«ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: TYRANT! TIPU SULTAN AND THE RECONCEPTION OF BRITISH IMPERIAL IDENTITY, 1780-1800 Michael Soracoe, Doctor of ...»
Calcutta Chronicle and General Advertiser (Calcutta, India) 30 April 1789, Issue 171 Minute of Mr. Farmer 27 May 1792 "Account Current of the Vettate Naddo Country" (p. 43-55) IOR/H/585 p. 46-47 Lieutenant Roderick Mackenzie. A Sketch of the War with Tippoo Sultaun Vol. 2 (Calcutta: Unknown printer, 1793; London: Imported and sold by J. Sewell, 1799): 203-04 These stories provided an implicit justification for the war against Tipu, to remove the tyrant from power, and also for the annexation of territory afterwards, with the Company providing a superior and enlightened mode of governance. They expanded the cruel treatment of the British prisoners from the previous war, and applied the same kind of horrific description to an entire people under Tipu’s rule. The Public Advertiser stated this explicitly in an article from 1791, writing how the amongst the high-caste Hindu Nairs of the Malabar Coast, “the most intelligent and best informed people think there can be no doubt of their continuing firm to their alliance [with Cornwallis] against the tyrant.”93 The Oriental Repertory took up the same argument, linking together persecution of the Nairs by Tipu with an extension of Company rule in India.
Due to this portrayal of Tipu as a tyrannical Oriental despot, many British writers who sympathized with the East India Company argued that the people of Mysore would be eager to throw off Tipu’s barbaric rule. These accounts supported the belief that the Third Mysore War would be a war of liberation to overthrow an unpopular monarch, and presumably pave the way for a smooth Company takeover thereafter. The Calcutta Gazette surmised as far back as 1786 that “the people on the Malabar Coast feel more than ever the oppressive tyranny that mark their government, and groan under the yoke with impatience to throw it off; they will certainly embrace the first favourable opportunity to effect this purpose.”96 The Calcutta Chronicle confidently predicted in 1790 that the war would be speedily won for the same reason, as Tipu’s populace rose up against his rule: "It is well known that Tippoo is obeyed more through fear, than personal attachment, even by those near his person... many of his Mysorean subjects will shake off his yoke as soon as the British army approaches to his capital, and throw themselves on a power from whom they have every reason to expect lenity, protection, and justice."97 This was another variation on the war of liberation ideal, with the Company soldiers enthusiastically welcomed by the people of Mysore, and Tipu’s army disintegrating before them because he enforced his rule solely through fear. With the London newspapers carrying reports from India detailing how Tipu mutilated his subjects by cutting off their arms and legs, this did not appear to be an unreasonable conjecture.98 Calcutta Gazette or Oriental Advertiser (Calcutta, India) 8 June 1786, Issue 119 Calcutta Chronicle and General Advertiser (Calcutta, India) 16 December 1790, Issue 256 London Chronicle (London, England) 24 December 1789, Issue 5210 Another London newspaper editorialized in 1790 that it hoped Cornwallis "will not enter into any treaty or compromise with Tippoo Saib. The total extermination of this barbarous Usurper of the Throne of Mysore can alone secure permanent peace to the Carnatic." Afterwards, it continued, the restoration of the pre-Haider ruling family of Mysore would ensure the goodwill of the "oppressed and deluded people" towards the British.99 This was one of the first appearances of Cornwallis' liberation rhetoric in metropolitan newspapers, used as a justification for the Company's decision to enter another Indian war.
The theme of Tipu as an usurper had rarely been used during the previous conflict, but it appeared more and more often during the Third Mysore War. These motifs of usurpation and restoration managed to turn the removal of Tipu into a defensive act carried out purely for the benefit of the native people. Kate Brittlebank has argued that British expansion in India was frequently justified by portraying Indian rulers as illegitimate and tyrannical usurpers of earlier dynasties. This characterization reached its apogee under Tipu Sultan.100 The use of such language allowed the Company and its defenders to cast the extension of British rule as a benevolent act of protection, rather than a naked power grab. These representation of Tipu's rule had been noticeably lacking a decade earlier during the Second Mysore War, when the Company had been hard pressed merely to defend its own territory instead of making territorial annexations.
Previous criticisms of the Sultan had focused on his treatment of British prisoners, and not been concerned with the governance of the natives of Mysore. The expanded focus of British public discourse on the territory of Mysore and its people indicated the greater English Chronicle or Universal Evening Post (London, England) 23 September 1790, Issue 1808 Kate Brittlebank. Tipu Sultan's Search for Legitimacy: Islam and Kingship in a Hindu Domain (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997): 5-6 optimism regarding empire overseas, and Company's growing territorial ambitions in southern India.
When Company forces entered into Tipu's domains during the military campaigns, the soldiers found no rebellious sentiment directed against the Sultan by the populace.
Instead, the Company servants were surprised to find a high degree of loyalty exhibited towards Tipu, and no small measure of resistance directed against the invading armies.
The Morning Chronicle printed a letter from India dated 12 July 1791, which was shocked to find “This Tyrant (as he was supposed) Tippoo Sultan, to our amazement is beloved by all his subjects; our army has learned, to their astonishment, that he had kept up the best government in his countries the people ever experienced; the inhabitants were free, protected, and affluent, speaking of him as their father – they wished not for a change; and not a real inhabitant would quit or desert him. These are undeniable facts, and not a trace of the smallest oppression seemed to exist.”101 The author went on to state that none of Tipu’s military officers had deserted his cause, and only a small handful of the rank and file had fled.
Roderick Mackenzie confirmed the same sentiments in his history, noting in passing “Whither the cruel treatment of inferiors attributed to the Sultaun, be real, or exaggerated, or altogether imaginary, it is certain that his subjects in this quarter yielded to a change of Government with a degree of reluctance, seldom exhibited by the inhabitants of Eastern countries.”102 Mackenzie would go on to write that “however bigoted the tenets of the Koran,” there were a vast number of decorated Hindu temples throughout Mysore which had not been plundered or torn down, and that the people Morning Chronicle (London, England) 6 December 1791, Issue 7018 Lieutenant Roderick Mackenzie. A Sketch of the War with Tippoo Sultaun Vol. 1 (1793): 79 willingly laid waste their own domains and fled away rather than support the Company forces.103 These unexpected accounts were particularly important, as one of the fundamental rationales for the war in India was the belief that Tipu oppressed his subjects, providing the justification for Tipu’s removal by the morally superior Company. If Tipu happened to be a just ruler, or merely an ordinary one without the monstrous vices that had been charged, then much of the Company’s rhetoric justifying the conflict stood on shaky ground. Firsthand accounts suggested that Tipu was not a horrific ruler to his people, and that the overwhelming majority of the populace had no desire to be "liberated" by Cornwallis.
After the Third Mysore War was over, the Company's annexation of territory was justified on the grounds that the British would provide superior administration and more humane rule compared to that of Tipu Sultan. The Public Advertiser was highly enthusiastic in explaining the benefits of the 1792 treaty, claiming that so much was never acquired by any peace in the history of British India. Not only was Tipu thoroughly humbled, so much that "it will be impossible for him ever to take the field again with any prospect of success," the Company would gain so much revenue from the new territory (and the savings on being able to reduce its own forces), that "the profits of the peace are equal to six times the expences of the war." This promised great benefits for the new subjects newly introduced to British rule: "The natives who have experienced the blessings of the British Government, prefer it to every old system of their own, and pay their taxes with promptness, in return for the benefits of protection against their ancient tyrants."104 This was another deployment of Cornwallis' rhetoric interpreting the Third Ibid, 72-73 Public Advertiser (London, England) 10 July 1792, Issue 18100 Mysore War as one fought for the liberation of the people of Tipu's kingdom. Much like the coverage of the hostage princes, opinion pieces that supported the Company's peace contended that Indians in the annexed territories would prefer British rule to that of the tyrant Tipu. Victory over the Sultan was argued as means to spread the virtues of British administration; this was a much more attractive justification for expansion than the previous self-aggrandizing exploits of the past.
Similar lines of argumentation appeared after the conclusion of the Fourth Mysore War in 1799. Although there were few mentions of Tipu's supposed religious fanaticism, attention having shifted instead to his connections with France, the British popular press returned to the liberation rhetoric of the Third Mysore War as a justification for the invasion of Tipu's kingdom. Lloyd's Evening Post wrote that the future of the conquered territories was quickly settled in a manner "at the same time honourable to our political character, and advantageous to our interests", with the Company receiving ample compensation for the expenses incurred "in the War into which it was so unjustly forced to enter."105 The restoration of the pre-Haider Wodeyar dynasty to power, through the placing of a child rajah on the throne of Mysore, was seen as a particularly shrewd move in Britain, forcing the puppet ruler into a state of complete dependence on the Company while avoiding the appearance of territorial aggrandizement through outright annexation.
It also allowed much of the literature written on the war to portray Tipu Sultan as an unlawful "usurper", with Wellesley restoring the proper pre-Haider Hindu dynasty to the throne.106 Lloyd’s Evening Post (London, England) 9 December 1799, Issue 6598 See for example: Officer in the East India Service. Authentic Memoirs of Tippoo Sultan (1799): 1-3 The General Evening Post wrote enthusiastically on how Wellesley's peace settlement demonstrated the greatness of the British character, that it demonstrated "the honour, the liberality, the wisdom, and the humanity" of the nation. The treaty was carried into effect "with the utmost tranquility, to the entire satisfaction of the native inhabitants; and by it our possessions in that part of the globe are secured against every contingency."107 Much as Cornwallis had argued in the previous war, the conflict was interpreted as a war of liberation to free the people of Mysore from the tyrannous rule of Tipu. Seen from this perspective, the Fourth Mysore War became a morality play, in which the superior virtues of the British had defeated the vileness of an Asiatic despot, leading to the spread of the Company's beneficent and paternalistic rule across southern India. It was an attractive vision of the future which anticipated the nineteenth century British Raj.
James Salmond wrote one of the earliest histories of the Fourth Mysore War, published shortly after its conclusion in 1800. He wrote to contemporaries that the Fourth Mysore War was just and necessary, if ever there was a just and necessary war.108 The restoration of the child rajah to rule in the aftermath of Tipu's defeat was spun as a family "rescued by our arms from the fury of relentless bigotry, insult, danger, and poverty", with the Company reserving the right to interfere in the administration of Mysore at any time, in order to preserve "the happiness of the people for whom we were now to legislate."109 The invasion was therefore justified by Salmond on the grounds of protecting the people of Mysore from Tipu, which had been a common line of General Evening Post (London, England) 12 December 1799, Issue 10485 James Salmond. A Review of the Origin, Progress, and Result of the Decisive War with the Late Tippoo Sultaun, in Mysore (London: Printed by Luke Hansard, 1800): 27 Ibid, 29 argumentation in the previous war under Cornwallis, but was rarely employed by Richard Wellesley. It was an after-the-fact justification for going to war, and not something that the Company's Indian servants and administrators considered at the time. Nevertheless, it too was incorporated into the larger fabric of the Tipu Legend, and would become part of the later historical memory for how and why the Mysore Wars had taken place. This was another way in which the wars against Tipu helped to form the basis of an imperial culture in the British metropole, providing an understanding and justification of empire that could exist in concert with British liberty.