THE FIRST GOVERNOR-GENERAL
Bengal, as you already know, was a very unhappy place when Clive and the Nawab governed it together. The English merchants only wanted to get rich as fast as they could. The Nawab was so weak that he could do nothing for the people. Most of the officers were corrupt. Tax collectors who cared only about filling their own pockets bullied the poor peasants. The people who ran the East India Company in England realized that such things could not go on forever without harming them.
There was a man called Warren Hastings who, like Clive, had been a clerk of the Company. He knew a great deal about India. People in England thought that he was honest, fair-minded and strong, and was just the man to put their affairs in India right. So, they sent him out as Governor of Bengal.
Warren Hastings was a strict man. As soon as he came to Bengal, everyone could see that he would not put up with dishonest tax-collectors. In each district he set up courts of law, so that anyone who had been badly treated could ask for justice. One of the good things Warren Hastings did was to get some English scholars to study Sanskrit classics and the ancient law books of India.
Why did Warren Hastings try to put things right in India? Because he knew that to hold real power, the British would have to understand the Indian people and to win their confidence. At the same time he had to make money for the Company. He even offered to hire out his troops to the Indian princes for large sums of money. He got forty lakhs of rupees from the Nawab of Oudh for helping the Nawab to conquer some territory.
So far, what the Company did in India had been no one else's business. But when it began to interfere so much in the affairs of Indian rulers, and acquired large territories, the British Parliament brought the Company under its control and began to watch and guide whatever it did. Under the new arrangement, Warren Hastings was made the first Governor-General. He was made responsible to the British Parliament for whatever he did in India.
The Company used to pay money to the Nawab of Bengal and the Mughal emperor whose estates it had taken away. Warren Hastings cut down these payments. He also forced some Indian princes to pay him money. Once he demanded money from the Begums of Oudh. They did not have the sum he demanded and had to sell all their jewels. Warren Hastings treated the Begums so harshly that even people in England were angry with him for his ungentlemanly behaviour. He had to face a trial for his deeds in India. A famous speaker, Burke, made a great speech in the British Parliament. In this speech he criticized Warren Hastings and supported the Indian people's right to justice.
Before they could be absolute masters in India, the English had to reckon with many rival powers. You have seen earlier how they dealt with the French, the Marathas and the Sikhs. Another strong rival was the brave Hyder Ali of Mysore. With him Warren Hastings had to wage many battles.
BRAVE FATHER AND SON
Hyder Ali was a soldier who could neither read nor write. But he was a brave and intelligent man. He had made up his mind to drive out all the powers in the south, and become the strongest ruler himself. Day and night he worked towards this end. Very soon he had a huge army. The Marathas, the British and the Nizam of Hyderabad were all jealous of the growing strength of Mysore.
He swept down like a great storm upon the plains of Madras with an army of 80,000 soldiers and 100 guns. He defeated the British in the first battle. Then Warren Hastings sent down more soldiers from Bengal and the tide turned against Hyder Ali. He was deserted by his friends, but he fought on to the bitter end. Although he was defeated by the British he did not give up hope of being able to overpower them one day. But before he could regain his strength, he fell ill and died, a sad and broken man, his dreams still unfulfilled.
His son, Tipu Sultan, was as brave and warlike as his father and carried on the fight against the English for many years. He was both brave and clever but the English got the better of him. He had to give up half his kingdom, send two of his sons as hostages to the English, and pay huge amounts of money. But he did not give up hope. He built up his army again, and asked the French to side with him.
This was like tossing a burning match into a heap of gunpowder. At this time the English Governor-General was Lord Wellesley. There were many bloody battles between Tipu and the English. Tipu Sultan was killed at Srirangapatnam, bravely trying to defend his fortress. He was buried near his father with military honours. So ended the life of one of India's most valiant soldiers. After this, Mysore passed into the hands of the British.