the problem might possibly be solved is given in an extract from one of his Minutes on Education: 'It would be better to call the prejudices of the Hindus to our aid in reforming them, and to control their vices by the ties of religion, which are stronger than those of law. By maintaining and purifying their present tenets, at the same time that we enlighten their understandings, we shall bring them nearer to that standard of perfection at which all concur in desiring that they should arrive.' He suggested the printing and cheap distributing of Hindu tales inculcating sound morals, and also religious books tending more directly to the same end. It will be seen that he had Hindus only in his mind; the reason is not far to seek. Muhammadans, who have a recognized Canon of Scripture, have always cared for the education of their children in the religious tenets of their fathers. Hindus, who have no such recognized Canon, have not been in times past so careful in this direction. It is of interest, therefore, to note that in more recent years there has been a decided movement amongst them for having their Sons at school taught the faith of their fathers. Textbooks, such as Elphinstone recommended, have been prepared, some on orthodox lines, others on theosophical lines, and are in use in not a few schools in different parts of India. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that morality has always been taught indirectly in Hindu families. The traditions and tales interspersed in their great epics, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, with which the minds and imaginations of children are stirred from their infancy, all inculcate a high ethical standard, and practically form the basis of their moral education.

After an unbroken service of thirty years, Elpliinstone felt that his work was done: in 1826, therefore, he resigned office. Of the addresses that poured in, as usual with a departing Governor, the one that Elphinstone most valued was the Indian address announcing the foundation of the Elphinstone Institution in his honour. This address concluded with these words 'Having beheld with admiration for so long a period the affable and encouraging manners, the freedom from prejudice, the consideration at all times evinced for the interests and welfare of the people of this country, the regard shown to their ancient customs and laws, the constant endeavours to extend amongst them the inestimable advantages of intellectual and moral improvement, the commanding abilities applied to ensure permanent amelioration in the condition of all classes, and to promote their prosperity on the soundest principles, by which your private and public conduct has been so pre-eminently distinguished, we are led to consider the influence of the British Government as the most important and desirable blessing which the Superior Being could have bestowed upon our native land.'

With this recognition of the benign rule of the British Government, due to a highly-gifted and exceptional man having made himself the personal embodiment of that benign mule, this sketch now concludes.

Mountstuart Elphinstone and the Making of South Western India
By J. S. Cotton (1896)

Selections from the Minutes and Other Official Writings
Of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, Governor of Bombay
By George W. Forrest (1884)


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