«ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: TYRANT! TIPU SULTAN AND THE RECONCEPTION OF BRITISH IMPERIAL IDENTITY, 1780-1800 Michael Soracoe, Doctor of ...»
Wellesley turned up the pressure on Tipu in his next letter, sent just four days later on 8 November 1798. He blamed the French for "perverting the wisdom" of Tipu's councils, and instigating him into war against "those who have given you no provocation." Without stating precisely the exact relationship between Tipu and the French, Wellesley declared that, "It is impossible that you should suppose me to be ignorant of the intercourse which subsides between you and the French," warning Tipu of the ruinous connections which would result from such a friendship. This allowed Wellesley to continue his argument with a classic reversal of the diplomatic situation,
very much in keeping with the "untrustworthy" themes often associated with Tipu:
East India Company. Neil Benjamin Edmonstone (trans.) Official Documents, Relative to the Negotiations Carried on by Tippoo Sultaun (1799). Governor General to Tippoo Sultaun 4 November 1798: 151 Combining these professions of amity on your part, with the proofs that the company's government have constantly given of their sincere disposition to maintain the relations of friendship and peace with you... it was natural for me to be extremely slow to believe the various accounts transmitted to me of your negotiations with the French, and your military preparations. But whatever my reluctance to credit such reports might be, prudence required both of me and the company's allies, that we should adopt certain measures of precaution and self defence; and these have accordingly been taken. 60 The Governor General went on to reassure Tipu that the Company wished to live in peace and friendship with all its neighbors, and entertained no projects of ambition, looking only to the permanent security and tranquility of its own dominions and subjects.
Wellesley suggested sending Major Doveton as an envoy (the same Doveton who had escorted the hostage princes back to Tipu a few years earlier) to discuss the situation and remove any suspicion which had arisen.61 Tipu's response to Wellesley's letter was one of understandable confusion. In a letter dated 20 November 1798, Tipu stated that he had adhered to peace, and was surprised by rumors of war preparations by the Company, which he had the fullest confidence were "without foundation." The Sultan claimed to have no other thought than "to give increase to friendship" and "strengthen the foundations of harmony and unity."62 Tipu did not understand why the Company was acting aggressively towards him, as he had not made preparations for war and had not signed an official alliance with France. In a later letter dated 18 December, Tipu explained that his envoys to Mauritius had brought back forty people who came in search of employment, and that the French had made "deceitful reports" about the trip, referring to the infamous proclamation. Tipu reiterated East India Company. Copies and Extracts of Advices to and from India (1977, 1800). Governor General to Tippoo Sultaun, 8 Novermber 1798.
Ibid East India Company. Copies and Extracts of Advices to and from India (1977, 1800). Tippoo Sultaun to the Government of India, 20 November 1798, received 15 December 1798.
his desire to maintain the articles of the past peace treaty with the Company, suggested that sending Doveton as an envoy was not necessary, and expressed his "great surprise" at the actions taken by the Company: "I have the strongest hope that the minds of the wise and intelligent, but particularly of the four states, will not be sullied by doubts and jealousies, but will consider me from my heart desirous of harmony and friendship."63 Tipu was not being entirely truthful in these messages, as he had indeed enquired about the prospects of a French alliance against the British Company. However, when the alliance failed to materialize, he had committed himself to peace for the present, as his correspondences with the Company indicated. There is no evidence to suggest that Tipu had any plans to attack the Company in 1798-99, and he appeared to be genuinely confused about the messages he was receiving.
Wellesley finally revealed his objective in the following lengthy letter to Tipu dated 9 January 1799. Wellesley recounted the expedition of Tipu's ambassadors to Mauritius, concluding that they had reached an agreement (codified in the Malartic Proclamation) and brought back troops raised in the enemy country for his service. This led to eight points, the most important of which stipulated "That the ambassadors, dispatched by your highness to the Isle of France [Mauritius], did propose, and actually did conclude, an offensive alliance with the French, for the express purpose of committing a war of aggression against the company."64 As a result of these actions, Wellesley stated, Tipu had violated the treaties of peace and friendship from the last war, and therefore forced the Company into the great expense of building up its own military.
As such, the previous agreements with the Company would no longer be enough to Ibid, Tippoo Sultaun to the Government of India, 18 December 1798, received 25 December 1798.
Ibid, Governor General to Tippoo Sultaun, 9 January 1799.
safeguard the peace, and Wellesley demanded that Tipu must meet with Major Doveton to work out a new series of arrangements. The exact nature of these arrangements were left unstated, but it was implied that Tipu would have to make further commercial and territorial concessions to the Company, as well as expelling all Frenchmen permanently from his territory. Wellesley wrote in closing that Tipu had best respond within one day of receiving the letter or else "dangerous consequences" could result from the delay.65 This letter was tantamount to diplomatic extortion, blaming Tipu for breaking the peace and then insisting on reparations for aggression that had not taken place. Wellesley was careful to insist that it was the Sultan who was responsible for failing to adhere to the 1792 Treaty of Seringapatam and not the Company, again portraying himself as reluctantly pressed into military service to stop the aggrandizement of a tyrant. It seems unlikely that Wellesley ever intended this message to be considered seriously, as he had already set into motion the Company's machinery for warfare. Insisting on a response within one day was a sign of this lack of interest in conducting actual diplomacy. When Tipu did not immediately respond, Wellesley incorporated the waiting period into his negative portrayal of Tipu as well, interpreting it as a delaying tactic until the season was too late for military operations.66 Viewed from this perspective, Tipu the Oriental despot could never be trusted to keep his word; he was again the "faithless and violent character" as described by Cornwallis in the previous war. As argued from Wellesley's point of view, the only way to defend British India from such a monster was to strike preemptively, before he could achieve his potential alliance with France.
Ibid, Governor General to Tippoo Sultaun, 9 January 1799.
Governor General to Directors, 20 March 1799. IOR/H/255 (p. 1-57): 44 Once the observer bought into the corrosive worldview of the Tipu Legend, every action of the Sultan became suspicious. For example, Alexander Beatson's narrative of the war perceived the refusal of Tipu to admit to Wellesley's accusations as an evasion of the truth. Beatson argued that Tipu's silence with respect to Major Doveton indicated "an additional proof of his disposition to evade the pacific advances of the allies," apparently not seeing the irony in his use of the word "pacific" mere weeks before the Company's invasion of Mysore began.67 The Company was demanding that Tipu admit to things which were factually untrue, such as his supposed imminent invasion of British India;
when Tipu insisted that he had no such plans, it was interpreted as further evidence of his untrustworthy nature and guilt. There was no escape from this Catch-22 situation, which only made the Sultan appear more and more culpable; first in the eyes of the Company, and later to the wider British public.
Tipu's final letter to Wellesley was received on 13 February, and presumably written at the end of January. In this short message, Tipu stated that he would receive Doveton as an envoy, and was proceeding upon a hunting expedition for the moment.68 It was a bizarre response which made little sense in the context of the situation, but Tipu did in fact agree to Wellesley's request in the previous letter, accepting Doveton as an envoy, and apparently was prepared to accept mediation to resolve the situation. However, Wellesley was not interested in any further negotiations. The Governor General had already given the order for the Company's armies to invade Mysore on 3 February, which was long before receiving Tipu's response. Given the slow speed of communications in the eighteenth century, Wellesley likely gave the invasion order before a response from Alexander Beatson. A View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultaun (1800): 33 East India Company. Copies and Extracts of Advices to and from India (1977, 1800). Tippoo Sultaun to the Government of India, received 13 February 1799.
his last letter could even have arrived, granting only 25 days for a message to travel from Calcutta to Seringapatam and back again.
In his final letter to Tipu on 22 February, Wellesley responded by stating that Tipu had waited too long to respond, as it was necessary for the Company's forces to move before the start of the monsoon season, and that Tipu's "long silence" on this important and pressing occasion, "compelled me to adopt the resolution of ordering the British forces to advance."69 At this point, meeting with Doveton was not sufficient to stave off the attack; even though Tipu had acceded to Wellesley’s requests in his previous letter, the Company had decided upon invasion. Although it was indeed true that the monsoon season would put a close to military operations, Wellesley's claims that Tipu was deliberately stalling in diplomacy to prepare his own military strike seem wildly exaggerated, especially given Wellesley's lack of interest in waiting for a response before giving the order to invade.
Wellesley continued to place the public blame for the conflict onto the Sultan, even though it was very obvious from his private letters that he had planned to attack regardless of Tipu's actions. In his official declaration of war, Wellesley wrote that in every instance, "the conduct of the British government in India towards Tippoo Sultaun has been the natural result of those principles of moderation, justice, and good faith" which had been established by Parliament as the rule for intercourse with the native states of India.70 Here Wellesley suggested that the Company was indeed acting within the dictates of Parliament, and that it no longer carried out the irresponsible selfaggrandizement of the earlier nabobs. Wellesley insisted that he had been forced into Ibid, Governor General to Tippoo Sultaun, 22 February 1799.
Declaration of the Governor General in Council, for all the Forces and Affairs of the of the British Nation in the East Indies, 22 February 1799 conflict, as "Tippoo Sultaun wantonly violated the relations of amity and peace, and compelled the allies to arm in defence of their rights, their happiness, and their honour."71 He argued that it was necessary to attack immediately and with great force, to prevent Tipu from disturbing the tranquility of India, and potentially allowing a French force to land in the future.
Wellesley echoed these same sentiments in a lengthy letter written to the Court of Directors on 20 March 1799, explaining and justifying his actions in going to war.
According to his official statement to the Company's Directors:
Tippoo Sultaun therefore, having actually concluded offensive and defensive engagements with the French [his emissaries to Mauritius] against the Honourable Company... having avowed the object of those preparations to be the subversion of the British Empire in India; and finally having declared the delay of the meditated blow to proceed from no other cause than his expectation of receiving further aid from the Enemy; I could not hesitate to pronounce, that he had flagrantly violated the Treaties of Peace subsisting between him and the Honourable Company; and that he had committed an act of direct hostility and aggression against the British Government in India.72 As on every other occasion when the subject of treaties was raised, Wellesley made sure to insist that it was Tipu who was violating the Treaty of Seringapatam, and not the Company. Wellesley admitted that there had been essentially no aid given to Tipu from France whatsoever, merely a few dozen volunteers raised in Mauritius, but this did not matter. The war was justified on pre-emptive grounds, to prevent a possible connection between Tipu and France at some point in the indeterminate future.
The Governor General further made it clear that he would have attacked Tipu even sooner, had it been possible. Wellesley told the Directors that every principle of justice and policy demanded "an instantaneous Effort should be made to reduce his Ibid Governor General to Directors 20 March 1799 IOR/H/255 (p. 1-57): 11-12 [Tipu's] power and resources" before he could make a connection with the French, and only a "defect of means" had prevented the war from beginning the previous year in
1798.73 This was a clear endorsement for a policy of pre-emption: "Under these circumstances, an immediate attack upon Tippoo Sultaun for the purpose of frustrating the execution of his unprovoked and unwarranted projects of ambition and revenge appeared to me to be demanded by the soundest maxims both of Justice and Policy."74 These were the very sort of conflicts that had been prohibited by Parliament, and which had been criticized so heavily during the trial of Warren Hastings a decade earlier. At this particular moment, however, due to the ongoing wars against revolutionary France and Wellesley's skillful use of Tipu's negative reputation, the Governor General's bellicose militarism would end up largely going unchallenged in Britain. The international circumstances of the moment, with the ongoing war against revolutionary France, allowed Wellesley to employ these preexisting characterizations of Tipu in a much more convincing way than ever before.