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Hastings, Warren (1732–1818)

HASTINGS, WARREN (17321818)

HASTINGS, WARREN (17321818), first governor-general of India. Warren Hastings was a competent, honorable, and farsighted administrator whose policies, some controversial, decisively shaped and stabilized future Anglo-Indian relations. The controversy surrounding his administration made him the subject of impeachment and trial in Great Britain.

Warren Hastings was born at Daylesford, Worcestershire, on 6 December 1732, the son of a country solicitor whose family had fallen into poverty. When his mother, Hester Warren, died soon after his birth, his father departed for the West Indies. Warren was raised by an uncle who sent him to school, first at Newington and then to Westminster, where he became the first king's scholar of his year in 1747.

In October 1750, Hastings entered service as a clerk in the East India Company. Able and ambitious, he advanced rapidly, becoming the company's resident (1757). From 1761 to 1764, he served on the Calcutta Council, the chief governing body in Bengal. During this period he attempted to reform abuses in the transit system, specifically the practice whereby British officials passed private consignments free of duty, resulting in disproportionate fiscal burdens on the Mughul nabob Mir Kasim and his subjects. Hastings's compromise proposal proved ineffectual and a brief war erupted, ending in the defeat of Mir Kasim and restoration of the former nabob, Mir Jaffier.

In 1764 Hastings returned to England, but financial need forced him to seek reemployment with the Company, which, in 1769, appointed him to the Council of Madras. Two years later he was promoted to the governorship of Bengal.

From 1772 to 1774, Hastings consolidated British control over native authorities, restored order to the province's judicial system, abolished the pension that Lord Clive had paid to the Mughul, and created a new, more efficient procedure for collecting the land revenues, a major source of the company's financial solvency. The English collectors, being inexperienced and extortionate, were removed and replaced with native officers of proven knowledge and ability. Six divisions were created by grouping the districts and subordinating them to provincial councils under the control of non-Indian administrators. This arrangement, like so many of Hastings's ideas, was to become an enduring part of the British ruling tradition in India.

Lord North's Regulating Act of 1773 placed India under three presidencies, with one governor-general, a position held by Hastings from 1774 to 1784, assisted by a newly created council of five, three of whomstrangers to Indiawere hostile to his policies. Given only a single vote, Hastings frequently found himself overruled in his efforts to curb further corruption and introduce reforms. Eventually his fellow councillors, led by Sir Phillip Francis, conspired against him, fabricating charges of corruption and cruelty that were to culminate in his impeachment. Despite such obstructionism, Hastings launched military expeditions to defeat the Mahrattas conspiracy that threatened Britain's imperial governance, quelled provincial revolts, continued his financial reforms, and founded the Asiatic Society of Bengal and the Calcutta Madrisa, a vital center of Muslim culture. He also had to confront the danger posed by the sultanate of Haidar Ali, who (with the connivance of the French and Dutch) plotted insurrection against British rule. On his own authority, Hastings removed the incompetent governor of Madras and replaced him with the veteran militarist Sir Eyre Coote, who defeated Ali's forces at Porto Novo. Parallel naval action drove the rebels out of the Carnatic (a region in southeastern India). On the death of Haidar Ali in 1782, Hastings negotiated the treaty of Salbai, which acknowledged British supremacy throughout India and calmed the situation in Madras.

Hastings resigned his office in December 1784 and returned to England on 13 June the following year. In 1787 he faced impeachment charges initiated by Edmund Burke (working with Hastings's enemies), whose outrageous conduct evoked numerous rebukes from the House of Lords. The lengthy trial, beginning in 1788 and lasting until 1795, ended in Hastings's acquittal, but severely compromised his reputation, ruined his health, and cost him £50,000.

In his later years, Hastings campaigned for a peerage and a parliamentary reversal of the impeachment, neither of which ever materialized. He received a doctorate of civil law from Oxford in 1813, was sworn privy councillor in May 1814, and died, a rural recluse, on 22 August 1818.

Although Hastings's conduct of affairs tended at times to be high-handed, if not unscrupulous, his motives were invariably patriotic, not self-interested. He expanded the territorial scope of British dominion in India, honored and preserved indigenous cultures, and introduced many needed and lasting reforms. The prince regent (the future George IV) put it best when, in 1814, he called Hastings "the most deserving yet also one of the worst used men in the empire."

See also British Colonies: India ; Burke, Edmund ; Colonialism ; George II (Great Britain) ; George III (Great Britain) ; Mercantilism ; Trading Companies .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bowen, H. V. Revenue and Reform: The Indian Problem in British Politics, 17571773. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1991.

Feiling, K. Warren Hastings. London and New York, 1954.

Forrest, G. W. India under Hastings. New Delhi, 1984.

Marshall, P. J. The Impeachment of Warren Hastings. London, 1965.

Turnbull, P. Warren Hastings. London, 1975.

Karl W. Schweizer

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Warren Hastings

Warren Hastings

The English statesman Warren Hastings (1732-1818) was the first governor general of British India. He established the system of civil administration that was the basis of Anglo-Indian security and prosperity.

Warren Hastings was born on Dec. 6, 1732, in Churchill, near Daylesford, of an old but poor family. His mother died immediately after his birth, and his father, a clergyman, disappeared in the West Indies. Raised by an uncle, Hastings had a good education and attended Westminster. He became a clerk in the East India Company and reached Calcutta in October 1750. As was the custom, he augmented his salary by private trading. He was placed in charge of a factory weaving silk and cotton goods in Kasimbazar (Cossimbazar) and by 1756 was a member of the council, the local governing body of the company.

When Suraja Dowla (Siraj-ud-Daula), the nawab of Bengal, attacked and took Calcutta, Hastings was taken prisoner but was soon released to act as intermediary for the prisoners in the Black Hole. He joined Robert Clive's relief force, which recaptured the city.

In August 1758 Clive appointed Hastings resident at Murshidabad to deal with the new nawab, Mir Jafar. Three years later Hastings was named to the Calcutta council under Henry Vansittart, Clive's successor. Disgusted by the widespread corruption, Hastings retired to England in 1764 with a modest fortune. His funds gone after 4 years, he applied for reemployment and was appointed to the Madras council, arriving there in 1769. In 1772, after Vansittart and two other members were lost at sea, Hastings became governor of Bengal. Two years later he was governor general of India, a post he held until 1785.

Hastings's tenure of office was marked by constant strife in his council and in England. He faced and dealt with continual opposition to his policies. Yet by strength of character, firmness of resolve, and sense of duty he overcame all obstacles, many of which arose from the difficulty of defining his new position and its responsibilities.

Hastings carried out an aggressive policy of administrative, judicial, and fiscal reform to improve government and eliminate abuse. He suppressed banditry in the country. He put down a serious Maratha conspiracy supported by the French. He reestablished British prestige, which had declined after Clive's departure. He used military forces throughout India to prevent the fragmentation and dissolution of British power. He perhaps occasionally overstepped his prerogatives by making British forces available to the nawab of Oudh, by using questionable methods to recover from the dowager of Oudh money illegally withheld. But he vigorously maintained his authority over subordinate provincial governors despite objections to what at times seemed like his autocratic or dictatorial control.

Hastings also fostered education, encouraged the codification of Hindu law, stimulated the study of Sanskrit by European scholars, founded a Mohammedan college in Calcutta and an Indian institute in London, opened a trade route to Tibet, sponsored a survey of Bengal, and organized expeditions to explore the seas.

The passage in 1784 of Pitt's India Act, which provided a new constitution, persuaded Hastings there was little point for him to remain. Resigning, he returned to England in 1785. He was immediately charged with "high crimes and misdemeanors, " which he denied vigorously. He was impeached by Parliament in 1786, but the trial opened 2 years later and lasted 7 years. The House of Lords found him not guilty, but his personal fortune was exhausted by his defense. The East India Company came to his aid and granted him funds and an annuity.

In 1813 Hastings was asked to discuss Indian matters in Parliament and was received with extraordinary respect. In 1814 he was made a privy councilor. He died at Daylesford on Aug. 22, 1818.

Hastings was said to have "looked like a great man, and not like a bad man." He was physically slight, temperate in his habits, and reserved in his behavior. Personally neither corrupt nor cruel, he has been characterized as "the scapegoat upon whose head parliament laid the accumulated sins, real and imaginary, of the East Indian company."

Further Reading

There are three standard biographies of Hastings: Cuthbert C. Davies, Warren Hastings and Oudh (1939); Penderel Moon, Warren Hastings and British India (1947); and Keith Grahame Feiling, Warren Hastings (1954). Hastings the man is revealed in Letters of Warren Hastings to His Wife, edited by Sidney C. Grier (1905), and in H. H. Dodwell, ed., Warren Hastings' Letters to Sir John Macpherson (1927). □

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Hastings, Warren

Warren Hastings, 1732–1818, first governor-general of British India. Employed (1750) as a clerk by the East India Company, he soon became manager of a trading post in Bengal. When Calcutta (now Kolkata) was captured (1756) by Siraj-ud-Daula, Hastings was taken prisoner but soon released. After the British recapture (1757) of the city, he was made British resident at Murshidabad. Good service there brought appointment to the Calcutta council (1761), but he returned to England (1764) disgusted with administrative corruption in Bengal.

Hastings went back (1769) to India as a member of the Madras council and became (1772) governor of Bengal, immediately embarking on a course of judicial and financial reform, law codification, and the suppression of banditry, measures that laid the foundation of direct British rule in India. In 1774, he was appointed governor-general of India. This position was created by Lord North's Regulating Act (1773), which also set up a four-member governing council. In the succeeding years Hastings was greatly hampered by opposition in the council, especially from Sir Philip Francis. Another problem he encountered in his new position was the ill-defined relationship with and resulting lack of control over the subordinate provincial governors. The interference of the Bombay government in Maratha affairs led to a war with the Marathas, while the blunders of the Madras government provoked conflict with Haidar Ali of Mysore. In both cases Hastings, conscious of the danger of French intervention, dispatched armies from Bengal that saved the British position. Nonetheless he was criticized for interference with the provincial governments.

Hastings resigned (1784) and returned to England, where he was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors by Edmund Burke and Sir Philip Francis, whom he had wounded in a duel in India. The chief charges against him concerned his extortion of money from the rajah of Benares and the begum of Oudh, his hiring out of British troops to the nawab of Oudh to subdue the Rohillas (an Afghan tribe), and his alleged responsibility for the judicial murder of an Indian merchant, Nandkumar. He was impeached in 1787; but the trial, begun in 1788, ended with acquittal in 1795, despite the bitter prosecution of Burke, Francis, Richard B. Sheridan, and Charles James Fox. Hastings's fortune was spent in the defense, but the East India Company contributed to his later support. He became popular and was made a privy councilor (1814).

See biographies by A. M. Davies (1935), K. G. Feiling (1955, repr. 1967), and J. Bernstein (2000); studies by P. Moon (1947, repr. 1962) and P. J. Marshall (1965).

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Hastings, Warren

Hastings, Warren (1732–1818). Hastings joined the East India Company in 1750. He rose quickly in its service, being a member of the Bengal Council by 1757 when Robert Clive achieved his first military victories. He was at the heart of the subsequent intrigues surrounding the nawabi of Bengal. In 1764 he retired to England with a large fortune which he rapidly lost. He returned to India in 1769 and, three years later, was appointed governor of Bengal. In 1773, he became the first governor-general of India. In office, he reformed the company's revenue and commercial systems and extended its influence across the Ganges valley. He retired with a second fortune after the establishment of a parliamentary Board of Control for east India affairs, which subsequently impeached him for murder and extortion. The prosecution was led by Edmund Burke and the proceedings lasted from 1788 until 1795, when Hastings was acquitted, but left impoverished and discredited.

David Anthony Washbrook

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Hastings, Warren

Hastings, Warren (1732–1818) First British governor general of India (1774–85). He successfully defended British territory against several Indian opponents. He made many enemies and returned to England in 1785 to face a variety of charges. Although eventually acquitted, his career was ruined.

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