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The Life of John Wilson
Appendix I. Dr. Wilson on Native Rule in Baroda and Native Opinion on British Rule


“Government House, Simla, June 19th, 1875.

“My dear Dr. Wilson—Lord Northbrook has desired me to ask you whether you would be so kind as to let him know your impressions as to the effect of recent Baroda events on the minds of the Natives. During the progress of the trial and subsequent proceedings, there was naturally a good deal of excitement, and not a few erroneous impressions as to matters of fact got abroad. By this time things have begun to settle down. The truth must be pretty generally known, and opinion is probably beginning to assume its ultimate form. The present, therefore, seems a fitting time to enquire what effect, for good or evil, the general policy of Government has produced on the Native mind.

“The only two main sources of information in our possession are of course official reports and the utterances of the Press. The former are, I have every reason to believe, good and trustworthy as far as they go, but it is obvious that there are many sources of information which are more or less closed to those who occupy an official position. As to the latter—the Press—it is very difficult to judge of the degree of importance which is to be attached to the opinions of any particular journal, European or Native.

"The opinion of one occupying your position, with large experience of the country and peculiar opportunities of mixing with all classes, would, I need hardly say, be very valuable, and Lord Northbrook hopes that you will be willing to express your views to him with complete freedom.—Believe me, yours very truly,

"Evelyn Baring.”

“Malabar Hill, Bombay, 3d August 1875.

“Dear Sir—I very readily reply to the inquiries which you confidentially addressed to me some time ago ; but before doing this I find it necessary to advert to certain peculiarities in the Baroda State, and its rulers, which it is needful to bear in mind for the right understanding of the position of affairs in the West of India, as I shall to the best of my information and judgment represent them.

“Among the natives of Goojarat the Maratha Government at Baroda has been unpopular from its very commencement to the present day. By these it is viewed very much as a foreign Government, differing to a very considerable extent in language and customs, and exercising authority without offering the advantages of quiet, security, education, enlightened legislation, and protection of labour and commerce as are presented by the British Government, and without even generally, even in a subordinate capacity, employing the natives of the province. The fact to which I allude I have ascertained from varied and unexceptionable testimony, and from complaints thrust upon me during my journeyings through much of the Gaikwar’s territories, by many respectable natives of Goojarat. Baroda (in which is to be found much of the refuse of the Maratha country, both Brahmanical and non-Brahmanical) is considered a cesspool of moral corruption. Notwithstanding the productiveness of much of its soil, and the extent of its land revenue, and transit and other duties, it has seldom, if ever, been free from pecuniary embarrassments. No jiroper adjustment, as far as I am aware, has been made between the claims of the State and those of the ruling family. Much caprice has been shown in the exactions made from the agricultural population. The treatment of the wild tribes was barbarous in the extreme, till the management of them, by mutual agreement, passed into the hands of the British Government in connection with the Mahee-Kanta agency. The administration of justice through the Gaikwar’s dominions has been most imperfect and partial, leading frequently, I am persuaded, to the injury and cruel treatment both of the innocent and guilty. I can never forget the shock which I got the first day of my entrance into the Gaikwar’s territory, now upwards of forty years ago, when the ashes of a fire (under a tree) were pointed out to me by a friend high in the Medical Service of the East India Company, over the blazing flames of which four humble Bheels, suspended by the feet from the branch of a tree, with their heads nearly reaching the flames, had been executed. My journeyings among jungle tribes, five years afterwards, led to revelations equally painful. Through these (in 1840) I learnt, from Mr. James Sutherland, C.S., that he had succeeded in inducing Sayajee Kao, Gailcwar, to abolish Suttee. I think it right, however, in justice to the Baroda Government, to mention that it has readily concurred with the British Government in the measures proposed by it for the abolition of infanticide among the tributaries of both Governments in Kathiawar, leaving the British authorities free to adopt what action they might please in the exigencies of the case. It is to the credit of the Baroda Government, I also mention, that it has allowed the British Government to collect and pay over to it its share of the Kathiawar tribute, thus avoiding such unhappy collisions as occurred between the Gaik war and the Pesliwa of Poona, whom we succeeded in Kathiawar.

“The Baroda Government has for long received much kindness from the British Government. This, however, it has not sufficiently appreciated and improved. A notable instance of this appeared in the unwillingness of Sayajee Rao to fulfil his engagement to pay, for the support of the cavalry troops he was bound to maintain, the capital and interest of the large sums of money which he had borrowed from Soukars and bankers, on the pledge of the British Government that it should see to the ultimate rectification of the accounts. For this he nearly lost his throne in 1832, when Lord Clare visited Baroda on his way to confer with Lord William Bentinck at Ajmer about this and other exigencies which had arisen. It was only after repeated entreaties, almost tearful, that he ultimately accepted the advice proffered to him by the Resident at his Court, Mr. James Williams, C.S., as I find in a private letter addressed to the brother of Mr. Williams, in my possession. Sayajee Rao, it is admitted, had long had bad native advisers in his employment ; while the British Residents at his Court, in general able and honourable men, too much shrank from interfering with him even by friendly advice, except when the British interests were directly concerned. It is to be regretted that he did not, more frequently than he did, solicit their advice. He bore them no good will ; and his memory is associated with suspicions in connection with the lives of two of them. He did nothing to encourage education among his people, though he took approbatory cognisance on one occasion of two small vernacular schools supported by the officers of the British camp. At a late period of his age he got a qualified teacher for his elder sons from one of the industrial classes of the Marathas, who, if they made but little progress in learning, was not to be blamed on that account. Gunput Rao, who succeeded him on his death, was certainly personally the better of the instructions which he received, though he did not succeed in remedying the grievances of his subjects, or in curtailing the extravagant expenses of his palace. He gave away large sums of money in furnishing and filling the garden palace at the Motee Bagh with expensive gewgaws and toys. . He viewed the British Government with respect, and came down to Bombay in 1850 to meet Lord Dalhousie. He died on the 19th November 1856.

“Gimput Bao was succeeded by his brother Khunde Bao, but little fitted to hold the reins of government or to follow good advice when proffered to him. He spoke of his predecessor as a fool, but he had remarkable vagaries of his own. He is said to have spent a lakh and a quarter of rupees (£12,500) on one occasion in reward for a successful wrestler. He was fond of pashuguddha as well as of mcillaguddha—of fighting brutes as well as of men, and spent large sums of money in promoting these oriental sports, happily now not very common. When the Mutiny broke out and extended to serious dimensions, he was greatly afraid, as he well might ; but the sight of the brawny legs and arms of the 92d Highlanders mitigated his fears, and called forth imitations of defence for himself in the formation of a still existent regiment with highlandish habiliments, though without the cor or the corpus of the valiant Gael. In consideration of his fidelity and friendship to the British, there was remitted to him the payment of the sum of three lakhs of rupees per annum for the payment of the Goojarat Irregular Horse, and the acknowledgment of the right of adoption on the failure of natural heirs. Trusting to the toleration of “the Sirkar,” as he denominated the British Government, he had serious thoughts of becoming a Muhammadan, and frequently sat on the bare ground to receive instructions in the doctrines of the Koran from a Brahman convert to Muhammadanism seated before him on a stool. He prepared at an immense expense a pall studded with precious stones and jewels for the tomb of Muhammad at Medina, or failing there, for the tomb of Hassan or Hussein at Kerbela in Mesopotamia, and which, there having been no prospect of acceptance by the Muhammadans, is still at Baroda. At the close of 1859 I had an interview with his Highness in the presence of the Besident, Colonel Wallace; when, after commending him for the erection of a hospital, I almost succeeded in getting him to found a high school at Baroda for the benefit of his subjects. He came to believe, from suspicious circumstances brought to his notice, and from information which he received, that his brother, Mulhar Bao, had intended to attempt to murder him for his throne ; and he put him into restraint and confinement under this belief. On no account would he suffer him to be set at liberty, even under surveillance. From peculiarities in the temperament and actings of Khunde Rao, at which I have above only gently hinted, considerable sympathy was for a time felt for Mulhar Bao, especially throughout the Maratha country. Nevertheless, it was a mistake to set Mulhar Eao on the throne without an investigation of the charge of attempted fratricide which had been brought against him, more especially as Mulhar Eao had been more than an object of suspicion during the Mutiny, and reckoned from his early days to be altogether untrustworthy and injurious.

“The remarks which I have now to make bear directly on the inquiries which you have confidentially addressed to me. For convenience they will still be made mainly in a narrative form.

“The inefficient and devious administration of Mulhar Eao, and his bad choice of agents, were thought by many both in the Goojarat and Maratha country to be such as would likely bring on a crisis. The appointment of Colonel Phayre, a gentleman well known to possess the highest moral character with very extensive knowledge of the different provinces of Western India, to the Eesidency of Baroda, rendered the crisis, in the judgment of many, almost certain. The Commission headed by Sir Eichard Meade, and its finding, hastened its advent. It was intensified by the marriage of Mulhar Eao of Lukshmibai (illegal in a Hindoo point of view in this kali yuga, or iron age), and by the suffering peasantry, sirdars, officers, etc., who, more urgently than ever, sought relief from their grievances and payment of their dues. The Gaikwar, failing in his attempt to corrupt the British officers by bribery, resolved to adopt the desperate measure of destroying Colonel Phayre by poison—a catastrophe which the good providence of God averted.

“The vigorous measures which were adopted by the Government of India to bring the Gaikwar to trial for the heinous crime of which he was suspected, had, notwithstanding the circumstances above alluded to, a stunning effect upon the Marathas, many of them throughout the country fearing that he would be found guilty. I have the strongest belief that the Gaikwar had his agents -soon at work on this emergency. The tone of many of the native papers was at once changed for the worse, and many of the educated natives, particularly at Poona, held defiant meetings, at which it was alleged that the British Government had no right to put on his trial an independent prince, as they termed the Gaikwar (forgetful of the subordinate position of his ancestors even in the Maratha empire). The appointment of two princes of high status in India, and a famous administrator, to sit in commission for taking and recording evidence, formed for the time being a quietus to some proud spirits ; but anon the flame of discontent again burst forth, and indignation was felt that any Maratha princes should sanction the principle of sitting in a quasi-court for the trial of their peers. The last ‘ dodge ’ was that of getting up a loud protestation of the actual innocence of the Gaikwar, while he and his case were sub judice.

Never since I came to this country, upwards of forty-six years ago, have I felt so ashamed and grieved because of our educational proteges, for whom a parental Government has done and is doing so much, devoting their talents) and energies, in a spirit of marked ingratitude, to the worst of purposes.

“And yet the affair is to my mind perfectly intelligible. It has long been the ambition of the Maratha Brahmans to assume the direction of the Maratha power. This is perfectly obvious from the usurpation of the Brahman Peshicas, who with the Putwurdhans and Rastias, and other Brahmanical warriors, made state prisoners and ciphers of the Rajas of Satara and their Maratha nobles, as so well brought out in Grant Duff's History, and the condensed notices of it by Mr. Elphinstone, Sir John Malcolm, Sir Bartle Frere, and others. The young men to whom I now refer, and the partisans whom they have succeeded in acquiring, do not intend rebellion at present, but their object is to depreciate the Paramount Power by plausible misrepresentations, to promote a spirit of discontent among the people, which may employ them at present and eventually turn the course of events in the direction of their final aspirations. Their consciousness of the depravities of Baroda made them reaUy fear the absorption of that State. Its preservation, under happily devised arrangements, I verily believe is to many of them in a certain sense a disappointment ! Their business of grievance-mongering has had a termination sooner than they expected. They form the same party who go about the country poisoning the minds of the peasantry, and -who make them dissatisfied with the terms of their holdings, notwithstanding their visible progress in social prosperity, in the extension of their fields, in the improvement of their dwellings, utensils, and clothing. Many of them I know to be a disappointment and a grief to their aged connections. A worthy old Brahman when speaking of them to me lately said, with tears running down his cheeks, £ They have become ashamed of their parents and abandon them, betaking themselves to vicious courses; what they may erelong do no man can tell.’ In connection with them I would observe, in passing, that we have a portion of educated youth of a very different spirit from theirs. At the same time we must have a thorough revision of the educational system. We must give useful instruction to the masses, that they may not be the dupes of the designing ; and leave particular classes, hitherto too highly favoured, to work their way upwards by their own merits. It has been rightly said of Scotland that there is a pathway to the Universities from every parish in the land; but the youth going to these Universities have generally to pay for their own education.

“In conclusion, keeping your queries in view, I may truthfully say that, after much observation ancl inquiry, I am convinced that Goojarat has all along had faith in the righteousness and wisdom of the proceedings of the British Government, and that the Maharashtra, exclusive of a band of self-conceited and mischievous youth (worthy of a term or two in the house of correction), now sees that the Government, though misrepresented for some time as to its motives and endeavours, is really deserving of confidence and praise. The late occurrences at Baroda will occupy a chapter in the history of India of a most instructive character; and the blessing of God will rest on those who have taught the Princes of India that they have duties to their subjects to discharge, which cannot be overlooked 'without the endangerment of their own position even with that benign Government which is faithful to the spirit of all its engagements.

“I am, my dear Major Baring, with the greatest respect for His Excellency the Viceroy, yours truly,

“John Wilson.”

“Government House, Simla, August 7, 1875.

“Dear Dr. Wilson—I am very much obliged to you for your most interesting letter on the subject of the effect of the action taken at Baroda upon native opinions in the Bombay Presidency. It is the more valuable as you have so long an experience, and many means of forming a sound judgment which officers of Government do not possess, or at least do not so fully possess.

“There are two subjects which are raised by the experience we have lately acquired upon which, at your leisure, I should much like to know what you think :—First, Is it desirable to impose any check upon the Native Press, or to endeavour to counteract the effect of the disloyal native papers by supporting papers which will put forward correct views? Second, Has the time arrived for making those who receive a high English education pay the whole cost of it, limiting the aid of the State to those youths who, by distinguishing themselves in the lower schools, show that they deserve assistance in completing their education, thereby bringing fully into operation the principles expounded in the Educational Despatch of 1854?

“Yours very sincerely,

“Northbrook.”


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