1902 Encyclopedia > 1st Marquis of Hastings

1st Marquis of Hastings
(Francis Rawdon-Hastings)
English soldier and politician

FIRST MARQUIS OF HASTINGS (FRANCIS RAWDON HASTINGS) (1754-1826), ranks among those governors-general of India who, completing the work of Clive and Warren Hastings, achieved the creation of the Indian empire of England. The services of Lord Hastings in this respect were special and important. He was both governor-general and commander-in-chief in India from 1813 till the end of 1822 ; during that period he carried two important wars, the Nepaulese and the Mahratta, to a successful issue; while adding to the territories of the East India Company, he in several respects altered and improved their policy ; and by the sagacity and at the same time the generosity of his own administration (in which he exhibited the true qualities of a Christian proconsul) he won reverence from the natives and left a great name in India.

Lord Hastings was in no way connected with Warren Hastings; his family name was Rawdon. His father, Sir John Rawdon of Moira in the county of Down, fourth baronet, was created Baron Bawdon of Moira, and after-wards Earl of Moira, in the Irish peerage. His mother was the Lady Elizabeth Hastings, daughter of the ninth earl of Huntingdon. Both his father and mother appear to have been persons of considerable ability and high cultivation. Lord Rawdon, as he was then called, having gone at an early age to the university of Oxford, joined the army in his seventeenth year as ensign in the 15th foot. His life henceforth was entirely spent in the service of his country, and may naturally be divided into four periods :_— from 1773 to 1782 he was engaged with much distinction in the American war; from 1783 to 1813 he held various high appointments at home, and took an active part in the business of the House of Lords ; from 1813 to 1823 was the period of his labours in India; after retiring from which, in the last years of his life (1824-1826), he was governor of Malta.

In America Lord Rawdon served at the battles of Bunker's Hill, Brooklyn, White Plains, Monmouth, and Camden, at the attacks on Forts Washington and Clinton, and at the siege of Charleston. In fact he was engaged in all the chief operations of the war. Perhaps his most noted achievements were the raising of a corps at Philadelphia, called the Irish Volunteers, who under him became famous for their fighting qualities, and the victory of Hobkirk Hill, which, when in command of only a small force, he gained by superior military skill and determination against an American corps d'armée. In 1782 he was invalided. The vessel in which he returned to England was captured and carried into Brest. This occasioned the loss of his papers and personal records of the war which would doubtless have been interesting. He was speedily released, and on his arrival in England was much honoured by George III., who created him an English peer (Baron Eawdon) in March 1783.

In 1793 Lord Bawdon succeeded his father as earl of Moira. In 179 4 he was sent with 10,000 men from Southampton to Ostend to reinforce the duke of York and the allies in Flanders. The march by which he effected a junction was considered extraordinary. In 1803 he was appointed commander-in-chief in Scotland, and in 1804 he married Flora Muir Campbell, countess of Loudon in her own right. He and Lady Loudon lived at Duddingston House near Edinburgh, where they were very popular. The opposition coming into power in 1806, Lord Moira, who had always voted with them, received the place of master general of the ordnance. He was now enabled to carry a philanthropic measure, of which from his first entry into the House of Lords he had been a great promoter, namely, the Debtor and Creditor Bill for relief of poor debtors. Ireland was another subject to which he had given particular attention : in 1797 there was published a Speech by Lord Moira on the Dreadful and Alarming Slate of Ireland. Lord Moira's sound judgment on public affairs, combined with his military reputation and the honourable uprightness of his character, won for him a high position among the statesmen of the day, and he gained an additional prestige from his intimate relations with the prince of Wales. On two occasions, in 1809 and again in 1812 after the assassination of Percival, there were negotiations for placing him at the head of affairs. As a further mark of the regent's regard Lord Moira received the order of the Garter, and in the same year was appointed governor-general and commander-in-chief of India. He landed at Calcutta, and assumed office in succession to Lord Minto in October 1813. He was now fifty-nine years of age. One of the chief questions which awaited him was that of relations with the Goorkha state of Nepaul. The Goorkhas, a brave and warlike little nation, failing to extend their conquests in the direction of China, had begun to encroach on territories held or protected by the East India Company ; especially they had seized the districts of Bootwul and Seoraj, in the northern part of Oudh, and when called upon to relinquish these, they deliberately elected (April 1814) to go to war rather than do so. Lord Moira, having travelled through the northern provinces and fully studied the question, declared war against Nepaul (November 1814). The enemy's frontier was 600 miles long, and Lord Moira, who directed the plan of the campaign, resolved to act offensively along the whole line. It was an anxious undertaking, because the native states of India were all watching the issue and waiting for any serious reverse to the English to join against them. At first all seemed to go badly, as the British officers too much despised the enemy, and the Sepoys were unaccustomed to mountain warfare, and thus alternate extremes of rashness and despondency were exhibited. But this rectified itself in time, especially through the achievements of General (afterwards Sir David) Ochterlony, who before the end of 1815 had taken all the Goorkha posts to the west, and early in 1816 was advancing victoriously within 50 miles of Katmandoo, the capital. The Goorkhas now made peace ; they abandoned the disputed districts, ceded some territory to the English, and agreed to receive a British resident. Ever since they have faithfully kept these terms ; the northern frontier of India has been securely fixed, and the Goorkhas have entirely kept aloof from the machinations of disaffected native states. For his masterly conduct of these affairs Lord Moira was created Marquis of Hastings in 1816.

He had now to deal with internal dangers. A treacherous combination of Mahratta powers was constantly threatening the continuance of British rule, under the guise of plausible assurances severally given by the peshwah, Sindia, Holkar, and other princes. At the same time the existence of the Pindharee state was not only dangerous to the English, as being a warlike power always ready to turn against them, but it was a scourge to India itself. In 1816, however, the Pindharees entered British territoryin the Northern Circars, where they destroyed 339 villages. On this, permission was obtained to act for their suppression. Before the end of 1817 the preparations of Lord Hastings were completed, when the peshwah suddenly broke into war, and the British were opposed at once to the Mahratta and Pindharee powers, estimated at 200,000 men and 500 guns. " The whole was utterly shattered in a brief campaign of four months (1817-1818). The peshwah's dominion had been annexed, and those of Sindia, Holkar, and the rajah of Berar lay at the mercy of the governor-general, and were saved only by his exceeding and honourable moderation. There was at last, after sixty years from the battle of Plassy, no question of the supremacy of British power in India, now more perfectly established and more effectively dominant than that of Aurungzebe." The Pindharees had ceased to exist, and peace and security had been substituted for misery and terror.

" It is a proud phrase to use," said Lord Hastings, " but it is a true one, that we have bestowed blessings upon millions. Nothing can be more delightful than the reports I receive of the sensibility manifested by the inhabitants to this change in their circumstances. The smallest detachment of our troops cannot pass through that district without meeting everywhere eager and exulting gratulations, the tone of which proves them to come from glowing hearts. Multitudes of people have, even in this short interval, come from the hills and fastnesses in which they had sought refuge for years, and have reoecupied their ancient deserted villages. The plough-share is again in every quarter turning up a soil which had for many seasons never been stirred, except by the hoofs of predatory cavalry."

While the natives of India appreciated the results of Lord Hastings's achievements, the court of directors grumbled at his having extended the British territory. They also disliked and opposed his measures for introducing education among the natives and his encouraging the freedom of the press. Posterity has, however, vindicated the policy of Lord Hastings in all respects. In 1819 he obtained the cession by purchase of the island of Singapore. In finance his administration was very successful, as not-withstanding the expenses of his wars he showed an annual surplus of two millions sterling. He laboured much at law reform, and he succeeded in greatly raising the status and character of the civil service of India. Lord and Lady Hastings by their stately and yet genial manners, and by their warm encouragement of literature and science, gave a high tone to the society of Calcutta. And he was the first governor-general to exhibit a personal interest in the exertions of the missionaries. Brilliant and beneficent as his career had been, Lord Hastings did not escape, any more than Clive, Warren Hastings, or Lord Wellesley, the assaults of unjust detraction. His last years of office were embittered by the discussions on a matter very notorious at the time, namely, the affairs of the banking-house of W. Palmer and Company. The whole affair was mixed up with insinuations against Lord Hastings, especially charging him with having been actuated by favouritism towards one of the partners in the firm. From imputations which were inconsistent with his whole character he has subsequently been exonerated. But while smarting under them he tendered his resignation in 1821, though he did not leave India till January 1823. He was much exhausted by the arduous and almost incredible labours which for more than nine years he had sustained. Among his characteristics it is mentioned that " his ample fortune absolutely sank under the benevolence of his nature;" and, so far from having enriched himself in the appointment of governor-general, he returned to England in circumstances which obliged him still to seek public employment. In 1824 he received the comparatively small post of governor of Malta, in which island he introduced many reforms and endeared himself to the inhabitants. He died in 1826, leaving a request that his right hand should be cut off and preserved till the death of the marchioness of Hastings, and then interred in her coffin.

No " Life " of the marquis of Hastings has appeared, but a diary of his first tours in India, written for his children, has been published, and affords interesting indications of his character. For further particulars of his career see the Asiatic Journal for November 1823, and the Annual Biography and Obituary for 1828; and for details of his Indian administration see Prinsep's work cited above, Wilson's continuation of Mill's History of India, and other Indian histories. (A. GR.)


517-1 For the interesting details of this campaign, as well as of the war in Nepaul, see Prinsep's History of the Political and Military Transactions in India, during the administration of the Marquis of Hastings.

517-2 Meadows Tavlor's Student's Manual of the History of India, p. 595.

517-3 Reply to Address of Inhabitants of Calcutta ; see Asiatic Journal, February 1819.

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