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ESTABLISHMENT OF BRITISH ASCENDANCY, 1798-1823

The settlement of Mysore, as effected by Lord Wellesley, secured for the Company substantial territorial, economic, commercial and military advantages. It extended the Company’s dominion “from sea to sea across the base of the peninsula”, encompassing the new kingdom of Mysore on all sides except in the north. When in 1800 the Nizam transferred his acquisitions from Mysore to the Company, this kingdom ” was entirely encircled by the Pax Britannic& “. This achievement of the Governor-General was enthusiastically applauded in England; he was elevated to the rank of Marquis in the peerage of Ireland and General Harris was made a baron.

Estimate of Tipu

Tipu is, in many respects, a remarkable personality in Indian history. A man of sound moral character, free from the prevailing vices of his class, ,e had an intense faith in God. He was fairly well educated, could speak fluently Persian, Kanarese and Urdu, and had a valuable library. A valiant soldier and a tactful general, Tipu was a diplomat of no mean order. This is proved by his clear perception of the fact that England and not any Indian power was the enemy; by his study of politics, particularly the relations between England and France in Europe; by the embassies he sent to France and other places; and the correspondence that he carried on with Zaman Shah of Kabul. He placed independence above everything else, and lost his life in trying to preserve it. Unlike many of his Indian contemporaries, Tipu was an able and industrious ruler. Some of his English contemporaries, like Edward Moore and Major Dirom, were favourably impressed with his administration and have unhesitatingly stated that he enjoyed sufficient popularity in his kingdom. Even Sir John Shore observes that “the peasantry of his dominions are protected and their labours encouraged and rewarded”. Some writers, old’ as well as modern,” have wrongly described ‘Tipu as a cruel and sanguinary tyrant, an oppressive despot, and a furious fanatic. He cannot be held guilty of systematic cruelty, and, as Major Dirom remarks, “his cruelties were in general inflicted only on those whom he considered as his enemies”. Also he was not a, fierce bigot. The discovery and study of ‘Tipu’s Shringheri Letters prove that he know “how to placate Hindu opinion, and religious intolerance was not the cause of his ruin”. Though a pious Muslim, he did not attempt any wholesale conversion of his Hindu subjects, as Wilks’ account would lead us to believe; but he forced it only on those recalcitrant Hindus on whose allegiance he could not rely’ In one respect, he compares unfavorably with his father; politically he was less sagacious and practical than the latter. He after, tried to introduce useless innovations in the name of reform. “A restless spirit of innovation, and a wish to have everything to originate from himself, was,” wrote Thomas Munro, “the predominant feature of his character.”

Disappearance of the French Menace


The fall of Tipu was a source of immense -relief to the English, who were much worried by French intrigues. Tipu was indeed, as the Governor-General’s brother, the Duke of Wellington, observed, “the certain ally of the French in India “. As a matter of fact, the battle of Wandiwish did not finally shatter the ambitions of the French in India. There still remained a French peril throughout the rest of the eighteenth century. The French now tried to pursue their ambitious designs by establishing their influence in the courts of Indian powers like the Nizam, the Sultan of Mysore and the Marathas. They joined their armies, and incited them against the English. Chevalier, Governor of Chandetilagore from 1767 to 1778, and Governors of Pondicherry, Law de Lauriston (1765-1776), Bellecombe (1777-1778), and military adventurers like Madee, Modave and Gentil, who were in the service of the Indian Princes, and St. Lubin and Montigny, two agents sent by the Minister of Marine and Colonies, formed certain diplomatic projects which could not be carried into effect fully for various +reasons. In 1777 St. Lubin negotiated a treaty with N&n& Fadna-vis with a view to stirring up the Marathas against the English, and the French considered an alliance with Hyder ‘Ali to be necessary,”for regaining the ascendancy which they have lost in India and to despoil their rival of iV’. Disgusted by English neutrality at the battle of Kharda, the Nazam sought French help, and maintained a trained body of 14,000 men under a French commander, named Frangois Raymond, who had organised a definitely ” anti-British, pro-French and pro-Tipu ” party in the Hyderabad court. Daulat Rio Sindhia also maintained in his northern armies 40,000 disciplined men under Person, a French general, whose influence over the Sindbia was so great that Wellesley could without much exaggeration say that he had built a French State on the banks of the Jumna. We have already noted the nature of Franco-Mysore relations, which were undoubtedly antagonistic to English interests.

The French further tried to utilize the opportunities afforded by wars in America and Europe to regain what they had lost in India. Thus when the War of American Independence broke out, besides allying themselves with the revolted colonies, they sent, in 1782, three thousand men under Bussy and a fleet under Admiral Suffren to help Hyder ‘Ali; but Bussy’s expedition was unable to further French interests. Again Hyder’s son sought the French alliance when England was engaged in a, deadly war with revolutionary France. Though on the outbreak- of the Revolutionary Wars the French possessions in India were seized by the English, the Egyptian campaign of Napoleon, and the projects of the French to establish their influence in Egypt and then under-mine the British position in India, were sources of deep anxiety to the English officers in India.

It did not take a long time for Wellesley, who possessed penetrating insight and a clear vision, to realise the nature of the French peril. He took immediate steps to remove it. Besides trying to destroy French influence in Indian courts and armies and disbanding the European-trained armies of the Nizam, he planned expeditions against the Isle of France, as from the beginning of the Revolutionary Wars French privateers used it as a base to prey upon English shipping in the Indian Ocean; but they could not be carried into effect owing to the refusal of Admiral Rainier, commander of the British Squadrons to co-operate with him. He also contemplated the capture of Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies. In response to an order from home, he sent an expedition to the Red Sea under the command of Sir David Baird in 1801. The French at Alexandria had already capitulated before Baird’s party reached Cairo. Wellesley did not restore to the French their settlements in India after the Peace of Amiens, which was but a temporary truce of thirteen months.

The French still. persisted in their anti-English intrigues in India. Decaen, the newly-appointed Captain-General of the French in India, tried fruitlessly to secure Indian allies and also encouraged French privateers to capture British vessels in the Indian seas. The English were, however, finally freed from the French menace by the year 1814-1815. This synchronised with the attempt of Lord Hastings to establish British paramountly in India.

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