The London Chronicle, Vol II, No. 3346 from Tuesday, April 9 to Thursday, April 11, 1782, discusses the state of affairs in India as told by the East India Company at the House of Commons.
East India Company Emblem
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The East India Company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its private armies, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. However, company rule in India was from 1757 - 1858 after which the British Raj took once they felt that a company should not have that much control in a foreign country. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 led the British Crown to take direct control of the country as the company had continuous problems with its finances.
Lt. WA Kerr earning the Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny
The London Chronicle quotes the Lord Advocate of Scotland who was present at the House of Commons. He started by giving a speech about resolving issues that the East India Company had encountered while in India.
(Source: National Army Museum)
According to him, Major-General Robert Clive said that the company was originally established for commercial purposes. The company was only given a small army to defend their trade and to preserve themselves. The primary reason for them to be India in the first place was to establish a trade between the two countries. They were not meant to conquer the land.
As a result of the company’s many conquests, they were surrounded by powerful nations with whom they did not have good relations.
- Mahrattas: They were at open war with them due to disasters caused by East India Company.
- Hyder Ally: They were also at open war with him. He won against the company but the company did not comply with records that they had agreed to. As a result, they gained another enemy.
- Nizam of the Deccan: The Nizam was allowed to rule as long he paid the company a tribute. After he broke the deal and discontinued the process of payment to the company, ties were weakened and relationships became negative.
- Two other princes: Both of these two princes were trying to become the Prime Minister to King of Mahrattas so they could get Contour Circars to rules as their own. They were courted by the Presidency of Madras and Government of Bengal at the time. Both princes acted in opposite interests to each other and if one got close, the other was to be cut off. They were previously deceived by the East India Company and could not be friends.
However, they were two rulers who remained friends with the company.
- Nawab of Arcot: He had good relations with the British but the Company had exhausted his troops and money.
- Rajah of Tanjore: He agreed to give the East India Company money in exchange for defense but the company only used half the troops agreed on and accepted all the money. The company abused his support, funds and provisions for the army even though he had none to spare.
The East India Company also owned a settlement in Bombay. However, they used money from Bengal to fight wars for Bombay.
The Presidency of Madras, which was a group of smaller kingdoms, also gave a certain amount to the company on a regular basis. The company had spent all its income on wars as well. As a result, they had to submit to one of the company’s enemies - Hyder Ally. The company wanted the presidency to pay tribute as well as feed the company’s army. As this no longer benefited the presidency, they had to switch sides.
Hyder Ali's tactical battle plans as mentioned in Hon. W. Egerton's Handbook of Indian Arms,1880 (also another lot in this auction), on one occasion, tried to deceive the English. His forces were really small; he provided 20,000 of the peasantry that he assembled together with wooden muskets of ebony, and furnished them with standards of black, white, and yellow cloth, with one flag or 'beiruk' being assigned for every 1000 men.
As a result of all the wars and fallouts, the company was at a loss. Corruption, inadequate leadership, and greediness were resulting in the British to lose its hold on India. The revenue from India at the time was 1,300,000 pounds.
The speech sparked a debate; with some individuals agreeing with the speaker and his opinion that an inquiry should take place regarding the individuals who caused the British to almost ruin all their possessions in India and lose their hold on the jewel of the crown of Great Britain.