Warren Hastings

From Academic Kids

Warren Hastings (December 6 1732 - August 22 1818) was the first governor-general of British India, from 1773 to 1786. He was famously impeached in the 1780s for corruption.

Warren Hastings was born 6th December 1732 at Churchill, Oxfordshire. He attended Westminster School before joining the British East India Company in 1750 as a clerk. In 1757 he was made the British Resident (administrative in charge) of Murshidabad. He was appointed to the Calcutta council in 1761 then went back to England in 1764. He returned to India in 1769 as a member of the Madras council and was made governor of Bengal in 1772. In 1773, he was appointed the first Governor-General of India.

During his time in this post, a great deal of precedent was established pertaining to the methods which the British Raj would use in its rule over India. Hastings had a great respect for the ancient scripture of Hinduism and fatefully set the British position on governance as one of looking back to the earliest precedents possible. This allowed Brahmin advisors to mold the law, as no Englishman understood Sanskrit until the great Sir William Jones; it also accentuated the caste system and other religious frameworks which had, at least in recent centuries, been somewhat incompletely applied. Thus, British influence on the everchanging social structure of India can in large part be characterized as, for better or for worse, a solidification of the privileges of the caste system through the influence of the exclusively high-caste scholars the British were advised by in the formation of their laws. These laws also accepted the binary division of the people of Bengal and, by extension, India in general as either Muslim or Hindu (to be governed by their own laws). Though said laws cannot be accused of causing the Partition, they were both cause and effect of the forces which would eventually polarize Hindu and Muslim nationalists into the creation of India and Pakistan.

As Hastings had few Englishmen, and still fewer with the ability to converse in local tongues, to carry out administrative work, he was forced to farm out revenue collection to locals with no ideological friendship for Company rule. Due to lax administration these revenue collectors became tyrants and the population of Bengal suffered horribly, even more so when famine struck. Englishmen continued to be seduced by the massive wealth of India into corruption and bribery, and Hastings could do little or nothing to stop it. Indeed, he participated in the widespread exploitation of these newly conquered lands.

Hastings resigned in 1784 and returned to England. He was charged with high crimes and misdemeanors by Edmund Burke and Sir Philip Francis, whom he had wounded in a duel in India. He was impeached in 1787 but the trial, which began in 1788, ended with his acquittal in 1795. Hastings spent most of his fortune on his defense, although the East India Company did contribute towards the end of the trial.

Hastings was made a Privy Councilor in 1814.

The city of Hastings, New Zealand is named after him.

Quotations

"The writers of the Indian philosophies will survive, when the British dominion in India shall long have ceased to exist, and when the sources which it yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrances."

"I hesitate not to pronounce the Gita a performance of great originality, of sublimity of conception, reasoning and diction almost unequalled; and a single exception, amongst all the known religions of mankind.."


See also: History of India


Preceded by:
Governor-General of India
1773–1786
Succeeded by:
John Macpherson

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