BACKGROUND OF THE IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, THE FIRST GOVERNOR GENERAL OF BENGAL IN INDIA
The IMPEACHMENT OF WARREN HASTINGS, the first Governor General of Bengal in India, started after his retirement in January 1785 . After his retirement he shifted to England in June 1785 . Charges against him was that of corruption , misuse of his high offices in India and mismanagement while running the Government in the Presidency of Calcutta .The prosecutor in the House of Common for the IMPEACHMENT was not other than the Member of Parliament ( MP ) Edmund Burk . The debate included the role of the British East India Company and the expanding empire in India . It further included the issue of the interest of the Colonizer VS the sovereignty based on the recognition of the rights of the Colonized. The former was represented by Warren Hastings and the latter by Edmund Burk, the Hon’ble MP of the House of Common.
Edmund Burk called Hastings ‘ a weasel and a rat ‘ , ‘ a fraudulent bullock- contractor ‘ and ‘ a captain-general of inequity ‘. Historian like Percival Spear in his book ” Oxford History of India ” has written that ” The achievement of Hastings is an established fact ; his character remains something of an enigma. ” The trial began on February 13 , 1788 in the Westminster Hall . The articles of IMPEACHMENT were twenty in numbers . It took, at least, two days to finish reading articles of charge in House by Edmund Burk. It was the longest trial of IMPEACHMENT the world had ever experienced as it went on for not less than seven years. It was concluded on April 23 , 1795 with Hastings being acquitted of all the changes of Articles of IMPEACHMENT . At last, in the voting the highest minorities were recorded in the case related to the rulers of Benares and Oudh . It was defeated by minorities of 23 to 6 .
THE ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT
Warren Hastings was charged with the following charges ; a. violation of treaties made with the Nawab of Oudh , b. unnecessarily interfering in his internal affairs , c. compelling the Nawab to maintain excessive number of troops , d. about oppression of the Raja of Banaras , e. arbitrary settlement of the land revenues of Bengal , f. the removal of the treasury from Murshidabad to Calcutta , g. fraudulent dealings in contracts , and h. the acceptance of presents and bribes etc. However, in 1791 it was decided to drop all the articles of charge except those dealing with the Nawab of Oudh and the Raja of Banaras and fraudulent contracts and bribes taken by him .
The fresh treaty in May 1775 with Asaf-ud-daula , the new Nawab of Oudh, according to which Banaras was to be transferred to the Company , was compelling and objectionable for both- the Nawab of Oudh and the Raja of Banaras, Chait Singh . Now Raja Chait Singh became a vassal of the Company and he had to pay Rs. 22 lakhs to the Company annually . However, financial stringency due to continous war & troops deployment in new annexed territories , compelled Warren Hastings to demand for Rs. 5 lakhs further from Chait Singh in 1778 which was repeated in 1779 & 1780 . The Raja Chait Singh apologized and procrastinated before Hastings but of no avail . Warren Hastings, now, became so irritated from Chait Singh’s behavior that he wanted to punish and plundered the latter by imposing a fine of Rs 50 lakhs . So, Warren Hastings personally proceeded to Banaras to punish him and confiscate all his possessions. Raja Chait Singh received the Governor General at Buxur with all the formalities and placed his turban on his feet. But of no avail. Raja Chait Singh was dethroned and arrested and his nephew Mahip Narayan, though a minor, was declared Raja of Banaras with an annual payment of Rs. 40 lakhs instead of Rs. 22 lakhs . Now, Raja Chait Singh was only a pensioner of the Company .
Failed to get any things extra from Banaras, he turned towards Oudh . The Nawab of Oudh owed Rs. 15 lakhs for the subsidiary forces stationed in Oudh against the wishes of Nawab. The Nawab also wanted to have possession of the treasure of Begums of Oudh. But he was denied by the Authorities at Calcutta except a sum of £ 560000 was allowed on the guarantee of the Calcutta Council with this condition that no further demands would be made from Begums . Such a situation was very severe for the Nawab of Oudh . He always felt exploited and suppressed . Such a mental coercion was unparallel in history when the Nawab was goaded for Rs. 105 lakhs for his reluctance .
Warren Hastings was virtually ruined after the IMPEACHMENT. He was left with debt of £70000 on his head . His defence lawyer Richard Shaw built his Mansion Casino House on Hern Hill partially out of his legal fee from Hastings . Meanwhile, Hastings appealed to the British Government for financial assistance . And eventually he was compensated by the British East India Company with a loan of £ 50000 and a pension of £ 4000 per annum . His aspirations to get back his ancestral house of Daylesford at Gloucestersire remained unfulfilled . One should know that he had lost this house in previous generation not to be retain back .
Thus , the IMPEACHMENT proceedings against Warren Hastings remained painful for him and his generation of people . He was acquitted at last to spend the rest of his life miserably . But he remained expert on Indian affairs undoubtedly . When in 1812 he was invited to give testimony on Indian affairs he delivered it and when he finished his speech all the members of the House , except a few from Royal Families , stood up in his honour in an unprecedented manner. What a life he lived in which he was followed by both- affluency and misery …..etc.
NOTE : THE SOURCES OF THE BLOG IS TEXT BOOKS…..ARBIND KUMAR , THE BLOGGER .