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An Important Autograph Letter concerning Warren Hastings and the Treaty of Banaras

JOHNSTONE, GEORGE & EAST INDIA COMPANY

  • Published: 17 September, 1774 , 2pp.
Autograph letter, 2pp., folded, signed "G. Johnstone" to Sir David Dundas, contemporary ink stain not affecting text, marginal toning, 17 September, 1774 The autograph letter from George Johnstone, the Director of the East India Company, regarding George Vansittart (1745-1825) "quitting the service of the East India Company". The letter goes on to discuss Warren Hastings, the Treaty of Banaras and reformations. Beginning with a politically motivated embezzlement: "You will now judge what reformations are likely to take place under such a General who in a very inferior station cut out with 100,000£ and endeavoured to support evidence on the reform action attempted by General Claverings besides furthering by his own confession in a manner so very unworthy a public officer…". General Clavering was appointed Commander in Chief in India in 1774, shortly after Warren Hastings was appointed Governor General. By the 1770s Hastings had already made many political enemies in the East India Company. The letter goes on to state: "I am not surprised that Mr. Hastings and his friends should wish for a success for the only person who was privy to the Treaty at Banaras for exterpating the Rohilla… but why Pitt should adopt him I shall never wonder more." The Treaties of Banaras of 1773 was an agreement regulating relations between the British Government of Bengal and the ruler of the Muslim state of Oudh, modern day Ayodya. Warren Hastings ceded Allahabad and Kora to the states ruler and promised to support him against the menacing Afghan Rohillas in return for cash payments. This move, designed to strengthen Oudh as a buffer state between Bengal and the Marathas, led to the Rohilla War of 1774, which later became a major factor in Hastings's impeachment (1788–95). The mention of Pitt is referring to Prime Minister William Pitt's Regulating Act of 1773. The Act was intended to overhaul the management of the East India Company's rule in India. Although it was not a long term solution to the concerns over the company's affairs, it marked the first step towards parliamentary control over the company and centralised administration in India. George Johnson was an officer of the Royal Navy who served during the War of Austrian Succession, the Seven Years War and the American War of Independence, rising for a time to the position of Commodore of a squadron. Adaptable in his career, Johnson also served as a member of Parliament, a member of the Carlisle Peace Commission, a Director of the East India Company and the first Governor of West Florida from 1763 until 1767. Early in his service he revealed both the positive and negative aspects of his character. He was praised for his bravery when confronting the enemy but censured for disobedience. He rose through the ranks to his own commands and had some success with small cruisers against privateers. Throughout his life he rotated between his political career and his service in the Royal Navy. He became a director of the East India Company towards the end of his life, before illness forced him to retire from business and politics shortly before his death in 1787. An important letter revealing the Director of the East India Company's concern over the actions of Warren Hastings.

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