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ESTABLISHMENT OF BRITISH ASCENDANCY, 1798-1823
Exposed to the inroads of the Pindaris and the Pathans, the territory of Raghuji Bhonsle was in the midst of disorder. So none of the three Maratha chiefs were in a position to oppose the English openly; and the Gaikwar of Baroda manifested no desire to violate the treaty of subsidiary alliance into which he had entered on the 21st April, 1805. Referring to the Maratha princes Prinsep believed that “as far as they were individually concerned, the objects of the settlement of 1805-1806 seem to have been attained; their weakness afforded a security against any one of them meditating a separate hostile enterprise; at the same time the balance that had been established remained unaltered, and the mutual jealousies relied upon as the guarantee against a second coalition were yet unextinguished”.
But another trial of strength between the English and the Marathas took place before the latter finally succumbed. Though apparently friendly, the Maratha chiefs, including even the Peshwa, who had been restored to the masnad through the help of the English, nurtured in their heart of hearts feelings of jealousy and hostility against the English, which they could not then openly manifest owing to the distracted condition of their kingdoms, but which might burst forth on the appearance of a favourable opportunity. Largely under the influence of his unscrupulous favourite, Trimbakji Danglia, Baji Rao II engaged in intrigues with a view to leading once more a confederacy of the Maratha chiefs against the English. To settle some disputes between the Peshwa and the Gaikwar, the latter sent to Poona in A.D. 1814 his chief minister, Gangadhar Shastri, a friend of the English. Shasti was conducted by the Peshwa to Nasik and was murdered there apparently at the instigation of Trimbakji. After a good deal of hesitation, Baji Rao II surrendered Trimbakji to mountstuart Elphinstone, the British Resident at Poona since 1811, who placed him under confinement in the fortress of Than&. But he escaped a year later, it ‘was believed with the connivance of the Peshwa, though there is no definite proof of it. Matters became most threatening by the year 1817. The Peshwa, now made serious attempts to organise against the English a confederacy of the Maratha chiefs and opened negotiations with them as well as with the Pathin chief, Amir Khan, and the Pindaris. He also tried to increase the strength and efficiency of his army.
The English did not fail to take prompt measures to check the Peahwa’s designs. With the arrival of the Earl of Moira, better known as the Marquess of Hastings (1813-1823), the British policy of neutrality had been thoroughly reversed. The new Governor- General was determined “to render the British Government paramount in effect, if not declaredly so” and to “hold the other States vassals in substance, if not in name. . . . ” Mountstuart Elphinstone, instructed by the Governor-General on the 10th May, 1817, to circumscribe the powers of the Peshwa in such a way as to “prevent the evils apprehended from the course of policy pursued by the Court of Poona for several years”, induced Baji Rao II to sign most reluctantly the Treaty of Poona on the 13th June, 1817, The Peshwa had to renounce the headship of the Maratha confederacy; to commute his claims on the Gaikwar to four lacs of rupees and to promise not to make further demands on him: and to surrender to the English the Konkan and some important strongholds. Daulat Rao Sindhia was also compelled by the English to sign the Treaty of Gwilior on the 5th November, 1817, by which he bound himself to co-operate with the English to suppress the Pindaeis and gave the Company full liberty to enter into engagements with the States beyond the Chambal. Thus the English could conclude a number of treaties with the Rajput States, so long greatly harassed by Maratha inroads. Meanwhile, internal quarrels about the succession to the kingdom of Nagpur had given an opportunity to the English to bring that kingdom under their influence. Raghuji Bhonsle II died on the 22nd March, 1816, and was succeeded by his imbecile son, Parsoji. Parsoji had an able but ambitious cousin, Appa Saheb, who aspired to the government and wanted as a preparatory measure to secure the regency. The English recognized this on his signing a treaty of subsidiary alliance on the 27th May, 1816. The Treaties of Poona, Gwilior, and Nagpur added greatly to the influence of the English at the cost of the Marathas. The first dealt a severe blow at the power and prestige of the Peshwa; the second chocked the pretensions of Sindhia over the Rajput States, which fell under British control; and the third cost the Nagpur State its independence and brought it under the subsidiary system, which had been evaded by Raghuji Bhonsle II but had been “so long and so earnestly desired by the British Government”. The “defensive means” of the English were now greatly improved, and Malcolm observes that “in the actual condition of India no event could be more fortunate than the subsidiary alliance with Nagpur”.
But none of the Maratha chiefs were sincerely reconciled to the loss of their independence and they had full sympathy with the Peshwa’s desire to make himself free from British control. On the very day that Sindhia signed the subsidiary treaty, the Peshwa sacked and burnt the British Residency at Poona and attacked with about 27,000 men a small British army of 2,800 under Colonel Burr at Khirki; but he was completely defeated. Appa Saheb of Nagpur and Malhar Rao Holkar 11, son of Jaswant Rio Holkar, rose in arms against the English. The Nagpur troops were. defeated at Sitabaldi on the 27th November, 1817, and Holkar’s forces were routed at Mahidpur by Hislop on the 21st December, 1817. Appa Saheb fled to the Punjab and then to Jodhpur where he died in A.D. 1840. The districts lying to the north of the Narmada were annexed to British territories and a minor grandson of Raghuji Bhonsle II was established as Raja over the remnant of the state. Holkar was forced to sign the Treaty of Mandasor on the 6th January, 1818, by which he gave up all claims on the Rajput States, ceded to the English all districts south of the Narmada, agreed to maintain a subsidiary force within this territory, submitted his foreign relations to the arbitration of the British, and recognised Amir Khan, a mercenary commander, as Nawab of Tonk. A permanent British Resident was henceforth stationed at Indore.
As for the Peshwa, after his defeat at Khirki, he fought two more battles with the English-at Koregaon on the Ist January, 1818, and at Ashti on the 20th February, 1818. He was defeated in both, his able general Gokhale being killed in the second. Baji Rio 11 at last surrendered to Sir John Malcolm on the 3rd June, 1818. The Peshwaship, which served as the symbol of national unity among the Marathas even in its worst days, was abolished Baji Rao 11 was allowed to spend his last days at Bithur near Cawnpore on a pension of eight lacs a year; his dominions were piaced under British control; and “British influence and Authority spread over the land with magical celerity”. Trimbakji was kept in life-long confinement in the fort of Chunar. The small kingdom of Sitar-a, formed out of the Peshwa’s dominions, was given to Pratap Simha a lineal descendant of Shivaji and the formal head of the Maratha Empire. The State of Satara did not become the centre of a hostile Maratha confederacy, as Thornton apprehended. As a matter of fact, as Roberts records, ” the rule of the new dynasty proved an evil and incompetent one, and Satara was one of the States to which subsequently the Doctrine of Lapse was applied by Dalhousie”.