The British as the Ruling Power in Bengal

East India Company by Britishers

Immediately after the outbreak of war with Mr Kasim, the English once more proclaimed Mir Jafar as the Nawab and gained important concessions from him. His death, early in 1765, was taken advantage of by the Company to proceed still further and establish their supremacy on a definite basis. Then British speed up their policies to rise their power in India.

Bengal Under British Rule

British did several things to get ‘Several Things’ :

The son of Mir Jafar, Najm-ud-daulah, was allowed to succeed his father only on the express condition, laid down by the treaty of 20th February, 1765, that the entire management of administration should be left in the hands of a minister, called the Deputy Subahdar, who would be nominated by the English and could not be dismissed without their consent. Thus the supreme control over the administration passed into the hands of the English, while the Nawab remained merely as a figurehead.

Robert Clive

  • This was the position of affairs when Robert Clive came out as Governor of Bengal for the second time (May, 1765). Several important and intricate problems immediately confronted him.
  • He first made a settlement with the Emperor Shah ‘Alam II and the Nawab of Oudh, who had espoused the cause of Mir Kasim and been defeated at Buxar.
  • The prevailing idea among the Company’s servants in Bengal was to  restore the power of the Emperor so that the English could take  full advantage of his name and position in advancing their interests.
  • In pursuance of this policy, Vansittart had already promised Oudh to the Emperor. But Clive definitely gave up this policy and  concluded the Treaty of Allahabad. By this he restored Oudh to its Nawab on payment of fifty lacs of rupees.
  • Only Allahabad and the surrounding  tracts were detached from Oudh and handed over to the Emperor Shah ‘Alam II. In return for these concessions, the Emperor, by a firman, formally granted the Diwani of Bengal, Orissa and Bihar to the East India Company on the 12th August, 1765.

British East India Company

Setting of English Recognition in Bengal:

The wisdom of the policy of Clive is now generally recognized. Instead of committing the Company to endless wars, which would  have been the inevitable result of supporting the pretensions of Shah ‘Alam II, he created the buffer-state of Oudh, whose ruler would be induced alike by material interests and sentiments of gratitude to remain friendly to the British. At the same time he gained a legal recognition of the status of the English in Bengal, which counted for much even in those days of anarchy and confusion.

Setting the British recognition in Bengal

Clive next made an attempt to set his own house in order. The servants of the Company were thoroughly demoralized, and bribery and corruption reigned supreme. The accession of each Nawab, even when there was a normal succession as in the case of Najm-ud-daulah, was made the occasion of receiving large presents, and the private right of internal trade was abused in all possible ways. Clive effectively stopped the system of accepting presents, in spite of strenuous opposition. He also checked the abuses of private trade, but reorganized the salt-trade with a view to distributing its profits among the civil and military servants of the Company. The Directors, however, disapproved of it and the monopoly of the salt-trade was entirely abandoned.

Clive also cut down the allowances (batta), which the military officers had been illegally enjoying for many years. Here, again, Clive met with vigorous opposition and the officers threatened to resign in a body. But the opposition gradually died down and Clive regulated the batta or field-allowances by a definite scheme.

Clive exits India but British Supremacy still exists:

Clive left India for good in February, 1767. In less than two years he had reformed the internal administration of the Company’s affairs and placed its relation to the government of Bengal on a definite legal basis. By his victory at Plassey, and subsequent reforms, he laid the foundations of the British supremacy in Bengal. Distinguished alike in war and peace, his name occupies a prominent place in the galaxy of British generals and administrators who carved out a mighty Empire for their motherland. His tact, patience, industry and foresight were of a high order and he always worked with a steady and clear grasp of the ends in view. In him we find a happy combination of high idealism and sound practical common sense.

Dual System Of Government

Clive was succeeded by Verelst and the latter by Cartier (1769), during whose weak administration the evils of Clive’s dual Government (in which the English enjoyed the substance and the Nawab the shadow of power) were fully manifest and the country began to groan under the weight of oppression, corruption and distress, which were aggravated by the terrible famine of 1770.

Gross Revenue Collected by East India Company from Bengal

Richard Becher, a servant of the Company, wrote to the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors on the 24th May, 1769; “It must give pain to an Englishman to have reason to think that since the accession of the Company to the Diwani the condition of the people of this country has been worse than it was before; yet I am afraid the fact is undoubted.. This fine country, which flourished under the most despotic and arbitrary government, is verging towards ruin.” Nothing of particular importance marks this period. With the next governor, Warren Hastings (1772), however, we enter into a new phase of history.

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