Early Life of Lord Wellesley
Lord Wellesley was born in 1760 in Ireland, where his family was a part of the Ascendancy. He was educated at Harrow School and Eton College where he distinguished himself as a classical scholar and at Christ Church, Oxford. He is one of the few men known to have attended both Harrow and Eton.
Lord Wellesley in Politics
In 1781, he entered the Irish House of Lords as he was declared the second earl of Mornington after his father's death. He entered the House of Commons as member for Bere Alston in 1784 and later William Pitt the Younger appointed him as a Lord of the Treasury. Soon afterwards, he became a member of the Board of Control over Indian affairs. With the time he gained acquaintance with Oriental affairs and was also best known for his speeches in defense of Pitt's foreign policy.
He was a member of the Parliament for several years and the board of control from 1795. This enabled him to rule over India effectively after his acceptance of the office of Governor-General of India in 1797. At the age of 37 years he was appointed Governor General on 18th May 1798. His term of office for seven years introduced an important phase in the development of British power in India and his policy allowed him to remove all kinds of French influence from India and to make the British the paramount power of the subcontinent. He succeeded in his job by implementing wars as well as by peaceful annexations.
Work of Lord Wellesley In India
The Indian states and rulers who entered into Wellesley’s ‘Subsidiary Alliance System’ were Mysore, Hyderabad, Tanjore, Berar, Awadh, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, Macheri, Bundi and Peshwa. In the eyes of Lord Wellesley, India was a threat in the World War with France and he was a statesman who feared the conquests of Napoleon. The French Wars reopened trouble in India and in 1798 the French expedition to Egypt sped up the war in India. Almost 4,000 British troops were sent to India in late 1798 and the Persian Gulf was policed by the Royal Navy.
To prevent Tipu Sultan from allying with the French, Wellesley planned the destruction of Mysore. The main objective of Wellesley was to expand British rule in India and to extend the trade relationship of the East India Company. Wellesley reversed the policy of non-intervention and adopted the policy of ‘Subsidiary Alliance’. By this policy, the Indian powers were forced to come under British protection by suspending non - British European officers. It also enabled to maintain a contingent of British troops within their states and surrendering foreign affairs to the British. The internal freedom of the states was guaranteed and the company also promised to protect them against foreign attacks.
The Nizam of Hyderabad accepted the ‘Subsidiary Alliance’ and thus was peacefully turned into a subordinate ally of the British. The beginning of the Fourth Mysore War was the cause of the refusal of the alliance of Tipu Sultan of Mysore. In spite of brave efforts, Tipu was vanquished and a large portion of his dominions was annexed to the British territory. Moreover, Wellesley also protected a child of the old royal family who was dispossessed by Hydar Ali under the usual condition of the ‘Subsidiary Alliance’.
Lord Wellesley in a certain period realized that the British could not be dominant in India with the Marathas outside the subsidiary fold. Even the ‘Subsidiary Alliance’ was accepted by the Peshwa Baji Rao II by the treaty of Bassein. Though Baji Rao II accepted the treaty, the other Maratha leaders refused to accept it and this caused the Second Maratha War which Wellesley fought against them. After this war, Wellesley seized large portions of the territories of the Bhonsle, the Sindia and in the end the Holkar, and established British domination throughout the country. Moreover he also annexed Surat, Tanjore and Karnataka including some portion of the territories of the Nawab of Oudh.
Wellesley was an important figure who has contributed a lot in extending the British power in India. To ensure this, he took some necessary steps that showed his complete sensory mind. He concluded alliances with the weaker native rulers. The company made itself responsible for the defense of the state and gained control of the province's trade. He also conquered the whole of the Carnatic on the east coast and large areas around Mumbai on the west coast. Lord Wellesley was criticized for his aggressive policy in India, especially for his policy in Oudh. He was succeeded by Lord Minto.
In 1799, Lord Wellesley brought the ‘Censorship of Press Act’ to stop the French from publishing anything which could harm British in any way. This act brought all the newspapers under the Government scrutiny before their publication. This act was later extended in 1807 and covered all kinds of Press Publications, newspapers, magazines, books and Pamphlets. The rules were relaxed when Lord Hastings came into power.
Contributions of Lord Wellesley
At the time of his returning home, Wellesley left the British absolutely supreme in India. His reigning period proved to be a good administrator and his contribution in setting up the Fort William College to train the civil servants would be reckoned as one of his constructive works. Later the college became well known for the works done in Indian languages especially in Urdu, Sanskritand Persian and he was the one who made Sunday the official weekly holiday.