Governor General of Bengal: Cornwallis (1785-1793)

In the previous post we have read about First Goovernor General of Bengal: Warren Hastings. In the reign of Warren Hastings, Marathas and EIC concluded Treaty of Salbai and Treaty of Purandhara. We will first discuss these two treaties and will move towards Lord Cornwallis.

Treaty of Purandhara and Salbai

In 1775, Raghunath Rao ‘Raghoba’ was the Peshwa of Marathas. So, he did Treaty of Surat with the Governor of Bombay Presidency. But, as from the Regulating Act of 1773, the Bombay and Madras presidencies became subsidiary to the Bengal Presidency. So, the Governor General of Bengal ie Warren Hastings rejected the Treaty of Surat, as he did not believe Raghunath Rao ‘Raghoba’.

Treaty of Salbai, 1782
Treaty of Salbai, 1782

Simultaneously, Warren Hastings made a peace agreement by Treaty of Purandhara, 1776. But, at this time a French Contingent arrived in Poona. So, this alarmed Warren Hastings that Marathas are allying with French. So, Warren Hastings broke the Treaty of Purandhara. This concluded in the First-Anglo Maratha war.

Treaty of Purandhara
Treaty of Purandhara

This war continued till 1780 and in this year East India Company (EIC) opened a new front with Haider Ali in Mysore. So, this became trouble for East India Company. No one can fight on double front. So, they took the help of one of Maratha Confederacy ie Scindia (Mahadji Scindia). This was Treaty of Salbai, concluded in 1782.

This treaty gave peace of 20 years to the Britishers. So, Britishers utilised it in consolidating their position in Bengal and eliminating their enemy in Mysore. The perfection to the attempts of Warren Hastings was given by Lord Cornwallis.

Cornwallis as Governor-General of Bengal

He came to India after the coming of Act of 1781. By this act, he acquired Veto Power as a Governor General. Cornwallis, after seeing the agricultural economy of India went for land settlement. In which, the important settlement was Permanent Settlement.

Cornwallis: Permanent Settlement

Cornwallis: Permanent Settlement
Cornwallis: Permanent Settlement

In 1793, Cornwallis came out with Permanent Settlement with the following features.

  • Zamindars became the landowner.
  • He fixed rent as 10/11th to the EIC and 1/11 to the Zamindars.
  • Land revenue was fixed (approximately 26500000 was the collection of 1790-91).
Permanent Settlement Scenario
Permanent Settlement Scenario

All these features were forever that is why it was Permanent Settlement. Permanent Settlement was the crucial step of Cornwallis as it became helpful to the company. Because of the following reasons,

  • On the economic grounds, Cornwallis provided a stable and fixed source of income.
  • Politically, it created a powerful local support, as Zamindars became loyalists of the EIC. It was very similar like Rajput Policy of Akbar.
  • On the administrative grounds, EIC got rid of the burden to collect the revenue from the people.

Now, the immediate tension of EIC got solved. But for a long-term, the Permanent Settlement led to the bad condition of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. Because it created the problem for the landless labourers. Along with this, the extreme poverty in this area is because of this settlement. At present time root cause of Naxalism in India is Permanent Settlement.

Cornwallis Code

Principle of Separation of Power
Principle of Separation of Power

The administration of the EIC in Bengal was facing disorder, which was the problem of the people and government. So, in this scenario, Cornwallis established administrative structure on the principle of separation of powers. For example,

  • District Collector became the head to collect revenue.
  • District Judge was appointed to the judiciary.
  • Established Modern Police department. Under it, districts divided into a number of Thanas. The head of Thanas was Darogas.

Europeanisation of Indian Services

Cornwallis was of the opinion that all the top posts in the administration should be held by the Europeans. Although he made the excuse that every native of Hindustan is corrupt. But to check corruption among English he increased the salary of the English officers.

He also made the provision of commission for 1%. Behind this, the real objective was to strengthen the hold of EIC on India. Cornwallis was successful in strengthening the base for EIC. So, the next important man came in India after Cornwallis was Wellesley.

We will read about the Wellesley and conquest of Mysore in the next coming post.

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