Alexander Wynch – Fall from Grace

Proceedings of a Court of Directors of the East India Company (4th April 1777) – the removal of Governor Alexander Wynch from Office

Resolved unanimously,

That the Orders for removing Mr Wynch in consequence of the Tanjore War, the Commissions to the Right Hon. Lord Pigot as President and Governor, and as Commander in Chief of Fort St. George, and the Orders given to his Lordship and his Council; also the Company’s Commission to Sir Robert Fletcher as Commander of the Company’s Troops on the Coast of Coromandel, and the Consultations and other Records on Political Subjects from the Arrival of Lord Pigot to those last received from that Presidency, be forthwith printed for the Use of the Proprietors.

Letter from Alexander Wynch, Esquire, Late President of the Council and Governor of Fort Saint George

To the Right Honourable Lord Pigot, President and Governor, and the rest of the Council.

My Lord and Gentlemen,

I was duly informed by the Right Honourable the President, that the Governor-General and Council of Fort William had given orders to Captain Preston to call here with the Hillsborough, to afford me an opportunity of going to England.  I have the fillest sense of the polite attention which the Governor-General and Council have shewn to me on this occasion; but being acquiainted, in a letter from Captain Preston himself, that he had already disposed of his great cabin, and finding that I could have a convenient accommodation on the Ankerwyke, I have therefore taken my passage with Captin Barwell.

By the Coventry frigate, which arrived here six weeks before the dispatch of the Nottingham, I received advice that the Court of Directors had been pleased to remove me from the Company’s service.  The injury that I felt I had sustained at first prompted me to resign it immediately, and embrace that opportunity of returning home; but on a little more reflection, I determined to wait their orders, and deliver up the Government to whoever should be appointed to receive it from me.  I thought it was a duty I still owed to the Company, notwithstanding what had been done to me by the Court of Directors; and being fully confident of the uprightness of my intentions, I thought it was a duty I owed to my character in the world, and to the satisfaction of my friends and my children.

The only instance of my conduct that the Court of Directors have pointed out as reprehensible, is that part of it which relates to the last expedition against Tanjore; it would however, in my opinion, have been but well in them to have recollected, that it was a measure of the Government here, not of the Governor alone.

The subject of that expedition was first considered in the Select Committee, where all the members were present; it was unanimously recommended by the Committee to the Council and there also it was resolved without one dissenting voice.  A very short and simple investigation of the Company’s records will prove, I think, to the entire conviction of every one who may be candid and impartial enough to be open to conviction, that the Select Committee and Council could not have done otherwise than they did.

In 1769, the Court of Directors thought proper to appoint a Select Committee, and did me the honour to nominate me one of the members.  In their letter of the 17th March of that year they write as follows:

Par. 7. “It appears most unreasonable that the Raj of Tanjore should hold possession of the most fruitful part of the country, which can alone supply our armies with subsistence, and not contribute to the defence of the Carnatic.  We observe the Nabob makes very earnest representations to you on this subject in his letter  entered in the country correspondence, wherein he takes notice, that the Zemindars of the Carnatic have been supported, and their countries preserved to them, by the operations of our forces employed in his cause; and that nothing was more notorious, than that three former princes of the Carnatic had received from the Tanjore Rajah, seventy, eighty, nay even an hundred Lacks of Rupees at a time; that to the preceding Nizam he had paid a contribution of fifty Lacks; and the present, if he had met with success against our army, would not have been content with less than a Crore of Rupees from this Rajah.  How just then does it appear that he should be made to bear some part of the expense of those measures, to which he owes his security and the peace of his country?  We therefore enjoin you to give the Nabob such support in his pretentions on the Rajah of Tanjore as may be effectual; and if the Rajah refuses to contribute a just proportion to the expenses of the war, you are then to pursue such measures as the Nabob may think consistent with the justice and dignity of his Government.”[1]

In 1771 the Nabob made application to Mr Du Pré and the Council to assist him with the Company’s troops against the Rajah, for various reasons, which are set forth in the records of that time; and he was strongly supported in this demand by His Majesty’s Plenipotentiary in India, Sir John Lindsay.  The President and Council, after a good deal of correspondence upon it with the Nabob and Plenipotentiary, complied with the Nabob’s desire, and issued orders for the army to march against the Rajah.  The Nabob’s eldest son, Umdut ul Omrah, accompanied it.  He was furnished with powers from his father, either to proceed to the final reduction of the Rajah or treat and make peace with him as he should find most expedient; and General Smith had orders to prosecute or suspend the war as the young Nabob should recommend.  It was resolved, both in the Select Committee and Council, that in case the fort and country of Tanjore were reduced, they should be left in the Nabob’s hands.[2]  The fort was invested, a breach was made in the wall, and the troops were on the point of making the assault, when Umdut ul Omrah, in consideration of a large sum of money offered by the Rajah, came to an accommodation with him.  The Select Committee, in their leter to the Court of Directors, dated 28th February 1772, stated very fully to them the difficulties and embarrassments they had found themselves under, while deliberating on this subject, from what, on one hand, seemed to them to be the part the Company ought to take, and on the other, what appears to be the spirit and intention of their orders, added to the requisitions of the Nabob, supported with all the arguments that could be urged by the Plenipotentiary; they pointed out the danger of leaving the Rajah in possession of all his power, disgusted as he then was, and in the precarious situation he then stood, by being continually liable to fresh attacks from the Nabob; they represented the probability of misunderstandings soon arising again between them, wherein the Government and Council would again be constrained to act; and they requested to be furnished as soon as possible with such direct and clear instructions as should not leave any doubt what they were to do.

In April 1773 a letter from his Majesty to the Nabob[3] was presented to him by Sir Robert Harland, wherein his Majesty is pleased to express his satisfaction at hearing the President and Council had sent the Company’s troops to assist the Nabob in reducing the Rajah to obedience.

Early in June 1773 the Select Committee received a letter from Mrs Mostyn, the Company’s Resident at Poonah, advising them that the Tanjore Vackeel there, a person known to be such, had applied in the name of the Rajah for leave to raise ten thousand horse which he said were to be employed by him against the Nabob Mahomed Ally.[4]

In the same month the Nabob represented that the Rajah had not performed his engagements with him; that he was ten Lacks of Rupees in arrears; that he had intelligence of his having applied to the Marattas and Hyder Ally for troops to act against him; that he had encouraged the Colleries to pluder and lay waste some parts of the Carnatic; that he had entered into dangerous connexions with the Dutch, to whom and the Danes he had alienated some districts of the Tanjore country.  That on his (the Nabob’s) writing to the General of Batavia, complaining that the gentlemen at Negapatnam had assisted the Rajah during the late expedition against him, the General wrote to him in reply, that those gentlemen had done no more than they were bound to do by their engagements with the Rajah, and that in conforming to them they had done right.  The Nabob, for all these reasons, called upon and required the Governor and Council to assist him with the Company’s troops to reduce the Rajah, and acquainted them that it was indispensably requisite they should do so, not only to enable him to obtain his revenue, but for the security of his possessions.

The President and Council had every reason to believe, that the connexion which the Nabob alledged to subsist between the Rajah and the Dutch was no more than true; that he had made over some districts to them was certain:  The Nabob affirmed that he was greatly in arrears to him, and that he had instigated the Colleries to ravage his country.  Allowing that his application to the Marattas and Hyder Aly were not likely to prove efficacious, or even that it was doubtful whether he had seriously made such, still his assiduity in strengthening Tanjore, in purchasing warlike stores and entertaining European foreigners in his service, seemed to portend a hostile intention.  The President and Council had before them the orders of the 17th march 1769; the examples of Mr Du Pré and the Council on the late expedition; the arguments then used, both by the then President and Council and Plenipotentiary; his Majesty’s approbation of that measure, expressed in his letter to the Nabob of the 7th April, 1772; and by the Court of Directors not having replied to the letter from the Select Committee of the 22nd February, 1772, it might surely be inferred, that they had approved also.  The President and Council therefore, after having used every possible means for obtaining further information, and after having very maturely reflected, thought themselves under the necessity of again complying with what the Nabob required, and of adhering to the former resolutions of the Select Committee and Council, respecting the fort and country, in a case they should be conquered.  But so far from this latter part being a matter of choice with me, the Company’s records will shew that I have ever used my utmost efforts to restrain the Nabob in all his attempts to increase of power and independency, being convinced that they were incompatible with the interest and security of the Company. My sentiments and endeavours on that subject have, though very contrary to my inclinations, engaged me in disagreeable controversies with some of the other members of the Council, who were of opinion that this Government had no right or authority to interfere.

From the nature and matter of this address, your Lordship, &c. will be sensible how unpleasant it has been to me; it must doubtless have proved tiresome to you, but I hope you will forgive me for it; I have continued it merely to justify and explain that part of my conduct which the Court of Directors have condemned.  There are other parts I could point out, particularly the very great increase of the investment, and having obtained security and payment of the whole of the Nabob’s debt to the Company, which I flatter myself would claim their approbation; but in these I pretend to no further merit than in that part they have disapproved; in both I meant to discharge my duty.

The attachment I have to the Company, of which I never can divest myself, and the particular interest I take in the prosperity of their affairs under this Settlement, make me feel infinite satisfaction in the choice they have made of their President in these delicate and critical times.  Be assured that your Lordship, &c. have my warmest wishes for your having uninterrupted harmony in your Councils and success abroad, being with much regard and esteem,

My Lord and Gentlemen,

Fort St George                                    Your most obedient

7th February 1776                                            and very humble servant

Alexander Wynch

Enclosure No. 1

Extract from the Proceedings of the Select Committee, 10th August 1771

We are therefore further of opinion, that of two evils we ought to chuse the least, and that it is less dangerous to let the conquest, if any be made, pass of course into the Nabob’s hands and possession, than that the Rajah should be left dissatisfied, as he most certainly will be, and with power to become dangerous, which, as aforesaid, we think must be the consequence of any compromise made by the Nabob under the influence of his fears and jealousies.

In delivering this opinion we do not forget the opinion we gave in our address to the Honourable Court of Directors, under date the 31st January 1770, paragraph 4 we remain fully and clearly of the same opinions we have expressed in our former minutes, particularly those of 9th July of the propriety of keeping the fort of Tanjore in our own hands should it be taken.  We are clearly of the opinion, that we ought not to yield the point to the Nabob, if greater apparent dangers were not incurred by refusing it; but as we think a present acquiescence with the Nabob’s proposition the least of the dangers which surround us, though it leads to danger, so we are of the opinion it ought now to be complied with as an act of political necessity.

We deliver it further as our opinion, that although it leads to danger it is not immediately dangerous, for there is no doubt, that while we have garrisons in the principal forts of the Carnatic, and have on foot such a military establishment as the present, we may with great ease control the Nabob, should it be necessary, and should we be authorised to do so; at present we have no authority to control him.  It is not necessary here again to state the sense of the Court of Directors on the subject, or the spirit of the ministry; or to say any thing more of the 11th article of the treaty of Paris, hung over our heads in terrorem; we have been sufficiently explicit in former minutes, particularly those of the 29th July, with extracts annexed as piéces justificatives, if we may be permitted to use the French phrase.  The state of affairs here will be clearly before our Superiors at home; they will also have our opinion of what may be expected as natural consequences of increasing the Nabob’s power.  If they and the ministry should continue of opinion that, the Nabob’s fidelity and attachment is such that the increase of his power is the same as the increase of his power is the same as an increase of the British power on the Coast; the resolution of leaving the whole conquests, if any be made, in his hands must be approved, and we shall only be liable to censure for having doubted the propriety of doing so.  If, on the other hand, it should be thought that such an increase of power in the Nabob may become dangerous, the remedy is at home, and there only; and legal orders to the British delegates of the national power on the Coast may model and restrain it within such bounds as shall be thought fit.

Extract from the Proceedings of the Select Committee[5], 10th August, 1771

That we ought not to receive that, or any other sum, or any consideration of what kind soever, by way of compensation, compact, or agreement, for resigning him the said conquests, should they be made, because we mean to leave the Company at full liberty to make what arrangements they shall think best in these respects; but if we were to receive any considerations for resigning the conquest, the public faith must be pledged for the performance of the agreement, and the Company could not deviate therefrom, without an apparent and dangerous breach of that faith.  We are therefore of the opinion, that if it be necessary to take the fort and country of Tanjore, that the Nabob be tacitly left in possession of the whole, in the same manner as it has been before done, when Worriarpollam, Arialoor, and other Polygars were reduced, as a matter of course, aand without any declaration respecting the same; and that if the Nabob shall think proper to give the Company ten Lacks of Pagodas, or any other sum, as a voluntary gift for their friendly aid, it be received, subject to the future pleasure of the Court of Directors.

Extract from the Consultation in the Military Department, 15th August, 1771

The Select Committee communicate to the Board the substance of the conference between the Nabob and the President, as recited in their minutes of the 10th instant, on the subject of suffering the fort and coutry of Tanjore to fall into the hands of the Nabob, in case they should be reduced, together with the reasons which induced the Committee to think it expedient to comply with the Nabob’s requisition in this instance; and with which the Board acquiesce.

Enclosure No. 2 [6]

George the Third, by the Grace of God, King of Great-Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Christian Faith, Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburgh, Arch-Treasurer and PrinceElector of the Holy Roman Empire, and Sovereign of the Seas, &c.

To Nabob Waulaujab, Urumeer Ul Hind, Oudet Ul Mulk, Serajab Dowlab, Anver Ul Dee Khan Behauder, Munsoor Jung, Sepoy Serdar, Nabob of Arcat and the Carnatic.

We received with pleasure your letter[7] in which you express to us your gratitude for the additional naval force which we have sent for your security, as well as that of our East-India Company, and your confidence that we shall tread in the steps of our royal Grandfather, by granting our protection to you and your family.  We have given our Comnmander in Chief and Plenipotentiary, Sir Robert Harland, our instructions for that purpose, and we flatter ourselves that he will reconcile the differences which have arisen between you and the Company’s servants against your mutual interest.  It gave us satisfaction to hear that the Governor and Council of Madrass has sent the Company’s troops with your’s to reduce your tributary, the Rajah of Tanjore, to obedience, in which we hope, by the blessing of God, they will be successful; and so we bid you farewell, wishing health and prosperity to you and your family.  Given at our Court of St James’s, the seventh day of April, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-two, in the twelfth year of our reign.

Your affectionate Friend


Enclosure No. 3

Extract of a Letter from Mr Mostyn, the Company’s Resident at Poonah, dated 14th May 1773

I had the honour of your commands of 3d ultimo the 27th following; and this is purposely to advise you, that some days ago, a Gosamie by name Mohimgeer (who has been here some time) applied to this Durbar, as Vackeel from the king of Tanjore, for leave to raise ten thousand horse for the service of his master, and which he made no secret were to be employed against Mahomed AllyCawn.  He at first, by means of presents to some of the ministers, had a promise of leave, of which I advised my superiors at Bombay, under date the 6th; but since the Dewan has started objections, and I believe he will not succeed; though was he to obtain permission, he would find it very difficult to raise men, as the Durbar are enlisting people as fast as possible for themselves.  Should he hereafter procure leave, and any probability of his getting the troops, I will not fail to advise your Honour, &c.

Extract of Letter from the Select Committee at Fort St. George, dated 31st January, 1770

Par. 4.  The stipulative tribute paid by Tanjore to the Carnatic, in peace as well as in war, should we think be considered only as an acknowledgement of superiority.  What quota of troops or treasure should be furnished in time of war we cannot ascertain either by usage or compact.  It appears therefore to us to have been arbitrary; that is to say, the Government of the Carnatic hath exacted whatever it hath had power to compel; and Tanjore hath refused succours or money as far as the Government thought it had power to support such refusal.  And this is by no means peculiar to these TWO STATES. – The same principle prevails invariably throughout Indostan. – Upon this principle, which is wholly that of power, it is certainly contrary to sound policy for the Carnatic to suffer the existence of such a STATE; and there can be no doubt but that the RULERS of the Carnatic would have long ago reduced Tanjore to the same terms as other dependant rajahships, had not Tanjore been sufficiently powerful in itself, or by connexion, to oppose such attempts effectually.  Upon this reasoning therefore, it appears to us if the Nabob of the Carnatic possessed the whole power of the Carnatic, it would be good policy in him, and consistent with the principles of the Indostan governments, to reduce Tanjore to the same terms of obedience and control that other Rajahs have been reduced to.  And if the Company possessed the whole power of the Carnatic, it would be equally good policy in the Company to do so.  But it is a great question with us, whether it would be good policy in the Company to suffer the Nabob of the Carnatic to reduce Tanjore, if he were powerful enough of himself to do so; and it is another question with us, upon the present divided system of power in the Carnatic, if it would be good policy in the Company to reduce Tanjore, and place it under the management and control of the Nabob.  We incline to the opinion that it would not; but that whilst the present system, or want of system, remains between the Company and the Carnatic, if the reduction of Tanjore should be resolved on, it would be more adviseable for the Company to retain it in their own possession, or (reserving the sovereignty) place in the management of it either the present Rajah or any other, subject to such limitations and conditions as might make him useful, but put it out of his power to be dangerous.  The impropriety and inconvenience of such a STATE, subsisting in the heart of the province, is evident from the Rajah’s conduct in the late war with Hyder Ally.  The junction of his troops, particularly his cavalry, to our army, might have greatly contribuited to the prevention of those ravages which the Carnatic sustained, but that would have exposed the Tanjore country to the resentment of the common enemy; and the Rajah thought he saw his particular interest in purchasing a peace for his own country: this conduct in the Rajah might now furnish us with a just plea for calling him to account; but when your Honours are informed of all our reasons for declining such an attempt at this time, we flatter ourselves that our conduct will meet with your approbation.

Extract of Select Letter from Fort St. George, 28th February 1772

With respect to the guarantee of the treaty of 1762 between the Nabob and the Rajah, we are under some doubt whether, according to the law and usage of nations, it is abolished or still in force.  The Rajah, upon a plea of injustice on the part of the Nabob, declined to comply with the terms of the treaty, by punctually paying the peishcush, as guarantees we interposed, and marched a force to compel him; open war ensued; the Rajah in the end submits, pays the peishcush, with a futher sum, as an indemnification for the charges of the war; a new treaty passes between the Nabob and him, in which we have no part, and in which not a word is mentioned of the treaty of 1762, nor a word in respect to the payment of the peishcush in future, nor of its remission; the Question is, whether that treaty and guarantee are, or are not virtually restored.  We have carefully avoided any hint to the Nabob on this subject, either for or against the Question; and the Nabob is equally reserved.  How long it may be possible to preserve this silence will depend on circumstances; for whenever a case may happen that shall require a decisive measure, our conduct in the one case or the other would be very different; we therefore hope your Honours will see the necessity of tracing a strong line for the guidance of your government in this respect.  If you resume the right, or rather acknowledge the Company still bound by their guarantee of 1762, it will be absolutely necessary, that you empower your government confidentially to carry it effectually into execution, by exerting the right, and interposing power, if necessary, to prevent injustice to the Rajah.  Had your government here stood in such a degree of confidence with their constituents, as that they might have entertained a reasonable hope of support and justification in an impartial and spirited conduct, the part they should have taken ought no doubt to have been this; upon the Rajah’s complaint, that he was entitled to an indemnification for the expenses he sustained in the assistance given to the Nabob in the late war[8], and that the Marawar and Nalcooty Polygars with-held from him his just rights; on the other hand the Nabob complaining that the Rajah with-held the peishcush unjustly, had no right to the indemnification he demanded nor any just claim on Marawar and Nalcooty; this Government, as guarantees, ought to have marched a force to maintain peace between the complaining parties, to have marched a force to maintain peace between the complaining parties, to have required deputies from both, to state the demands of each respectively, and, upon a fair discussion, to have decided between them, and to have enforced the decision, whether in favour of the Nabob or in favour of the Rajah; but your Government here did not dare to act in such a part.  It was plain from your orders to this Committee, under the date the 17th March 1769, as well as subsequent orders, that you thought the Rajah stood in a degree of favour with this Government, which you did not approve; and that you adopted all the Nabob’s ideas of levying crores, as an equitable pretension, because other Soubahs had done so.  At the same time the Minister of the Crown, ranging himself on the side of the Nabob, received all his complaints against the Rajah as gospel, attacked us openly, but with flagrant injustice, and accused us of with-holding that assistance from the Nabob which our trust required.  The designs of the Ministry are plain, and we know the extent of ministerial powers; we should otherwise have thought a refutation needless, and have consigned such partial zeal to contempt and oblivion.  The Rajah, so early as September 1770, represented to the President his apprehensions of the Nabob’s designs and representations to the King’s Minister, but finding no tendency to redress, and feeling the weakness of this Government, and its inability to protect him, too hastily and indiscreetly stood forth in open opposition; most probably expecting support either from the French or the Marattas.  The contest hath ended not dishonourably to the Company’s arms; but we hope your Honours will not on that ground be too confident of future success, even at the hazard of being thought timid.  A steady regard for the public welfare obliges us to say, we are amazed that we have got thus far so well; and if your Honours will attentively consider every embarrassment in which we have been entangled by the Nabob, his chicanery in respect to money and provisions, his views to compel us into a Maratta alliance, his wishes to possess Tanjore, his fears of the Company if it were subdued, his hope of support against the Company from the Crown, and his jealousy of the future effects even of that support, we think your Honours will see cause to rejoice, that we are in no worse state at present.  Should your Honours think it best to revive the guarantee, and take it upon you, we are persuaded the Nabob will oppose it by every means in his power, and it will certainly be the cause of a fresh quarrel with him; but should that be got over, and the guarantee acknowledged, and at the same time should your Government, from whatever cause, not to be relieved from its present weakness in respect to the Nabob, his designs against Tanjore, or some other indirect purpose, may again drag you into hostility.  If you do not resume the guarantee, but leave the Rajah wholly at the mercy of the Nabob, we do not hesitate to declare it as our opinion, that his apprehensions of the Nabob are so great, that whenever we shall be involved in trouble, he will become dangerous, and take part against us, to save himself from impending ruin, should he see a probability of success.  Our conclusion is, that one of these decisive measures should be adopted with firmness and vigour; either to take Tanjore openly and avowedly under your protection, and give him proofs of your impartial justice, which we think, even now, notwithstanding what has passed, will bind him firmly to your interest, or to conquer and subdue him totally; but in the latter case, the consequent arrangements will be matter of the most serious consideration.  What we said on this subject by the Britannia, contains our tense; and since the year 1768 such lights have been thrown on the Nabob’s character and conduct, as may amply suffice to enable your Honours to determine with justice and propriety; we therefore only add, that every day convinces us we have not been mistaken, and we confirm every word we have wrote.

Comments or questions are welcome.

* indicates required field

[1] By a letter dated 23rd March 1770, the Court of Directors suspended the execution of these orders as “utterly impossible to be carried into execution, without committing a ‘breach of treaty’”

[2] See enclosure 1

[3] See enclosure 2

[4] See enclosure 3

[5] Should this be the Court?

[6] Delivered to the Nabob after his return (to Madras), 30th April 1773 and a copy was shewn to the President the night before he presented it by Sir Robert Harland.  The troops of this garrison assisted on the occasion, as the Military Consultation of that day shews

[7] Written from the Nabob to his Majesty by Sir John Lindsay, received by Sir Robert Harland at Bombay, by the Prudent Ship of War

[8] The war with Hyder Ally

One thought on “Alexander Wynch – Fall from Grace

  1. George

    A brilliant collection of Madras-related ideas, especially for those (like me) researching the place / period. l was wondering if you’ve come across any portraits, or images of Governor Alexander Wynch?


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