The reputation of Warren Hastings. the Governor-General' India fron 1772 to 1785. has passed through tremendous vicissitudes. Thousands of educated persons both in England and India are filled with indignation when they read of his atrocious acts. the judicial murder of Nand Kumar, the extermination of the Rohillas and the plunder of the Begums. Sir John Strachey, who passed several years of his Indian Civil Service in the Province of Rohilkhand had the chance of making personal investigations against the worst of Hastings crimes, i.e. the ex-termination of the Rohillas. He writes in this book, that to his utter surprise he found that the terrible accusations levelled against him by the writers and historians like Burke, Mill and Macaulay were misrepresentations and garbling of documents, suppressing the truth. Hastings had a high degree of the faculty of making himself beloved by the people he governed. He gave to the people of Bengal within their memory, security for their lives and property. And for the first time, he gave them means of obtaining justice against their oppressors. Hastings was acquitted upon every charge in the end.
Sir John Strachey (1823-1907) entered the Bengal Civil Service in 1842 and served in the North-Western Provinces, occupying a number of important positions.
I CANNOT more clearly explain the reasons for which this history has been written than by making the following quotation from a book of my own, published three years ago :—
Sir Henry Maine has pointed out with admirable truth the consequences in India of the fact that English Classical literature towards the end of the last century was " saturated with party politics."
" This," he says, " would have been a less serious fact if, at this epoch, one chief topic of the great writers and rhetoricians, of Burke and Sheridan, of Fox and Francis, had not been India itself. I have no doubt that the view of Indian government taken at the end of the century by Englishmen whose works and speeches are held to be models of English style has had deep effect on the mind of the educated Indian of this day. We are only now be-ginning to see how excessively inaccurate were their statements of fact and how one-sided were their judgments .
" These remarks of Sir Henry Maine point to what I have long believed to be a serious misfortune to our Indian Government—the non-existence of any history of British India, which is trustworthy and complete in its facts, and which at the same time possesses the essential quality of literary excellence. Since the earlier part of the present century the old stories of the crimes by which the establishment of our power in India was attended have been passed on from one author to another. A few students know that for the most part these stories are false, and (to use the words of Sir Alfred Lyall) that " the hardihood and endurance of the men who won for England an empire were equalled only by the general justice and patience with which they pacified and administered it." These calumnies have caused and still are causing no little mischief both in England and in India. Thousands of excellent people are filled with righteous indignation when they read of the atrocious acts of Clive and Hastings, the judicial murder of Nandkumar, the extermination of the Rohillas, the plunder of the Begums. No suspicion of the truth reaches them that these horrors never occurred, and the fear can hardly be repressed that there may be some foundation even now for the charges of Indian misgovernment and oppression. Disparagement of their own countrymen has always been one of the common failings of unwise Englishmen, those " birds of evil presage who at all times have grated our ears with their melancholy song." They find in the supposed crimes of the founders of our Indian Empire an unfailing source of invective and obloquy. This false history is systematically taught by ourselves, and believed by the educated natives of India to be true. It is impossible that this should not have a serious effect on their feelings towards their English rulers.
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