British : Warren Hastings

Exact Match
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Hastings was much more successful in his commercial reforms. The dastaks or free passes for the private trade of the Company's servants were finally abolished in 1773. Duties on all goods except the monopoly articles of salt, betelnut, and tobacco were lowered to a uniform rate of two and a half per cent and the flow of trade stimulated by the limitation of customs houses to five main centers. The next theme of Hastings's time was his struggles with his Council.

These were precipitated by the passing of the Regulating Act in 1773, which not only made Hastings Governor-Gcncral with supervisory authority over Madras and Bombay but named three members of a Council of four from the public men of England of whom at least one, Philip Francis, thought that he would make a much better Governor-General than Hastings himself.

The object of Hastings's policy was the simple one of maintaining the existing Bengal dominion intact and avoiding entanglements with Indian powers. The Company's primary object was still trade and trade required peace. Hastings's first venture was to lend a brigade to enable the ruler of Oudh to subdue in 1774 the unruly Rohillas to the west of his dominions. The object was to protect the buffer state of Oudh from Maratha attack; the method laid Hastings open to the charge that he was interfering in the affairs of an Indian state.

His next problem was the Marathas and for this he had to thank the Bombay's highly independent British government. The Maratha power was now reviving after the catastrophe of Panipat. But in 1772 the promising young Peshwa died and the Poona government was plunged into a series of succession struggles. In 1774 the Peshwa's brother was murdered with the connivance of his uncle, Raghunath Rao who was, however, driven away by a party supporting the Peshwa's posthumous son. Bombay supported Raghunath and was overruled by Hastings who was in turn overruled by the Directors of the British council. They capped their former censures of interference in weak states by now authorizing interference in a strong one. Before a force from Bengal could reach Bombay after a brilliant march across India the Bombay army had been trapped and forced to surrender on its way to Poona at Wadgaon in 1779. The war dragged on for three more years until Hastings, having detached the ablest chief Schindia by his diplomacy, was able to make peace at Salbai in 1782.

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