«ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: TYRANT! TIPU SULTAN AND THE RECONCEPTION OF BRITISH IMPERIAL IDENTITY, 1780-1800 Michael Soracoe, Doctor of ...»
The most common early form in which these claims of untrustworthy behavior manifested themselves was in the realm of surrender agreements, which Tipu was charged with breaking on multiple occasions. This initial focus on surrenders was likely a result of the attention that was placed on the British captives during the Second Mysore War and throughout the rest of the 1780s. It was also a way to divert some of the public's focus away from the military disasters suffered by the Company at the hands of Tipu, as some of the shock of defeat could be blamed on Tipu's failure to adhere to honorable surrender agreements. At the Battle of Pollilur, for example, William Thomson claimed that Haider and Tipu's soldiers had "rushed upon them in the most savage and brutal manner" once the Company forces had laid down their arms as part of a surrender agreement.61 General Mathews was also said to have been captured along with his army at Bednur after they agreed to surrender the city and leave with all of the honors of war.62 In both cases, the captivity of the British men in Tipu's dungeons for the remainder of the conflict was blamed at least in part upon Tipu's failure to adhere to a previously agreed upon battlefield arrangement. This suggested that it was Tipu's faithlessness, and not the military incompetence of the East India Company, which was responsible for the disasters suffered during the war.
Later in the Second Mysore War, Tipu was again charged with breaking the terms of the surrender of the British garrison in the city of Mangalore. Perhaps seeking a
Officer of Colonel Baillie’s Detachment [William Thomson]. Memoirs of the Late War in Asia. (1789):
Captain Henry Oakes. An Authentic Narrative of the Treatment of the English who were Taken Prisoners… by Tippoo Sahib (London: Printed for G. Kearsley, 1785) rationale for yet another humiliating defeat, an official correspondence within the East India Company written by Charles Crommelin charged Tipu with failing to adhere to the cessation of hostilities. "I now enclose you Copies and Extracts of sundry Letters...
wherein they set forth the Conduct of Tippoo's Officers towards them, since the Cessation of Arms... this Conduct plainly shews that the Enemy [Tipu] means to pay little or no regard to the Cessation."63 Treachery on the part of Tipu made for a convenient excuse covering up the Company's own failures; the surrender of Mangalore could be portrayed as due to the machinations of a despotic ruler, rather than due to a failure of military logistics. Indeed, this same source described the exemplary conduct of the Company's officers and "the Bravery they have shewn on all Occasions", contrasting this behavior to the actions of Tipu.64 This comparison between the virtues of the British and the vices of the Sultan would become much more common during the Third and Fourth Mysore Wars.
However, there was little factual evidence to support these claims of foul play on the part of Tipu. Eyewitness accounts of the surrender at Mangalore painted a very different picture of Tipu's behavior, just as the earlier circumstances surrounding the capture of General Mathews and his men indicated that Tipu was not a serial liar, as he was often portrayed.65 Colonel Charles Morgan wrote, "After the Cessation Tippoo received Major Campbell very honorably and paid him and his Garrison many Compliments on their noble Defence. Tippoo it is said kept very much out of the way and the chief use he made of the French was in guarding the Trenches at Night when he could Charles Crommelin to Governor-General and Council 4 October 1783 (p.53-68) IOR/H/187 Ibid, 53-68 New Annual Register 1784. Quoted in A Vindication of the Conduct of the English Forces, Employed in the Late War, Under the Command of Brigadier General Mathews, Against the Nabob Tippoo Sultan (London: Logographic Press, 1787) See Chapter 2.
not depend on his own Men."66 John Wolseley's extensive diary of the siege speaks of Tipu in generally positive language, as the capitulation terms allowed the surviving soldiers to leave the fort unmolested, as well as provide ships and food for them to leave his territory. Wolseley also referred to Tipu as "His Highness" and used terms of respect in accordance with Tipu's status.67 The General Evening Post of London relayed an account of the surrender at Mangalore from sources in India, one in which General Macleod was received by Tipu "with the utmost respect and attention." Tipu asked the general to travel with him to his capital, where they would enter into peace negotiations, and Tipu "gave him his most solemn assurances that it was the desire of his heart to have the friendship of the English. He engaged to release all the English officers, his prisoners." The article concluded by stating that Tipu showed "throughout the whole of the interview, and in his subsequent behavior, his disposition to peace, so that we may reasonably indulge the belief, that at this time we are entirely at peace in India."68 The portrayal of Tipu in this account was completely different from the tone exhibited by Crommelin above. There existed no indication that Tipu was a faithless and despotic sovereign who had to be stopped, and nothing to suggest that Tipu was anything other than a typical Indian ruler. The descriptions of Tipu in the newspaper press covering the later Mysore Wars would have an entirely different viewpoint, inevitably mentioning the depredations of the Sultan together with his supposed untrustworthiness.
This same account of the surrender terms at Mangalore was reprinted in many other Colonel Charles Morgan to Governor-General and Council 17 September 1783 (p.819-832) IOR/H/186 p.
825-26 John Rogerson Wolseley. An Account of the Gallant Defence made at Mangalore in the East Indies;
Against the United Efforts of the French and the Nabob Tippo Sultan… (London: Printed for C. Bathurst, 1786): 136-37 General Evening Post (London, England) 12 February 1784, Issue 7796 newspapers, including provincial newspapers in Bath, Bristol, and Gloucester, indicating that this non-tyrannical perception of Tipu Sultan would have had wide currency at the time. At this point in 1784, the vilification of Tipu had only a limited sway over popular representations in print culture.
Much of the belief that Tipu was an untrustworthy ruler derived from the status of the British prisoners captured during the Second Mysore War. Although nearly all of the prisoners taken by Tipu during the war were released in 1784 after the signing of the Treaty of Mangalore, there were some 200-300 individuals of European descent who were not set free by Tipu. These were most likely the "European Musselmen" who had converted to Islam and entered into the military service of Tipu as officers and technical advisors for his army.69 However, the popular perception of these individuals both within the Company and in the British metropole was that Tipu had broken his word and failed to release all of his European prisoners. Tipu was therefore guilty of violating the Treaty of Mangalore, proving his faithless and duplicitous character as a true Oriental despot.
This was a common refrain amongst the Anglo-Indian newspapers in the years leading up to the Third Mysore War, who saw the conflict when it did arrive as little more than payback for the treatment of British prisoners captured during the previous war.
The Calcutta Chronicle and General Advertiser expounded at length on the horrible atrocities committed by Tipu, portraying him as "a tyrant, whose savage barbarity, shall for ever blazon on the records of history, and exhibit his name, as the first, the most odious, and the most detestable among mankind!"70 With Tipu's character established, the paper then went on to proclaim that the moment had arrived for the Sultan to receive his John Baillie to his Father 14 June 1784 (p. 153-79) Account of his capture and captivity. IOR/H/223 p.
178-79. This is covered in more detail in Chapter 2.
Calcutta Chronicle and General Advertiser (Calcutta, India) 4 February 1790, Issue 211 just desserts for his earlier treatment of the British prisoners: "The time is now at hand, when we hope to see the tyrant receiving the reward of his cruelties. Our most gracious sovereign, recovered and restored to his people. The British empire, great, powerful, authoritative, and at peace…. Officers and men, ardent to convince the world that the honor of Britons cannot be insulted with impunity."71 The duplicitous nature of the Sultan, and his failure to release all of the Europeans within his service, provided one of the strongest motivations for the Company's return to war in 1789.
Once the conflict had begun, Cornwallis made frequent mention of the untrustworthy nature of Tipu during his correspondences with the Sultan. Writing again in reference to a violated surrender agreement, Cornwallis charged, "But with what confidence can a negotiation be carried on with a man, who not only violates treaties of peace, but also disregards the faith of Capitulation during war.."72 Cornwallis repeatedly insisted that Tipu was guilty of acting in despotic fashion, by refusing to adhere to terms of surrender. In this particular case at the city of Coimbator, it was agreed that the British garrison would be allowed to march out with their private property unmolested, but instead Cornwallis claimed that they were "detained in the Pettah [jail] of Coimbetoor, and after much correspondence had passed between you [Tipu], and Kummer ud Dien Khan, they were at the end of thirteen days, sent prisoners to Seringapatnam by your orders."73 These were repetitions of the same claims made about Pollilur, Mangalore, and General Mathews in the previous war, once again suggesting the lack of trust that could be placed in Tipu. The presence of British captives in Tipu's hands remained a sign of the Sultan's faithless nature.
Ibid Cornwallis to Tippoo Sultaun 16 January 1792 (p. 289-90) IOR/H/252 p. 289 Cornwallis to Tippoo Sultaun 31 January 1792 (p. 290-92) IOR/H/252 p. 290-91 During the negotiations surrounding the 1792 Treaty of Seringapatam, Cornwallis would make use of Tipu's duplicitous reputation to advance the Company's agenda. As part of the peace treaty to secure the peace, Cornwallis had written that Tipu must offer up two of his own sons as hostages to the Company. Having taken such a drastic and unorthodox means of securing the peace, Cornwallis had to justify his actions to the British public at home, if he were to avoid being labeled himself as a despotic nabob. The simplest means was to vilify the character of Tipu Sultan, shifting blame for the young hostage princes back onto their own father. John Kennaway, one of the British negotiators of the treaty, wrote about "how extremely repugnant it was to Lord Cornwallis' feelings as a father to be under the necessity of strictly adhering to it," referring to the treaty article about the hostage princes, however "he could not relax without wilfully sacrificing his duty to the Publick and the State he served."74 In this particular incidence, Cornwallis appealed to the higher necessity of keeping the peace, as a means of shifting focus away from the actual event in question. Cornwallis suggested that he had been forced into the unorthodox measure of taking children as hostages due to the untrustworthy nature of Tipu. It was only the complete falsity of Tipu's nature, and his inability to adhere to past treaties, which had caused Cornwallis to adopt such an unusual measure.
In his lengthy letter to the Directors explaining the conclusion of the war, Cornwallis justified himself by again attacking Tipu's personality. He stated that he was in possession of Tipu's two sons as hostages as well as a great sum of money, which would have been sufficient pledge for any other man other than the Sultan. However, John Kennaway to Cornwallis 24 May 1792, Negotiations with Tipu Sultan IOR/H/254 22 February 1792 p. 53 "faithless and violent as Tippoo's character was known to be," Cornwallis judged the extraordinary measure of taking children hostage necessary to ensure the peace. 75 Tipu's nature as a despotic ruler, his reputation for constant lying and evasion, served as the rationale for Cornwallis' abduction of the Sultan's two young sons. The rest of the letter would go on to describe how this war "into which we were forced by every consideration of good faith and sound policy," had resulted in a series of financial and material benefits: "in securing [territorial] acquisitions to ourselves, which... add considerably to your revenues, and promise to open sources of commerce... that may be looked upon as of great importance both to the Company and to the nation."76 It is noteworthy that Travancore, the supposed cause of the war, was never mentioned even a single time by Cornwallis in this very lengthy letter back to the Directors.
This provided a classic expression of the Tipu Legend, with Cornwallis first insisting that Tipu’s character made him completely untrustworthy, then going on to discuss how the Company was “forced” into war against him, resulting in the gain of money and resources that just coincidentally happened to have been conquered from Mysore. Cornwallis knew well that playing up the tyrannical nature of Tipu would provide a carte blanche for the Company's expansionistic drive in southern India.
Cornwallis was engaging in an eighteenth century version of victimization, transferring responsibility for guilt onto the body of the offended party. This allowed Cornwallis to keep his own reputation intact, continuing to be perceived in popular culture as an incorruptible and moral administrator, while shifting all of the blame for the war onto the increasingly villainized Tipu Sultan. This was not mere chance or happenstance; without Cornwallis to Directors, Conclusion of Treaty with Tipu Sultan 5 April 1792 (p. 91-107) IOR/H/251 p.
Ibid the presence of Tipu to serve as a foil for Cornwallis, the Governor General would have been hard pressed to avoid the charge of nabobery for his actions.