«ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: TYRANT! TIPU SULTAN AND THE RECONCEPTION OF BRITISH IMPERIAL IDENTITY, 1780-1800 Michael Soracoe, Doctor of ...»
Cornwallis showed that the goal of the war was not the extirpation of Tipu, but the settlement of a safe and honorable peace.105 Histories of the military campaigns written by officers of the East India Company tended to share the same glowing outlook on the peace. Roderick Mackenzie provided a standard defense of the treaty in his account: "This glorious conclusion of the war was celebrated from the center to the utmost extremities of the British empire, with the most brilliant rejoicings; few indeed affected to disapprove of the treaty, and these were actuated by a desire of seeing the house of Hyder totally extirpated."106 Mackenzie did not favor a harsher peace out of fear that this would upset the balance of power in southern India, and professed the opinion that Tipu was far too crippled to pose a threat to the Company for many years to come. Alexander Dirom felt compelled to provide a list of the treaty's benefits at the conclusion of his history, going so far as to state that although the war was not profitable financially, it resulted in very important strategic advantages in southern India. Foremost among these in his opinion was security, with no further apprehension of being disturbed by the restless ambition of Tipu. Dirom
Finally; this war has vindicated the honour of the nation; has given the additional possessions and security to the settlements in India which they required; has effected the wished-for balance amongst the native powers on the Peninsula; has, beyond all former example, raised the character of the British arms in India; and has afforded an instance of good faith in alliance, and moderation in conquest, so eminent, as ought to constitute the English the arbiters of power, worthy of holding the sword and scales of justice in the East.107 Evening Mail (London, England) 6 July 1792, Issue 526 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): 237-38 Major Alexander Dirom. A Narrative of the Campaign in India, which Terminated the War with Tippoo Sultan in 1792 (London: Printed by W. Bulmer, 1793, 1794, 1985): 273 Much like the other sources, Dirom believed that the war had demonstrated the good faith and honorable conduct of the Company's officers, best symbolized in the person of Cornwallis. This reformed image of the Company was much more responsible than it had been in the past, and patrician military officers like Cornwallis could be trusted to rule over India without fear of moral corruption or other nabobery.
The Anglo-Indian community had a slightly different reaction, mixing exuberant joy over the defeat of Tipu with regret that Mysore had not been conquered completely.
The Madras Courier contented itself for the moment with tallying up the benefits accrued from the peace settlement: "In the present instance, we have greatly triumphed... [our troops] have elevated the English name in India to the utmost height of glory, and directed by the wisdom, and cumulating the ardour, of their brave leader have dictated a peace to the enemy... which, in its consequences, will be productive of a vast influx of wealth to their country."108 The Anglo-Indian community of Calcutta heaped praise after praise on the figure of Cornwallis, asking rhetorically "how exalted that magnanimity which stopped short amidst victory, and spared the prostrate foe," before going on to vote for the placement of a statue in his honor at the heart of the city.109 A speech recorded in the Calcutta Gazette specifically compared the changes that had taken place in British
rule over the previous three decades:
Thus, in Place of the dark prospect that presented itself seven years ago, we now behold our credit, restored our reputation in arms higher than in the days of Lawrence and of Clive, our alliance courted and our faith relied on. If we look to the internal state of Bengal, we find the contrast Still greater; on the one hand, a declining cultivation, a wretched people, destitute of property and of rights, groaning under the stripes and blows of a merciless extortioner; on the other, a smiling country, a peasantry happy in the secure possession of their cottage and Madras Courier (Madras, India) 8 March 1792, Issue 335 Calcutta Gazette (Calcutta, India) 7 November 1793, Issue 506 their field, joyfully rendering to a limited authority, the price of protection and safety.110 The speaker contrasted the earlier period of the nabobs against the new administration of Cornwallis. Plundering of wealth and exploitation of the Indian populace had been replaced by responsible and proper governance. The figure of Cornwallis was deployed as an antidote to the earlier corruption in the Company's governance, putting an end to the days of bribery and misrule. This new image of the East India Company was one which could be folded into British patriotism, allowing the public at home to celebrate the military successes of the Company's armies abroad.
This reimagining of the Company was especially effective when marshaled against the depredations of an Oriental "tyrant" like Tipu. When criticisms of the treaty did appear, they tended to reprimand Cornwallis for not finishing the deal and eliminating Tipu from power completely. One such report from the Anglo-Indian community indicated that "The termination of the war by treaty, is not so popular a measure in India as might be expected; but on no other ground than this, that Tippoo’s perfidious policy, and his enormous cruelty to our countrymen, have not been sufficiently punished."111 The General Evening Post similarly reported that Cornwallis' terms of peace did not please all of the London politicians, at least in part for the same reasons: "They think, or affect to think, that his Lordship ought not to have made any peace, before he had exterminated the tyrant, and got possession of all his dominions, forgetting the infinite difficulties under which the war has been carried on, and the inordinate expence it has cost the Company."112 Ibid General Evening Post (London, England) 8 November 1792, Issue 9225 General Evening Post (London, England) 3 July 1792, Issue 9169 Genuine criticisms of the peace, along the earlier lines of it being a naked and immoral grab for territorial gain, were few and far between. Only disaffected individuals like Philip Francis and a few staunchly Opposition newspapers were willing to object to what was increasingly seen as a patriotic victory for the entire nation to share. Even the Morning Chronicle, very much an anti-ministry and anti-Company press, limited itself to scoffing at the claims that these new territories would reduce the expenses paid on the Company's military: "We have had many promises of reductions of establishments and patronage, but unfortunately none of them have been yet fulfilled."113 The popularity of the victory over Tipu, and especially of Cornwallis himself, rendered effective criticism all but impossible. The political opposition had been completely hamstrung, and their earlier arguments against the Third Mysore War were engulfed under a surge of popular patriotic sentiment. Similarly, in the aftermath of Cornwallis' victory, no more satirical prints would appear regarding either Tipu Sultan or the Third Mysore War. The Company's military triumph came as a crushing blow to the plebian strands of protest that had been uttering the old refrains about the dangers of moral corruption and Oriental luxury undermining the British nation. The satirists had evidently moved on to other targets, leaving the Company and its apologists the uncontested masters of this particular public discourse. With the passage of time, this period of debate would be forgotten entirely, and the Company's interpretation of events, the belief that the Third Mysore War had been a defensive war fought to stop the depredations of Tippoo the Tyrant, established itself as the historical memory of this period in the British popular imagination.
Morning Chronicle (London, England) 10 July 1792, Issue 7204 Half a decade later in 1799, there was a complete disappearance of political debate surrounding the legality of the Fourth Mysore War. In stark contrast to the parliamentary and popular furor that the previous conflict attracted, the final conflict against Tipu prompted almost no debate whatsoever, largely due to the presence of the Sultan's French "alliance".114 News of the war was discussed in the House of Commons, although the fierce debates of the early 1790s had now been replaced by votes of congratulations and thanks for the Company. In the session of 24 September 1799, Mr.
Shaw Lefevre rose to express his gratitude for the "gallant exploits and illustrious achievements of our able officers and their brave men" over the inveterate and irreconcilable foe of Tipu Sultan. Lefevre made what was now a common claim, accepting that the East India Company was interchangeable with and represented the British nation. However, even though there was no debate over the final conflict in Parliament, Dundas still went out of his way to emphasize that the war was strictly reactionary in nature, insisting that it was just and defensive as well as brilliant and successful.115 While the military success of the conflict was not in doubt, the argument that the war had been defensive in nature strained credibility to the breaking point.
Nevertheless, this was an important aspect of Tipu's supposedly despotic nature, and how it factored into changing notions of empire; Britons needed to see themselves as the defenders of liberty, even while amassing vast territories overseas. By claiming that all of
See Chapter 5Whitehall Evening Post (London, England) 24 September 1799, Issue 8140 its wars were defensive in nature, and designed to protect India from the whims of mad tyrants like Tipu, the Company was able to achieve this goal.116 Unlike the widespread usage of satirical cartoons during the Third Mysore War, the final war against Tipu conducted by Lord Wellesley would only see the publication of a single confusing caricature of Dundas. Published by W. Hixon and entitled "Low Comedians Amusing the Wise Men of the East!!", the print depicts Dundas in Scottish costume dancing a jig in front of William Pitt [Figure 7].117 The image presents William Pitt seated next to Dundas, who is dressed in Scottish Highlands attire and dances a fling.
Behind them are rows of amused Directors of the East India Company; the outline of the East India House can be seen in the background, however the actual pediment above the building (which depicted a man standing protectively above a woman with an infant) has been replaced by a man making a murderous attack on a prostrate woman. A sign on the building indicates that this scene was in reaction to the "Death of Tippoo". Hixon's print attempted to tap into the earlier strands of protest against the Company, suggesting unwarranted glee from the Directors at the death of Tipu and rapaciousness on the part of the Company servants. It does not appear to have been a successful print, however, appearing only once and spawning no imitators. The message itself was confusing, with its anti-Scottish imagery hearkening back to earlier decades, and the print found little resonance with the wider public when set against the context of Britain's wars with revolutionary France.
John Malcolm, Wellesley's private secretary, made this explicit claim in his 1811 history of British India: all of the Company's wars were defensive in nature! John Malcolm. Sketch of the Political History of India (1811): 4-5 Unknown author. "Low Comedians Amusing the Wise Men of the East!!" (emphasis in the original).
Published by W. Hixon, 9 February 1800. Image #9516 in Mary Dorothy George. Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires (1978) Conclusion The disappearance of satirical cartoons and prints mocking the Company during the Fourth Mysore War was therefore an indication that public opinion on the subject was shifting, reflecting the same changes observed in the newspapers and other print media.
The anti-Company side of the debate was rapidly disappearing, in both elite circles and popular print culture. Although there were still a tiny few voices criticizing the Company, and protesting over the death of Tipu, this was no longer a mainstream opinion as it had been during the previous conflict. Instead, the depiction of the Mysore Wars in the visual arts had shifted away from satirical cartoons and towards formal history paintings that celebrated the military exploits of the Company's soldiers, incorporating the subject under the larger tent of the British nation.118 This movement towards triumphant artwork demonstrated how the soldiers and administrators that made up the East India Company were increasingly embraced by the wider British public, seen no longer as nabobs but as defenders of the national character.
By the end of the Fourth Mysore War in 1799, the earlier negative representations of the East India Company had largely faded from view. The runaway military successes enjoyed during the 1790s made the British public much more willing to support imperial projects overseas, especially when directed against supposedly despotic figures like Tipu.
The almost complete disappearance of any British support for Mysore during the final conflict against Tipu was also due to the increasing association of the Sultan together with the cause of revolutionary France. Tipu was charged with entering into an offensive and defensive alliance with the French, against whom the British had been at war for These battle scenes celebrating the Fourth Mysore War's conquests are considered in more detail in Chapter 5.
several years as part of the conflict generated by the French Revolution. Tipu’s connection to the French was the final component in the degradation of his own image and the redemption of the East India Company as perceived by the British public. This is the subject of the final chapter.