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Empire. In Burma, in spite of the treaty of Yandobo, various sums of nfoney were levied on foreign merchants, and trade with the Burmese was attended with risks and difficulties. Since 1840, therefore, the British Government had ceased to maintain an accredited agent at the Court of Ava. · On September 27, 1851, British merchants at Rangoon made their complaints to the willing ears of Lord Dalhousie. The GovernorGeneral sent a naval officer to inquire into the truth of the complaints; demanded compensation for the losses of merchants amounting to £900; and asked for the dismissal of the Burmese Governor of Rangoon. It was a repetition in Asia of the action taken by Lord Palmerston in the preceding year with reference to the losses of a Maltese Jew in Greece. Lord Dalhousie's requisitions were not complied with, and he declared war. Rangoon, Prome, and Pegu were captured, and on December 20, 1852, Lord Dalhousie closed the war by a proclamation annexing Lower Burma to the British territories.
The history of the annexation of Indian States on failure of heirs, during the administration of Lord Dalhousie, is even more singular than the history of his conquests. The ancient laws of India provided that, on the failure of natural issue, a Hindu might adopt an heir to inherit his property; and there was no distinction in the eye of the law between a natural heir and an adopted son. During the five centuries of Mahomedan rule in Northern India, Mahomedan kings and emperors had never questioned the Hindu law of adoption. On the demise of a Hindu chief, his son, natural or adopted, took out a new Sunud from the ruling emperor, and stepped into his place. On the other hand, emperors bent on conquest annexed principalities without scruple, whether the chief was living or dead, whether his son was born of his loins or adopted. Under the British rule the practice of obtaining the sanction of the Govern
ment, when a Hindu chief adopted a son, was introduced. And when once this custom was recognised, the keen eye of the East India Company saw the possibility of extending their territories by refusing the sanction. Accordingly, the Court of Directors declared in 1834, that the indulgence of sanctioning the 'adoption of an heir should be the exception, not the rule. And the Government of India determined in 1841 “to persevere in the one clear and direct course of abandoning no just and honourable accession of territory or revenue.” It was reserved for Lord Dalhousie to carry out this “just and honourable” principle into practice. With the exception of one or two very insignificant States, previously annexed under circumstances of a special nature, the policy had never been carried into practice before Dalhousie's time.
The first victim of this new policy was the House of Satara. The Rajah of Satara represented the family of the great Sivaji, the founder of the Mahratta power. The principality had been constituted by the Marquis of Hastings in 1818, when he annexed the Mahratta kingdom of the last Peshwa in the Deccan. A generation had passed since; and the last Raja of Satara had adopted a son, as he was entitled to do by the laws of his country and his race. On the death of the Raja in 1848, the Governor of Bombay, Sir George Clerk, recommended that the heir should be allowed to succeed to the State of Satara. His councillors opposed him ; his successor differed from him; and Lord Dalhousie pursued the ungenerous course of annexing the State. The matter came up to the Court of Directors. The veteran Director, Henry St. George Tucker, whose name has appeared in the last chapter and will appear again in these pages, opposed the annexation. The issue, however, was never doubtful for a moment; by a large majority of votes the Court sanctioned the annexation.
The State of Karauli came up next for consideration. The Raja of Karauli died in the same year as the Raja of Satara, and, like him, had adopted an heir before his death. Lord Dalhousie could see no difference between Satara and Karauli, and held that Karauli also had “ lapsed” to the British Government. The Court of Directors, however, decided that Karauli was a "protected ally,” and not a “dependent principality,” and the State was therefore not to be annexed. The grounds on which the Court of Directors differed from Lord Dalhousie are set forth in their letter of January 26, 1853.
"Colonel Low gave his opinion in favour of recognising the adoption and Sir Frederick Currie supported the proposal. The Governor-General, with whom Mr. Lowis expressed his concurrence, inclined rather to declaring the State a lapse to the British Government.
“The Governor-General has given a fair and impartial statement of the arguments on both sides of this important question. After having given the fullest consideration to the circumstances of the case, we have come to the decision that the succession of Bharat Pal to the Raj of Karauli, as the adopted son of Narsingh Pal, should be sanctioned.
“In coming to this conclusion we do not intend to depart from the principle laid down in our despatch of the 24th January 1849, relative to the case of Satara. ... But it appears to us that there is a marked distinction in fact, between the cases of Satara and Karauli, which is not sufficiently adverted to in the minute of the Governor-General. The Satara State was one of recent origin, derived altogether from the creation and gift of the British Government, whilst Karauli is one of the oldest of the Rajput States, which has been under the rule of its princes from a period long anterior to the
Thi power in India. "T a period long ar
This letter of the Directors discloses the reasons of the Company's moderation. Satara was an insignificant
Karauli Blue Book, 1855, pp. 3 and 4.
Mahratta State, and its annexation involved no political risk. Karauli was a Rajput State, and its annexation might alarm the whole of Rajputana. The Indian Reform Association, led by Mr. Dickinson, a true and disinterested friend of India, drew public attention to the impolicy of annexing Karauli. A motion by Mr. Blackett was threatened in the House of Commons; and the Government of the day avoided the scandal, and bade the Governor-General hold his hand.
The large State of Sambalpur in the Central Provinces was then annexed, as the Raja had died childless without adopting an heir. But a far more important and a historic case soon came up for consideration. The Raja of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao, died in November 1853, after adopting a son who assumed the name of Damodar Gangadhar Rao. The dying Raja announced the adoption to the two British officers stationed at Jhansi, the political agent and the commander of a contingent of troops. He delivered to them letters to the proper authorities, and commended his widow and adopted son to the British Government. Lord Dalhousie held that “the adoption was good for the conveyance of private rights, though not for the transfer of the Principality," and he annexed the State.
The State of Jhansi had rendered signal services to the British power in its earlier days. The Raja of Jhansi had saved Kalpi in 1825, and had been commended in the highest terms of praise and gratitude by Lord William Bentinck at the Darbar of 1832. He had appended to his titles the addition of Fidwee Badshah Janujah Englistan, “Devoted servant of the glorious King of England.”
After the annexation, the widow Rani made an appeal to the British Government, alluding to the loyalty of her house; and Major Malcolm, the political agent at Jhansi, supported her statement. “The Bai does not, I believe, in the slightest degree overestimate the fidelity and
loyalty all along evinced by the State of Jhansi towards our Government under circumstances of considerable temptation, before our power had arrived at that commanding position which it has since attained.” And the widow herself was described by Major Malcolm as “a lady of very high character, and much respected by every one at Jhansi.”1 But Lord Dalhousie was not moved from his fixed resolve either by the past history of the State or by the position and character of its present Rani.
The annexation converted the friendly and faithful State of Jhansi into a bitter enemy; and it converted a lady of high character into a merciless and vindictive woman. For the Rani of Jhansi fomented, helped, and joined the great mutiny of 1857; she permitted at Jhansi one of the worst of the Mutiny massacres; she fought in male attire against the British troops; and she fell sword in hand, the bravest fighter of her race. The Rani of Jhansi might have lived to be an able and benevolent administrator of her little State, like so many Hindu women who have figured in modern Indian history. But a more tragic fate was reserved for her; and she is remembered as the Joan of Arc of modern Indian romance.
Smaller States were annexed one after another; but the last and greatest annexation under the Doctrine of Lapse was the kingdom of Nagpur. Raghoji Bhonsla, Raja of Nagpur, died on December 11, 1853. One of his widows adopted a young kinsman, known under the title of Appa Sahib, and the adoption was valid under the Hindu law. The Political Resident, Mr. Mansel, adhered to the standing instructions of his office; he neither forbade nor gave special encouragement to the proceeding;? but he recommended that the adoption should be recognised. On January 28, 1854, Lord Dalhousie recorded his minute, annexing the large and populous kingdom.
1 Jhansi Blue Book, pp. 24 and 28. * First Nagpur Blue Book, p. 56.