Wellesley, Lord

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Lord Wellesley

Wellesley, Lord (1760-1842) Governor General of India from 1798-1805. Born on 20 June 1760, Richard Colley Wellesley was educated at Harrow, Eton and Christchurch, Oxford. He was well versed in classical languages. A member of the Parliament for several years and of the board of control from 1795, he was appointed Governor General on 18 May 1798 at the age of thirty-seven. His seven years tenure is an important period in the development of British power in India. His policy was to remove all kinds of French influence from India and to make the British the paramount power of the subcontinent, which he implemented through wars as well as by peaceful annexations.

He reversed the policy of non-intervention and adopted the policy of Subsidiary Alliance by which the Indian powers were forced to come under British protection by suspending non - British European officers, maintaining a contingent of British troops within their states and surrendering foreign affairs to the British. The company instead guaranteed internal freedom of the states and promised to protect them against foreign attacks. The Nizam of Hydarabad, greatly reduced by the Marathas, accepted Subsidiary Alliance and thus was peacefully turned into a subordinate ally of the British.  

Tipu Sultan of Mysore refused to accept it and Wellesley fought against him the Fourth Mysore War. Tipu stubbornly resisted but failed. A large portion of his dominions was annexed to the British territory and Wellesley also protected a child of the old royal family which was dispossessed by Hydar Ali under the usual condition of Subsidiary Alliance.

Wellesley felt that the British could not be paramount in India with the Marthas outside the subsidiary fold. The Peshwa Baji Rao II, after some hesitation, accepted the Subsidiary Alliance by the treaty of Bassein.

But when the other Maratha leaders refused to accept it Wellesley fought against them the Second Maratha War by which he annexed to the British Indian Empire the large portions of the territories of the Bhosle, the Sindia and in the end the Holkar, and thus established British domination throughout the country. He also annexed one after another, Surat, Tanjore and Karnatak. On grounds of misgovernment he forced the nawab of Oudh to surrender a portion of his territories. The nawab was also urged to bring reforms in his administration. But his policy for further aggressions and annexations embarrassed the home authorities and be was recalled in 1805.

Wellesley left the British absolutely supreme in India at the time of his returning home. He was also a good administrator; he established the fort william college to train the civil servants. The college later became famous for the works done in Indian languages specially in Urdu, Sanskrit and Persian. He made Sunday the official weekly holiday. After retirement he was criticised for his aggressive policy in India, specially for his policy in Oudh. Wellesley died on 26 September 1842. [KM Mohsin]