Lord Wellesley, Indian Governor General

Lord Wellesley (1798-1805)

Lord Wellesley, “the great Pro-Consul”, was appointed the Governor-General of Bengal at the age of 37. He was one of the greatest of the British rulers of India. The only persons who can stand comparison with him are Lord Clive, Warren Hastings and Lord Dalhousie. In the matte of actual achievements, he beat all of them.

Condition of India in 1798 : When Lord Wellesley come to India as Governor-General, the condition of India was very critical. The Nizam was angry because the English company had not helped him when he was attacked by the Marathas in the time of Sir John Shore. He was organizing a body of regular troops under a French officer named Raymond. The Marathas were also feeling a sense of importance on account of their victory over the Nizam. They had huge resources and were controlling practically the whole of Central India. Scindia had a powerful army which was trained and commanded by a Frenchman called Perron. Undoubtedly, the key position occupied by the French officers in the India States were a source of real danger to the English Company. Sultan Tipu had not forgotten the humiliation to which he was subjected by Lord Cornwallis when he was forced to give up half of his territory, pay a huge war indemnity and also surrender his two sons as hostages. He was the deadly enemy of the English Company and openly so. He was carrying on negotiations with the French Governor of Mauritius and Reunion. He had employed French officers to drill his soldiers and train them. There was the danger of the invasion of Napoleon. He was already on his way to the East.

Thus, the political situation in the country was not an easy one. The English Company had not much of resources and it was left to the intelligence, bravery and resourcefulness of Lord Wellesley to tackle the situation in a masterly manner. Within the next 7 years, Lord Wellesley was able to defeat and humble the enemies of the English Company. Many of them submitted without striking a blow. However, before he could finish his work, he was forced to resign in 1805.

The one thing to be noted with regard to Lord Wellesley is that when he came to India, he felt that the policy of non-intervention was not at all practicable. That was due to the political condition in the country. On account of the absence of a paramount power each state could do whatever it pleased. There was no guarantee of peace. There was no supreme power to which an aggrieved State could appeal for help. Under the circumstances, Lord Wellesley came to the conclusion that either the English Company must become the Supreme power in the country or quit the country. There was absolutely no half-way. It was with this conviction in mind that Lord Wellesley started his work.

Subsidiary system : One of the great master strokes of Lord Wellesley was the application of the system of subsidiary alliances to a large number of Indian states. It was in this way that he was able to add to the resources of the English Company, oust the foreigners from the Indian States and make the English Company the arbiter in the affairs of the Indian states. However, it is wrong to say that Lord Wellesley was the author of the system of subsidiary alliances.

According to Sir Alfred Lyall, there were four stages in the evolution of the subsidiary system. To begin with, the English Company contented itself with lending a military contingent to help some Indian princes. This was done by Warren Hastings when he lent British troops to the Nawab of Oudh to fight against the Rohillas. The second stage came when the English Company took the field on its own account. It was usually assisted by the army of some Indian prince who was not strong enough to do the job single-handed. In the third stage, the English Company asked the ruler of the State to give money so that troops might be maintained for the defense of the state. Such a treaty was made by Sir John Shore with the Nawab of Oudh in 1797. The Nawab promised to pay a sum of Rs. 76 lakhs a year. A similar treaty was made with the Nizam by Lord Wellessley.

The English Company was not satisfied with the subsidies paid by the Indian rulers. In many cases, they were too irregular to be depended upon. The result was that the English Company thought of another form of subsidiary system under which an Indian State was made to give up a part of its territory so that out of its revenues the troops could be maintained.

It is rightly pointed out that the English were not the originators of the system of subsidiary alliances. According to Ranade, “the idea (of subsidiary system) was in fact a mere reproduction on a more organized scale of the plan followed by the Maratha leaders a hundred years in advance when they secured the grant of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the imperial authority at Delhi.” Some writers give credit to the French. It is pointed out that it is men like Dupleix who started the system of giving help to Indian rulers for money or other reward. However, it cannot be denied that it was Lord Wellesley who perfected the system of subsidiary alliances.

Under the subsidiary system, the ruler who entered into a subsidiary alliance was to give money or some territory to the English company for the maintenance of a contingent force. He was also to agree to deal with foreign states only through the English company. He was to have no direct correspondence or relations with them. If the ruler had any dispute with any other state, he was to make the English Company his arbitrator. He was to turn out from his State all non-English Europeans whether they were employed in the army or civil administration. The English Company was to undertake to defend that State from external attack or internal trouble. It is clear that the subsidiary State surrendered its political independence in return for British protection.


Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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