Reforms of Lord Cornwallis – Modern Indian History Notes Part 2

Lord Cornwallis, a warrior-statesman, succeeded Warren Hastings as Governor-General in 1786. He was also a close friend of Prime Minister Pitt and of Dundas, the most influential member of the Board of Control.

It amended Pitt’s India Act in 1786 so as enable him to overrule the decision of the majority of his council, if necessary. A new tradition of choosing a person from an aristocratic family for the post of Governor-General was initiated.

Tipu Sultan and the Third Mysore War (1790-92)

  • The Treaty of Mangalore (1784) exhibited the military strength of Mysore, exposed English weaknesses and increased Tipu’s strength

  • His other designs were to wreak vengeance on the Nizam and on the Marathas as they had betrayed his father during the hour of need

The chief causes of the Third Mysore War were

  • Tipu Sultan strengthened his position by undertaking various internal reforms. This created worries to the British, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas

  • Moreover, Tipu made attempts to seek the help of France and Turkey by sending envoys to those countries.

  • He also expanded his territories at the cost of his neighbours, particularly the Raja of Travancore, who was an ally of the British.

  • In 1789, the British concluded a tripartite alliance with the Nizam and the Marathas against Tipu

  • War broke out in May 1790 between the English and Tipu.

  • It was fought in three phases

  • English troops and inflicted heavy losses

  • Cornwallis himself assumed command in December 1790. This was the beginning of the second phase of the war.

  • Tipu’s brilliant strategies prolonged the war and Cornwallis was forced to retreat

  • The third phase of the war began when timely aid from the Marathas with plenty of provisions

  • Helped him to resume his campaign and marched against Srirangapattinam again.

  • The English forces occupied the hill forts near Srirangapattinam and seized it in February 1792.

Treaty of Srirangapattinam

Terms of the treaty were as follows

  • Tipu had to give up half his dominions

  • He had to pay a war indemnity of three crore rupees and surrender two of his sons as hostages to the English

  • Both sides agreed to release the prisoners of war

  • The Treaty of Srirangapattinam is a significant event in the history of South India.

  • The British secured a large territory on the Malabar Coast

  • Tipu had been defeated but not destroyed

Reforms of Lord Cornwallis

The internal reforms of Cornwallis can be studied under three main heads.

  • Administrative reforms

  • Revenue reforms or Permanent Settlement

  • Judicial and other reforms

Administrative Reforms

  • Purification of the civil service by the employment of capable and honest public servants.

  • Abolished the vicious system of paying small salaries and allowing enormous perquisites.

  • Persuaded the Directors of the Company to pay handsome salaries to the Company servants

  • They might free themselves from commercial and corrupting activities.

  • Cornwallis inaugurated the policy of making appointments mainly on the basis of merit

  • Laying the foundation of the Indian Civil Service.

  • Abolished a number of surplus posts

  • The separation of the three branches of service, namely commercial, judicial and revenue.

  • The collectors, the king-pins of the administrative system were deprived of their judicial powers

  • Their work became merely the collection of revenue.

Judicial Reforms

  • At the top of the judicial system, the highest civil and criminal courts of appeal, namely Sadar Diwani Adalat and Sadar Nizamat Adalat were functioning at Calcutta. Both of them were presided over by the Governor-General and his Council.

  • There were four provincial courts of appeal at Calcutta, Dacca, Murshidabad and Patna, each under three European judges assisted by Indian advisers.

  • District and City courts functioned each under a European judge. Every district was provided with a court.

  • District Judges were appointed.

  • Indian judges or Munsiffs were appointed to all the courts at the bottom of the judicial system.

  • In criminal cases, Muslim law was improved and followed.

  • In civil cases, Hindu and Muslim laws were followed according to the religion of the litigants

  • In suits between Hindus and Muslims, the judge was the deciding authority.

  • Cornwallis was better known as a lawgiver than as an administrator.

  • Cornwallis prepared a comprehensive code, covering the whole field of administration’, judicial, police, commercial and fiscal. Based upon the principle of Montesquieu

  • The Separation of Powers”, which was popular in the West in the 18th century.

  • In order to curb the undue exercise of authority, Cornwallis made all officials answerable to the courts

Police Reforms

  • The effective implementation of judicial reforms required the reorganisation of police administration.

  • The District Judge controlled the police.

  • Each district was divided into thanas or police circles each of which was about 20 square miles

  • It was placed under an Indian officer called the daroga who was ably assisted by many constables.

Other Reforms

  • Cornwallis reformed the Board of Trade which managed the commercial investments of the Company.

  • With the aid of Charles Grant, he eradicated numerous abuses and corrupt practices.

  • Fair treatment was given to weavers and Indian workers.

  • He increased the remuneration for honest service.

Estimate of Cornwallis

  • Cornwallis, a blue-blooded aristocrat, was an ardent patriot.

  • He discharged his duties fearlessly, and his life was an embodiment of ‘duty and sacrifice’.

  • He perceived the danger of Tipu’s growing power and curtailed it by boldly discarding the policy of non-intervention.

  • As an administrator, he consolidated the Company’s position in India and started the tradition of efficient and pure administration.

  • His administrative and judicial reforms were solid achievements He may be regarded as the parent of the Indian Administrative Service and founder of an efficient and clean system of administration.

  • Sir John Shore (1793-98) succeeded Cornwallis as Governor General and his administration was uneventful

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.