Lord Wellesley (1798-1805) – His Policy Towards Indian Status

Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)

Sir John Shore who worked as the governor-general of the Company between the period 1793-98 on an ad hoc basis largely pursued the policy which has been described as the “policy of non-intervention” regarding the native rulers. He refused to help the Nizam of Hyderabad against the Marathas which resulted in his defeat at the Battle of Kharda in 1795. He also refused to provide protection to the Rajput states against Marathas’ aggression. Lord Wellesley, the next governor-general, however, completely reversed his policy. He decided to make the Company the Supreme Power in India and pursued an aggressive foreign policy to achieve his aim.

British Policy Towards Indian States Under Lord Wellesley

Lord Wellesley fought the fourth Mysore War, finished the independent status of the state of Mysore, and annexed a larger part of its territory to the Company’s dominions. The second Maratha War was also fought during his time which helped in extending the territories of the Company further and also in weakening the power of the Marathas.

The Fourth Mysore War

The Third Mysore War fought during the period of governor-generalship of Lord Cornwallis, had weakened very much the power of Tipu Sultan. He did not forget his defeat and humiliation and attempted to restore his power and prestige. He increased his military resources and tried to seek foreign help from Arabia, Turkey, Afghanistan, and French. Lord Wellesley, as soon as he arrived in India, decided to finish the power of Tipu Sultan for good. He opened negotiations with the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas and was assured of their neutrality in case of a war of the English against Tipu. He then declared war against him in 1799. The war was an easy success for the English. Mysore was attacked from two sides and Tipu was forced to take shelter in his capital, Seringapatam where he finally died fighting. The son Tipu surrendered himself to the English and Seringapatam was captured by the English in May 1799. That finished the state of Mysore which was created by Hyder Ali. Some territory of Mysore was handed over to the Nizam, the larger part of it was annexed by the English and the rest of it was restored to the minor son of the previous Hindu ruler of Mysore who became a dependent ally of the English.

The Second Maratha War (1803-1905)

The internal quarrels among the Marathas provided Lord Wellesley a good opportunity to weaken the power of the Marathas. Peshwa Baji Rao was incompetent and failed to keep Maratha chiefs under his control. Daulat Rao Sindhia and Jaswant Rao Holkar fought freely against each other for power. The Peshwa sided with the Sindhia and the virtually open war started between Holkar, on the one hand, and the Peshwa and the Sindhia, on the other. Jaswant Rao defeated Peshwa Baji Rao in a battle near Poona in October 1802, forced him to find shelter at Bassein, and placed Vinayak Rao, grandson of Raghunath Rao on the gaddi of the Peshwa.

The Subsidiary Alliance

The Subsidiary Alliance of Lord Wellesley was yet another most effective instrument for the expansion of the British territory and political influence in India. This form of the treaty was imposed on the new ruler of Mysore after the defeat of Tipu, different Maratha chiefs after the second Maratha War, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Nawab of Awadh, and other dependent allies of the Company. A ruler who accepted this treaty was restrained from having relations with any other native ruler, could not employ any European without the approval of the English, had to keep an English resident at his court and an English army within his territory, and, in return had to surrender a part of his territory to the English permanently. This treaty, thus, helped the English not only in extending their territory but also in eliminating French influence from the courts of the native states. The rulers, entering into his treaty, finally became completely dependent on the English.

Thus, Lord Wellesley pursued an aggressive policy with native rulers and largely succeeded in achieving his aim of making the company the supreme power in India.

Subsidiary Alliance of Wellesley 1798-1805

The Subsidiary Alliance as imposed by Wellesley on the native rulers was the most effective instrument for the expansion of the British territory and political influence in India. Wellesley did not originate it. It was first devised by the French Governor Dupleix. He started the practice of providing military help to native rulers in return for money. The English also adopted this practice and from Clive to Wellesley every English governor-general used it as a means to enhance the political influence of the Company. Wellesley, however, added some more terms to the subsidiary alliance and made it a perfect instrument of extending British territory in India.

Different Forms of The Subsidiary Alliance

  1. Its first form was that by which the English agreed to help a native ruler with a fixed force in return for a fixed amount of money.
  2. In its second form, the English agreed to maintain a fixed and permanent military force to help their ally in return for a fixed annual amount of money. The subsidiary force, however, was kept in the territory of the Company.
  3. In its third form, the English agreed to maintain a permanent and fixed subsidiary force to help their ally in return for a fixed annual amount of money and kept the force within the territory of the ally.
  4. In its fourth and final form which was introduced by Wellesley, the English agreed to maintain a permanent and fixed subsidiary force within the territory of the ally and, in return, did not take money but took over a part of the territory of the ally permanently to themselves. That is how this term became a means of extending the Company’s territory in India.

Terms of This Alliance

  1. An English resident was kept at the court of the native ruler.
  2. The native rule was not allowed to employ in his service any European or a citizen of a state which eas enemy of the English.
  3. The native ruler could not maintain any relation with any other ruler without the approval of the English.
  4. The English agreed to protect the territory of the native ruler from foreign aggressions.
  5. The english agreed not to interfere in internal affairs of the native rulers.

Every native ruler who entered into an alliance with the British had to accept all the above-mentioned terms besides permanently ceding a part of his territory to the English.

The subsidiary alliance was advantageous to the British from all points of view. It brought the following benefits to the English:

  1. The influence of the French from the courts of the native rulers was completely wiped out as they could not be employed by them anymore.
  2. The native rulers were separated from each other because their foreign policy was controlled by the English.
  3. The English increased the area of their influence. The native ruler who accepted the subsidiary alliance became entirely dependent on the English because of the presence of the subsidiary force within his territory. Therefore, the English gradually became the de facto rulers of his state.
  4. The English could maintain a large military force at the expensee of the native rulers. The subsidiary forces which were kept in the territories of different rulers could be effectively utilized by the English against any one of them.
  5. The maintenance of the subsidiary force was very expensive. It put heavy financial burden on the allied ruler which he mostly failed to bear. The English, therefore, forced him to surrender more of his territory. It, thus, helped in further expansion of the Company’s territory.

The alliance, however, was completely disadvantageous from the point of view of the native ruler and his subjects. A few disadvantages were as follows:

  1. The native ruler gradually lost most of his fertile and strategically important territory to the English.
  2. It led to the impoverishment of the subjects of the native ruler as the whole financial burden finally fell on them.
  3. The English residents were not expected to interfere in the internal administration of the native ruler. But, in practice, the residents controlled the rulers in every state-matter.
  4. The native rulers gradually lost their respect, patriotism, responsibility to rule and strengthen their armies. It resulted in the loss of their character and capacity to rule their states.
  5. The subjects no more remained in a position to dethrone their incapable or cruel ruler by revolting against him because the English, with much larger resources than a single ruler, protected every allied ruler against every foreign aggression and internal revolt.

Order in which the Indian States entered into Subsidiary Alliances

  1. Hyderabad (1798)
  2. Mysore (1799 – After Tipu Sultan was defeated in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War)
  3. Tanjore (1799)
  4. Awadh (1801)
  5. Peshwa (Marathas) (1802)
  6. Scindia (Marathas) (1803)
  7. Gaekwad (Marathas) (1803)

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