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Commentary for Volume 1, Chapter 7 : The Mysore Years (1799–1802)

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Many names appear in multiple different forms, and there are often different competing modern forms.  I have usually, but not always, followed the form used in AW’s own correspondence.

Seringapatam is now Srirangapattana (and Kate Brittlebank uses this, although few other writers on AW’s time in India do so).

Dhoondiah Waugh is also given as Dhoondiah Vagh (by Huw Davies) and Dhondji Vagh, (by G. N. Saletore); but Brittlebank writes Dhoondia Waugh.

Purneah is rendered as Purnaiya by Brittlebank and by Susan Stronge in Tipu’s Tigers.

Many other examples could be cited.

AW restores order by hanging and flogging:

AW to Harris  12.30 pm  [5 May 1799] WD I p 27:  No chance of restoring order until some plunderers are hanged, so please send us the provost.

AW to Mornington, 8 May 1799, WSD  vol 1  p 212-17: ‘I came in to take the command on the morning of the 5th, and by the greatest exertion, by hanging, flogging etc, etc, in the course of that day I restored order among the troops…’

Forrest Tiger of Mysore  p 298  says that there were no more than four men hanged.

Weller Wellington in India p 84 says that there were four executions incl. two Bengal sepoys and many floggings.

Reaction at Home:

Ironically, this was one of the few occasions when the Directors approved Mornington’s aggressive policies, with even Charles Grant – later one of his most severe critics – approving the war both at the time and in retrospect.  (Embree Charles Grant and British Rule in India  p 211; see also Wellesley Papers vol 1  p 119 for unanimous vote of thanks by the Court of Directors).

For the wider lack of interest see Diary of Henry Wellesley p 35: ‘military successes, and indeed proceedings of all kinds in India, however important and advantageous, produce but little effect in England.’

George Canning was an exception, adding a postscript to a letter to his cousin Bess: ‘

Great news by Telegraph this moment.  Seringapatam taken by storm! and Tippoo killed! all of which you will know before you receive this letter, but it is impossible not to mention it, and wish oneself joy upon it.’  (quoted in Giles Hunt Mehitabel Canning p 177)

            Dundas told Mornington that many people in Britain had thought that the booty of Seringapatam would amount to £15m or £20m and pay off the entire debt oft he Company (Dundas to Mornington, 1 Nov. 1799, Two Views of British India  p 203-5) which may partly explain the tepid reaction to the victory, and why Mornington fought so hard for the principle that the booty belonged to the government.

Mornington’s Marquessate:

Mornington to AW  6 June 1800  WP 1/67:

    They have inflicted an Irish Marquisate upon me, which no consideration under heaven would have induced me to accept, had I possessed the means of exercising my option upon this strange degrading honor: I have been very ill (absolutely from mere disgust & indignation at this unworthy Honor) of which I received the first hint in April; and I cannot say my health has been right one moment since I learnt it.   The effect here is mischievous in the extreme – comparisons are made, all tending to reduce my personal consideration.  I mean to resign the Government in December next, if this stupid blunder, or base job should not be corrected before that time.

 See Severn Architects of Empire p 108-10 for a good account of the background to the honour: it reflected Mornington’s own instructions before he left home, but composed when he did not have in mind a triumph equal to the conquest of Mysore.

AW’s  personal finances and the loan from Mornington:

AW to Mornington, 14 June 1799, WSD vol 1 p 242-7: Says that his share of the prize money will amount to about 7,000 pagodas in jewels and 3,000 in money [approx £4,000 cf table p 223n].  Offering to repay the money Mornington lent him.  Says he is ruined by lack of allowances.

Mornington to AW ‘Private’ 19 June 1799 WSD  vol 1 p 246n Won’t accept re-payment. No need for the money and probably never will: if I do, then I’ll ask you.

AW to Mornington, 23 June 1799, WP 1/17:  Very much obliged for what you have done.

See also Statement of account between Ld Mornington and me,  8 June 1799, WP 1/17.

AW suggested to the Prize Agents that he and Sherbrooke should be rewarded as major-generals not colonels and so receive a substantially larger share of the distribution, arguing that they had performed the same duties as major-generals in the siege, but this was evidently unsuccessful, as when AW gave his brother William a detailed statement of his finances, he said that he had received £5,000 prize money at Seringapatam. (AW to Maj-Gen Floyd, Seringapatam, 23 May 1799 WSD vol 1 p 222-5; AW to William Wellesley-Pole, 13 Sept 1809 ‘Letters to Pole’ p 24-25).   There was much talk of a second division of the prize, the proceeds of the military stores taken in the city, but this appears never to have taken place.  As late as 1831 Wellington assured a hopeful veteran that he had only ever received a single payment (Wellington to D. Maddison, 5 July 1831 draft written on letter from Maddison: WP 1/1189/2).

Harris’s departure/AW’s appointment:

On 11 Sept 1799 Harris issued a General Order:

 ‘The Commander in Chief, being about to proceed to the Presidency in obedience to the orders of the Governor General in Council, appoints Col. the Hon. A. Wellesley to command the troops serving above the ghauts.  (WD I p 32n see also Agnew to AW, 12 Aug 1799, WSD  vol 1 p 291-2n – permission to appoint staff; Harris preparing to leave.  And ibid p 294-5)

 See also Lushington Life of Harris p 281: ‘The two succeeding months of July and August were occupied in obtaining and securing possession of the different forts and countries belonging to Mysore.

Seringapatam Trophies:

Among the other trophies sent home from Seringapatam were:

– Tipu’s mechanical tiger, now in the V&A

– Tipu’s armour (see Correspondence of George, Prince of Wales vol 4 p 111-2)

– Cheetahs, sent home to George III

– rings, swords &c see WSD vol 1 p 289.

AW orders rebels hanged:

AW’s instructions from Lt-Col Agnew, writing on behalf of General Harris, on 24 August included the following paragraph:

In all cases of resistance or rebellion against the established government, the Commander-in-Chief has caused the most severe examples to be made of those who were found in arms.  The effect has been what was expected; and he recommends, should any case hereafter occur, that you adopt a similar line of conduct.  (WSD vol 1  p 294-6n)

AW on Native Government:

The disputes between the officers and the amildars are equally irksome, and, I believe, owe their origin to the same circumstance.   There is not, at this moment, a post by which I do not receive letters of complaint from some man or other.  To enter into a detailed inquiry upon the subject is impossible, and to decide without inquiry would be unjust; and one is, therefore, reduced to an impotent exhortation to be upon good terms with the officers of the Rajah’s government.   We have never been hitherto accustomed to a Native government; we cannot readily bear the disappointments and delays which are usual in all their transactions; prejudices are entertained against them, and all their actions are misconstrued, and we mistrust them.   I see instances of this daily in the best of our officers, and I cannot but acknowledge that, from the delays of the Natives, they have sometimes reason to complain; but they have none to ill use any man.  (AW to Close, 18 June 1800, WD  I p 121-123).

AW on Purneah:

See the warm tribute paid by AW in his letter to Henry Wellesley, 26 May 1801, (WSD vol 2 p 407-11)  quoted later in this chapter; and also

   It is impossible for a man to be more ignorant of European policies than Purneah is; indeed, he does not appear to me to have had any knowledge of the late orders from Europe, and the proposed changes of men and measures at Madras, which were so likely to affect his own situation. I attribute his salutary ignorance upon these points to his not having any communication with Madras dubashes, who know everything.  (AW to Webbe, 27 Feb 1802, WSD  vol 3 p 102)

 I don’t think we shall experience any inconvenience in the employment of Purneah’s runners to carry our tappalls.   Purneah has never failed yet in anything he as undertaken for us, and I don’t think that he will fail in this arrangement.  (AW to Webbe, 19 April 1802, WSD  vol 3  p 148-9).

And, to Purneah himself,

I part with you with the greatest regret; and I shall ever continue to feel the most lively interest for the honor and prosperity of the government of the Rajah of Mysore over which you preside.   For 6 years I have been concerned in the affairs of the Mysore government, and I have contemplated with the greatest satisfaction its increasing prosperity under your administration.

Experience has proved the wisdom of the arrangement which was first made of the government of Mysore; and I am convinced that under no other management would it have been possible for the British government to derive such advantages from the country which you have governed, as I have enjoyed in the various difficulties with which we have contended since your authority was established.   Every principle of gratitude, therefore, for many acts of personal kindness to myself, and a strong sense of the public benefits which have been derived from your administration, render me anxious for its continuance and for its increasing prosperity; and in every situation in which I may be placed, you may depend upon it, that I shall not fail to bear testimony of my sense of your merits upon every occasion that may offer, and that I shall suffer no opportunity to pass which I may think favorable for rendering you service.

               Upon the occasion of taking my leave of you, I must take the liberty to recommend to you to persevere in the laudable path which you have hitherto followed.  Let the prosperity of the country be your great object; protect the ryots and traders, and allow no man, whether vested with authority or otherwise, to oppress them with impunity; do justice to every man; and attend to the wholesome advice which will be given to you by the British Resident; and you may depend upon it that your government will be as prosperous and as permanent as I wish it to be.   (AW to Purneah, 2 March 1805, WD  II p 1437-8).

 Purneah retained his position until the young raja came of age (sixteen) in 1811 when he was effectively dismissed.   He died in 1812.   The young raja had not been trained for the task of government, and in 1825 Arthur Cole told Wellington ‘We have never got on very well since the death of Poorneeu, the Rajah not being a man of business himself, and unfortunately not possessing confidence enough in any ministers to enable a man of ability and character to conduct the government.’  (WND vol 2 p 548; other details from Brittlebank ‘The White Raja of Srirangapattana’ p 30).   This suggests that the praise of the government of Mysore by the editor of Wilks’s history may be too generous, but one would need to know more about Cole, and his possible bias, to put too much weight on this single remark.

Henrietta, Lady Clive described Purneah in a letter to her husband of 26 June 1800 when her travels had taken her to Mysore:  ‘I cannot say much for Purneah’s beauty.  He is short, rather fat with a large head, but looks clever and good humoured.’  (Shields Birds of Passage p 154)

AW as a ‘White Raja’

Kate Brittlebank ‘The White Raja of Srirangapattana: was Arthur Wellesley Tipu Sultan’s True Successor?’ South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies vol 26 no 1 2003 p 23-35 argues that AW adopted many local royal customs as a way of establishing and maintaining his authority in Mysore, and that this resulted in his being regarded as the personification of British power (rather than, for example, Barry Close) – as evidenced by petitions etc (esp. p 28).   And ‘It must be said, then, that Wellesley was acting very much in the manner of an Indian ruler.  In other ways, too, his actions resembled royal behaviour.  He seems to have understood, at least to some extent, the significance of gift giving.’ (p 33 – she goes on to give an interesting example of how his personal gesture of appreciation was of great significance to one recipient).   In ‘two other respects at least, Wellesley behaved like a king: he went hunting for pleasure, a thoroughly royal pastime; and he resided at the Daria Daulat, one of Tipu’s palaces, on the island of Srirangapattana.’ (p 33-34)

This is interesting and convincing, but the title of Brittlebank’s paper raises a few qualms, as it conjures images of James Brooke and the White Rajahs of Brunei, and of the Kirkpatricks and other British officers employed as Residents who became deeply imbued with Indian culture (see William Dalrymple’s White Mughals).   AW may have lived in Tipu’s palace and hunted antelope with his cheetahs, but he did not adopt native dress or other customs, and remained thoroughly a British officer serving in India, although not a blind or incurious one.

AW’s quarrel with Captain Norris, chief engineer officer over repairs to Seringapatam:

Work on repairs to Seringapatam went more slowly than Wellesley expected, and when a warning failed to stir Captain Norris, the chief engineer, into greater action, he established a formal enquiry, of which he was the President, which instructed Norris how to do his job.   Not surprisingly, Norris resented the interference and reacted with bureaucratic obstructionism including a flat refusal to supply Wellesley with a plan of the defences of the city.   By the end of July Wellesley’s patience was exhausted and he informed the Military Board that Norris was ‘not fit to be employed as the engineer at Seringapatam’.  (AW to the Secretary of the Military Board, 27 July 1799, WSD  vol 1 p 282-3, see also ibid  p 217-8, 226-7, 252-4 and 274-5.   According to Vibart Military History of the Madras Engineers and Pioneers  vol 1 p 328 the military authorities supported Norris, but gave him leave to return to Europe.)

Change in AW’s attitude to India:

As late as December 1798 AW had made clear to Henry that he still regarded service in India with distaste:

 If the war lasts in Europe, and … becomes rather more active than it has been for some time past, I should prefer serving there; as that may not happen, and as I am obliged to serve in some part of the world, however disagreeable this country is, I don’t know whether I may not as well remain here as go to any other place.  I have been perfectly well in India, and I don’t much care about being in a disagreeable place.  (AW to Henry Wellesley, 14 Dec 1798, WSD vol 1 p 139-40).

 That was in Madras.   Six months later in Seringapatam he told Mornington that his new position was ‘the most respectable and the best situation for me that I could have in India’, provided that no superior was appointed over his head.   He was willing to return to England to explain his brother’s policies if Mornington asked him to do so, but made it plain that he would rather remain in Mysore. (AW to Mornington, 23 June 1799, WP 1/17 printed, but with an important paragraph suppressed in WSD vol 1 p 250-1).   Mornington respected this and it was Henry, not Arthur, Wellesley who set sail in August 1799 and did not return until January 1801.

Life at Seringapatam:

Early in February 1800 a touch of excitement was added to life in Seringapatam by rumours of a plot to kidnap Wellesley or the Raja.   Wellesley was at first sceptical, but took some precautions and his doubts were shaken by the consistent story told by one informant.   A number of arrests were made, but the suspects soon established their innocence and were released, and no more was heard of the plot.  (Series of letters from AW to Close from 3rd to 15 February 1800 printed in WD I p 60-9 and AW to Agnew, 26 Feb 1800, WSD vol 1 p 460-1).

AW was absent, on campaign against Dhoondiah Waugh, when Lady Clive and her party visited Seringapatam in August 1800 (Shields Bird of Passage p 179).

Clive and Webbe urge AW not to go on the Batavian Expedition before Dhoondiah is defeated:

No sooner had AW declined Ld Wellesley’s offer of the Batavian expediton than he received anxious letters from Webbe and Clive which, while full of warm friendship and sympathy, made it quite plain that they felt he ought not to accept the offer. To have anticipated their wishes was some consolation, but not much, and he must surely have cursed Dhoondiah from the bottom of his heart.  (Webbe to AW, 24 May 1800, and Clive to AW, 26 May 1800, WD  I p 104-5n, 105-6n)

The Campaign against Dhoondiah Waugh:

Huw Davies argues that the ‘traditional view’ is that the campaign has ‘very little of historical significance to offer’ because Dhoonhia’s ‘disorganized rabble’ was defeated quite quickly and with minimal casualties.’  But he disagrees:

the campaign was enormously important because it provided Wellesley with crucial experiences that were to serve him in good stead later in his career.  A more circumspect view, taking into account the months leading up to the opening phases of military operations, would suggest that Wellesley’s success was the result more of sustained political activity aimed at denying the insurgent sanctuary, than any profound battlefield prowess.  As such, the campaign against Dhoondiah can be seen as part of a wider narrative of British imperial expansion, one that rested on ambiguous moral authority supported by an image of military invincibility.’  (Davies ‘Wellington’s First Command: The Political and Military Campaign Against Dhoondiah Vagh, February-September 1800’ Modern Asian Studies vol 44 p 1084-85)

 It is certainly true that AW learnt important lessons from the campaign, as should be clear from the narrative in the main text, but the campaign was not a particularly unusual operation for British India; while even for AW it was only the largest of a number of campaigns he fought against insurgencies in the years he was based at Seringapatam.  Davies’s conclusion pitches his claim of the significance of the campaign rather too high:  ‘Short as it may be, Wellesley’s campaign against Dhoondiah Vagh was one of the defining events of the future Duke of Wellington’s military career, and as such sowed the seeds of a military genius.’ (p 1113).

There is another specialist article on the campaign that I have been unable to access:  ‘The British expedition against Dhondji Vagh’ by G. N. Saletore in Journal of the University of Bombay (History, Economics and Sociology) ns vol 15 no 4 (1947) p 5-17.

Strength of Dhoondiah Waugh’s force:

Biddulph (Colonel John Biddulph The Nineteenth and their Times which gives an extended account of the campaign against Dhoondiah Waugh) p 117, Fortescue (History of the British Army vol 4 pt 2 p 754) and Cooper (Randolph G. S. Cooper ‘New Light on Arthur Wellesley’s Command-Apprenticeship in India: the Dhoondiah Waugh Campaign of 1800 Reconsidered’ in Alan J. Guy The Road to Waterloo p 81, 85) all say that Dhoondiah was at the head of forty thousand men.   Weller qualifies it by writing ‘he is said to have had…’ but then goes on to make it ‘50,000 fighting men’ (Wellington in India p 95).   None give a source.   Fortescue indicates that the figure comes from AW: ‘a band of robbers said to number forty thousand men, which, in Wellesley’s words, increased as it advanced like a snowball.’  The snowball simile is in AW to Munro, 7 May 1800, WD I p 92-3:

 I think that, upon the whole, we are not in the most thriving condition in this country.  Polygars, nairs and moplahs in arms on all sides of us; an army full of disaffection and discontent, amounting to Lord knows what, on the northern frontier, which increases, as it advances, like a snowball in snow…

 But the only reference to 40,000 men appears to be in AW’s letter to Close of 7 Sept 1800 (WD I p 176-77) where he writes of 40,000 brinjarries, not soldiers.

Huw Davies ‘Wellington’s First Command: the Political and Military Campaign Against Dhoondia Vagh’ p 1104 says that after his defeat of Goklah, Dhoondiah’s force rose to a force of ‘50,000 troops of all arms, of which 30,000 were cavalry’.  He cites AW to Close, 6 July 1800, in The Mysore Letters and Dispatches of the Duke of Wellington (Bangalore, Mysore Government Press, 1862) p 108-9, but this letter, which is the same as that printed in WD I p 137-8, gives no such figures.

It is interesting to compare it with what AW told Lt-Col Pater on 25 April 1800:

 Dhoondiah has made considerable progress in Savanore … he is unopposed there, and … he has collected and has been joined by numbers of people and discontented and disaffected of all descriptions belonging to this and to the Nizam’s country…

All parties will agree only in one thing, that is, in representing Dhoondiah’s force and the danger to be much greater than it really is… (WSD  vol 1  p 539-40)

 And Henrietta, Lady Clive told Lord Clive on 7 May 1800 that ‘Col Close said that Dhoondiah’s Army was nominally 10,000 men but not so in reality, and not at all likely to attack your frontier.’  (Shields Bird of Passage p 135 – she was on her tour at the time, but not yet at Bangalore).

AW rebukes subordinate for frivolous complaints:

 I have had the honor of receiving your letter of the 21st inst., with its enclosures; and I am much concerned that any officer should have thought it proper, at such a time as the present, to trouble me with a complaint about 4 bundles of straw, into which it appears, by the papers you enclose, you had taken the pains of making the fullest investigation.  I know no method in which I can investigate the matter further, excepting by a General Court Martial; and I certainly shall not take the officers of the army away from their more important duty, to give them any trouble upon a matter so little interesting to the public.

          Upon the subject of the complaint itself…. [and he goes on to deal incisively with the central point in dispute]  (AW to Major **** commanding H. M. __ Lt Dragoons,  Camp,  22 June 1800, WD  I p 126-7).


AW’s account of the action is given in a report to the Adjutant-General of the Army at Fort St George:

 He had only a large body of cavalry, apparently 5,000, which I immediately attacked with the 19th and 25th dragoons, and 1st and 2nd regiments of cavalry.

The enemy was strongly posted, with his rear and left flank covered by the village and rock of Conahgull, and stood for some time with apparent firmness; but such was the rapidity and determination of the charge made by those 4 regts, which I was obliged to form in one line, in order at all to equalize in length that of the enemy, that the whole gave way, and were pursued by my cavalry for many miles.   Many, among others Dhoondiah, were killed; and the whole body dispersed, and were scattered in small parties over the face of the country…  (AW to Adj-Gen, Fort St George, 10 Sept 1800, WD I p 177-9).

 Sardesai New History of the Marathas vol 3 p 362 says ‘At last he [Dhoondiah] was compelled to stand an action at Bhanu near Bellary on 10th September 1800, where he was killed fighting along with six hundred followers.  He was then sixty years of age.’

            AW’s victory was praised, among others, by Major A Grant, writing from Madras:

what has never yet been shown in this Country, that is, what Cavalry can do …. I know well the materials you had to work with; & you will I hope pardon me if I say that I fully relied on the manner in which they would be used when the opportunity offered.

               The 10th September is the brightest day the Cavalry has seen in India; and you have raised them to that degree of credit & estimation which they at all times merited, & would have … [?] acquired had they been properly led to a trial.  Had you not justly appreciated the small Body of Cavalry you commanded, Dundia [sic] might, & would, have ravaged our possessions for years and have cost us many lahks.  (Major A. Grant to AW, Madras, 26 Sept 1800, WP 1/54)

 Salabut Khan:

            Footnote in WD  I p 178n:

Among the baggage was found Salabut Khan, a son of Dhoondiah, a child of about 4 years old.  He was taken to Col. Wellesley’s tent, and was afterwards most kindly and liberally taken care of by him.   Sir Arthur, on his departure from India, left some hundred pounds for the use of the boy in the hands of Col. J. Hely Symons, the judge and collector at Seringapatam.   When Col. Symons retired from service, the Hon. A. Cole, the Resident at the Court of Mysore, took charge of him, and had him placed in the Rajah’s service.  He was a fine, handsome, intelligent youth.  Salabut Khan died of cholera in 1822.

 Wellington to Major Barclay,  Badajoz, 3 Dec 1809, WSD vol 6 p 430-1:  ‘PS Pray how does Salabut Khan get on?  Though he did call me a ______ because I would not allow him to eat pork, I cannot avoid being anxious about him.’

Following the death of Salabut Khan from cholera in 1825 it was discovered that he had secretly contracted a number of debts, and most of the capital which AW had left for his maintenance was used to satisfy his creditors.  See WND vol 2 p 547-8.

AW’s Movements, Nov/Dec 1800:

AW to Sec of Govt, Fort St George, 21 Nov 1800, WD I p 220-1

                        broke up army’s camp on 16 November

                        Hopes to arrive Seringapatam, 29 November

            AW to Col Stevenson, Seringapatam, 2 Dec 1800, WSD  vol 2  p 284-8

Handing over command of the army while he is away.


AW to Mornington, Fort St George, 19 Dec 1800, WSD vol 2 p 305-6

Arrived here [Madras] on the 13th.

Lord Wellesley’s plans for the Trincomalee force:

Lord Wellesley’s plans were revealed in his ‘Private & Secret’ dispatch dated 5 November.   The expedition to Batavia had never sailed and was still a possibility, but news of fresh French victories in Europe, including Marengo, had turned his thoughts west and south rather than east.   He had decided to create a mobile expeditionary force based at Trincomalee, which could be used in case the French army in Egypt managed to send a detachment across the Arabian Sea to western India; or, conversely, it could be sent to the Red Sea to co-operate with an army from home in an attack on Egypt.   And if it was not needed for either of these tasks, as seemed quite likely, Lord Wellesley had a fresh objective in view: the conquest of Mauritius.   This would please the East India Company, for French privateers based in Mauritius were a constant menace to British trade, and would improve the security of British India by removing a possible staging post for an expedition sent direct from Europe.   Capturing Mauritius would be less lucrative but more glorious than taking Batavia, and the Governor-General’s enthusiasm for the plan had been fired by Mr Stokes, a sailor, who brought recent intelligence of discontent and dissension in the islands, and a plan of attack which required only 3,000 men, and which was guaranteed to succeed.   ‘My anxious wish is’, Lord Wellesley wrote, ‘that you should proceed on, or about, 25th of December, from Trincomalé directly to the Isle of France.’   The operation was to be kept so secret that even Lord Clive had not been told of the expedition’s likely destination, although seasoned observers could deduce a good deal from the point of assembly.  (Lord Wellesley to AW, ‘Private & Secret’, 5 Nov 1800, WP 1/58; and W. A. C. Halliwell ‘The Passage to Bombay, 1801’ Wellington Studies vol 1 1996 p 93 on the last point).

AW accepts command of the Mauritius expedition:

Arthur Wellesley arrived at Madras on 13 December and was soon immersed in details of troops, shipping and supplies.   He asked Major-General Braithwaite, Harris’s successor as commander-in-chief in Madras, for permission to take certain officers with him as his staff, naming Lieutenant-Colonels Colman and Capper, and Captains Scott, Fitzpatrick, Ogg and West.   The last of these, Captain Francis West of the 33rd, had been Wellesley’s aide-de-camp since he was appointed Governor of Seringapatam, while the others had attracted his notice more recently or had particular skills – for example, Ogg was a linguist who served as Persian interpreter (Persian being widely used throughout India and beyond as a court and diplomatic language).  (AW to Braithwaite, 19 Dec 1800, WD I p 223; on Ogg see AW to Lt-Gen Stuart, 15 March and 3 August 1802, WSD  vol 3  p 109-11, 249-50 and AW to Webbe, 29 May 1804, ibid  vol 4  p 405-6.   Information on Wellesley’s staff at this stage of his career is scarce, but see Weller Wellington in India  p 104).

Wellesley also used the interlude at Madras to study the papers which his brother had enclosed with his instructions, and gradually his initial scepticism melted and his confidence grew.  Writing on 19 December, just before sailing to Trincomalee, he told the Governor-General, ‘I think much better of the expedition than I did at first.   The only doubt that I have now is of the weather.’   And he went on to ask whether, if the expedition succeeded, he should remain as Governor of Mauritius or return to India.

 It is absolutely indifferent to me which I do, and I shall be glad to be in that place in which I can be of most service.  Lord Clive and people here are anxious that I should return to Mysore; and if there is a chance of war with the Marathas, I think I should be more useful there than anywhere else.  (AW to Lord Wellesley, 19 Dec 1800, WSD vol 2  p 305-6).

 AW’s later opinion of the Mauritius expedition:

AW’s considered opinion of the Mauritius expedition was unfavourable, but this was only formed after it was cancelled, and he had met Mr Stokes at Bombay.   In May 1801 he told Henry Wellesley:

I am glad to hear that the expedition to the Mauritius is to be given up.  Stokes’s plan is the greatest nonsense that ever entered the head of man, and yet it cannot be said positively that it would not succeed.   It depends entirely upon surprise, of which, it may be observed, that it may succeed anywhere; but there is every reason to believe that it would not succeed in this instance; and if it did not succeed, it would be impossible to employ, on a regular attack, any of the troops who should have been employed on the surprise: this is evident from the state of the winds and currents.

               Stokes is radically ignorant of everything relating to any other point of attack, or mode of making it, excepting that by surprise, which is attended with so much risk that no officer in his senses would attempt it.   I had a full conversation with him upon the subject at Bombay, in the presence of General Baird, the result of which was a conviction on the minds of both of us that Stokes knew nothing of the matter.  (AW to Henry Wellesley, 26 May 1801, WSD vol 2 p 407-11).


This appears to vindicate fully Rainier’s hostility to the plan, and cast considerable doubt on Lord Wellesley’s judgement in adopting it with such enthusiasm.  (Although, given AW’s hostility to Lord Wellesley just then, this last factor may have affected his judgement, and led him to condemn the plan with added vigour).

AW at Trincomalee:

Colonel Wellesley and his staff reached Trincomalee on Christmas Eve 1800.  Part of the expedition was already there, while the Admiral with the rest was expected from Bengal any day.   With luck, they would sail before the end of the year.   A bundle of letters from the Governor-General was waiting for the Colonel.  The letters, dated 1 December, were mostly full of optimism and confidence: the troops had embarked on 28 November and should sail for Trincomalee on 2 December, and a list of promising or well-connected officers who should be given an opportunity for distinguishing themselves, was enclosed.   But a defensive, anxious note also appeared, which did not augur well:

 It is difficult to conceive the anxiety which I feel for the success of this enterprise against the Isle of France.  I look upon it, however, to be certain, if the Admiral shall act with cordiality, alacrity, and vigour, and I really expect to meet with all those qualities in him.   Great jealousy will arise among the General Officers in consequence of  my employing you; but I employ you because I rely on your good sense, discretion, activity, and spirit, and I cannot find all those qualities united in any other officer in India who could take such a command. (Lord Wellesley to AW, 1 Dec 1800, WSD vol 2 p 315-6n.  See also other letters of this date in ibid p 309-13n and WP 1/61).

 While the expedition waited at Trincomalee for the Admiral to arrive, its commander worried about supplies.   Trincomalee was one of the finest harbours in the world, but the hinterland was poor and the troops were consuming their sea rations.   On 27 December Wellesley asked Frederick North, the Governor of Ceylon, to authorize the issue of 150 casks of salt beef, each weighing 360 lbs, 4000 bags of rice and other supplies from his reserves.   And three days later he asked the Governor-General to send further supplies from Bengal (AW to Frederick North, 27 Dec 1800, WD I p 223-4; AW to Lord Wellesley, 30 Dec 1800, WSD vol 2 p 309-17). New Year came and went and still the Admiral did not arrive.   On 7 January Wellesley received a letter from the Governor-General which must have added to his anxiety.  ‘I am much concerned to inform you’, Lord Wellesley wrote in his grandiloquent way, ‘that I have great reason to apprehend that the Admiral and Mr Stokes will not reach Trincomalee so soon as I had expected.’  He neither explained the reason for the delay, nor suggested how long it might last, instead stating that if he found it necessary to divert the expedition to Egypt he would have to enlarge it and give the command to a more senior officer, naming Sir James Craig and David Baird as the most likely candidates.   However he still hoped that it would be possible to pursue ‘my favourite plan’ of an expedition to Mauritius (Lord Wellesley to AW, 7 Jan 1801, WSD vol 2 p 323-4n ).  This was trebly alarming for Arthur Wellesley.   It was bad that the expedition was being inexplicably delayed and perhaps cancelled or diverted to Egypt.   It was worse that he might be superseded in the command; but to be superseded by Baird was a nightmare.   As far back as June 1799 Wellesley had told his brother that it would be ‘particularly unpleasant’ for him to have to serve under Baird, and that he did not think that anyone (he meant General Harris) would be so tactless as to ask him to do so (AW to Mornington, 23 June 1799, WSD vol 1 p 250-1). And now this very thing was being suggested, not by Harris or Braithwaite, or some other insensitive superior, but by his own brother!   (Craig, while a competent officer, was hardly more alluring as a prospective superior:  Lord Wellesley privately described him as ‘intolerable’ from his ‘pugnacious spirit of wrangling’) (Mornington to Dundas, ‘Secret and Confidential’, 21 April 1799, Two Views of British India p 142-5).  Still, all might yet be well, and the expedition proceed to Mauritius.   With this in mind the Colonel wrote a restrained and moderate letter to the Governor-General, showing that he was unhappy at the idea of serving under either Baird or Craig, and that he felt that he had induced his staff officers to follow him with promises which he might not be able to keep, but largely avoiding lamentation and reproaches (AW to Lord Wellesley, 8 January 1801, WSD vol 2 p 323-6).

A fortnight passed without sign of the Admiral or the rest of the expedition or word from Bengal.  Time was now clearly running out, for Mr Stokes had stated that Mauritius could not be attacked between February and April, while the chance of surprise, on which the plan depended, diminished with every day which was lost (AW to Lord Wellesley, 22 January 1801, WD I p 226-8).  Another fortnight brought nothing to do but the endless, thankless task of keeping the bored, idle men healthy and fed as they waited, cooped up on board ship or in improvised quarters ashore.

Lord Wellesley gives way to Baird, and alternative plan of campaign:

Lord Wellesley would stare down most challenges to his authority with cold hauteur, but he was already on bad terms with the East India Company, and he could not risk a simultaneous confrontation with both the admiral and his generals.   Besides, there was nothing to gain, for the opportunity of an immediate attack on Mauritius had already been lost.   To square the circle and satisfy everyone he devised a new plan.   The expedition would be reinforced, Baird would be given the command, and it would sail to Batavia.   Once Batavia had been taken, the bulk of the force would double back and attack Mauritius – probably under Arthur Wellesley’s command, with Baird being left as Governor of Batavia, although this was not made quite clear.   On any consideration of the practicalities involved this plan was absurd, presenting immense logistical difficulties, and placing the health of the troops in grave jeopardy.   It was fortunate for Lord Wellesley’s reputation that no attempt was made to implement it, while the fact that he proposed it shows that he was realized that he had placed himself in an impossible position. (Lord Wellesley to AW, ‘Private & Most Secret’, 24 Jan 1801, WP 1/68; and another letter of same date in WSD vol 2 p 333n ).

AW’s decision to sail for Bombay:

Halliwell’s argument is difficult to follow on this question, for on the one hand he accuses AW of ‘shameless opportunism’ in sailing when he knew that Lord Wellesley intended to supersede him if the expedition was sent to Egypt (p 109-10), while on the other he states that ‘Arthur was absolutely correct from a strategic point of view …. a commanding officer who failed to respond immediately to such orders would be open to severe censure’ (Halliwell ‘The Passage to Bombay, 1801’ Wellington Studies vol 1 p 111).

AW was acting under formal instructions from the Governor-General in Council which read, in part,

 to adopt certain measures of precaution with a view to the security and defence of the British possessions in India from any attack which may be meditated against them by the enemy, and also with the further view of answering any demand which may be made by His Majesty’s ministers in England for the co-operation of the British government of India in the expulsion of the French from Egypt.   (Gov General in Council to AW, 14 Nov 1800, WSD vol 2 p 284-5n).

As for the decision to go to Bombay, not direct to the Red Sea, there may be those who believe that the judgement of Frederick North carries more weight on strategic and logistical questions than that of Arthur Wellesley, but I am not one of them.

AW on the importance of supplies:

‘Depend upon it, my dear sir, that the success of military operations in India depends upon supplies; there is no difficulty in fighting, and in finding the means of beating your enemy either without or with loss: but to gain your object you must feed.’  (AW to Col Sartorius, 18 Sept 1800, WD  II p 1615-17).

AW and Baird:

When AW learnt that Baird had been appointed, he was en route to Bombay (previously he had only known of it being a possibility).   He was confident that Dundas’s instructions would put a stop to the Batavia scheme, but he felt uneasy at Baird’s reaction when he discovered that the expedition had sailed without him; so he wrote a conciliatory letter to his new commanding officer, explaining and justifying his actions.   In the event, Baird controlled his temper and remembered the strict instructions he had received from Lord Wellesley to co-operate ‘harmoniously and zealously’ with the Colonel.   He therefore replied mildly, regretting that Wellesley had sailed before receiving fresh instructions from Bengal, but going on to acknowledge the need for haste, and clearly signalling his desire to bury past differences.  (Lord Wellesley to AW, 24 Jan 1801, WSD vol 2  p 333n (announces Baird’s appointment); AW to Baird, 21 Feb 1801, WD I p 237-8; Lord Wellesley to Baird, 10 Feb 1801, Wellesley Despatches  vol 2  p 251-2 (instructions, including to co-operate with AW); Baird to AW, 4 and 5  March 1801, WP 1/73 (two letters)).

The evidence for their personal relations at Bombay is rather ambiguous.  On the one hand there is AW’s letter to Baird of 9 April 1801 (WD I p 245-6) which is surprisingly warm:

As I am writing upon this subject, I will freely acknowledge that my regret at being prevented from accompanying you has been greatly increased by the kind, candid, and handsome manner in which you have behaved towards me; and I will confess as freely, not only that I did not expect such treatment, but that my wishes before you arrived, regarding going upon the expedition, were directly the reverse of what they are at this moment.

 And this is supported by AW’s letters to friends and colleagues across India insisting that Baird had behaved well (e.g. AW to Montresor, 11 April 1801, WSD vol 2 p 344-6; AW to Col. Campbell, 10 May 1801, ibid  p 380-1).

But it would have harmed AW’s reputation to have left the expedition from pique or private disappointment, so he had to establish that it was his health, and no other reason, that he stayed behind.   The truth seems to be that Baird behaved much better than AW expected and tried to be conciliatory, but that it was still an awkward, uncomfortable relationship.   They were only in Bombay together for a few days, when AW was ill, and Baird busy with other work, so there wasn’t much time to establish genuine trust, or, conversely, for good intentions to wear thin,  They were very different characters, and it seems unlikely that they could have worked closely together to their mutual satisfaction for any extended period, even without their past history.   (See AW to Close, 11 April 1801, and AW to Webbe, 7 April 1801, WD I p 251, 245: to Close he says that his intention to accompany the expedition was ‘laudable  but highly disagreeable’ while to Webbe he complains that one of his staff officers, Colman, has been dismissed from his situation.   It is probably significant that these letters were to men whom AW knew well and thoroughly trusted – who were fully in his confidence – compared to rather more distant figures such as Montresor and Campbell).

In 1834, when Gurwood was preparing the dispatches of this period for publication, Wellington told him,

  You will see likewise that I have struck out some words referring to jealousies as between Baird and me which may as well not be published.

Long before he died he and I were on the very best terms.  I believe that he sincerely lamented what had passed at this period; for the fault was his and not mine.  (Wellington to Gurwood, 4 April 1834, WP 2/9/62)

 AW and the Sussanah :

C. D. Yonge, in his The Life of Field Marshal Arthur, Duke of Wellington (vol 1 p 43), states that if AW had not fallen ill he would have sailed on the Sussanah, which was lost before it reached the Red Sea, with no survivors.  He does not give a source, and this has been repeated as fact ever since.

AW had intended to sail on the Sussanah: see his letter to Baird of  9 April 1801 (WD I p 245-6) where he says that he has no fever, but the skin eruptions are much worse – has been ordered to take a course of nitrous baths.  This will delay me longer than the Susannah should wait, so I will let it go and follow later, or give up.   The Times 21 Nov 1801 prints a letter from Jaddah (sic) of 24 June 1801 referring to several ships being wrecked in the Red Sea including the Sussanah, but this does not say that there were no survivors: see Terence Grocott Shipwrecks of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Eras  p 112.

From Bombay to Cannanore:

AW and party landed at Cannanore on 27 April 1801 (WSD vol 2  p 367-8) and arrived in Seringapatam on  7  May (ibid  p 373-5).

AW to Duncan, Cannore, 28 April 1801, WSD  vol 2  p 368-70:

 I arrived here yesterday, having had rather a tedious passage.  We met at first with southerly winds and calms, but latterly the wind was fair.  The Queen , however, sails wretchedly.

           The commander, Lieutenant ______ [illegible], is one of the most attentive men that I have see do his duty.  I have many obligations to him for his civility to me, and his attention to whatever could tend to my personal accommodation and convenience, and I beg leave to recommend him to your favour and patronage.

              We met near Bombay the Panther  …. I was so sick that I could not write to you.

AW to Close, Cannore,  28 April 1801, WSD vol 2 p 368:

I arrived here yesterday, and I propose to go to the upper country as soon as I can procure means to move my baggage.  I have got a good deal, however, and my friends Ogg &c &c, still more; and as we have just landed from ships, we are not so well provided as we ought to be with the means of moving it.  I am afraid, therefore, that although I have desired Quin to send me from Seringapatam elephants, bullocks, coolies, &c &c, I shall be under the necessity of asking for some assistance from the country.  I shall be obliged to you if you will request Purneah to give directions to his aumildar at Periapatam to assist me as far as may lie in his power.

 See also Elers’s rather tall tales of the journey from Cannanore to Seringapatam (Memoirs p 115-20).

Recurrence of fever and welcome home:

More attacks of fever: AW to Henry Wellesley, 26 May 1801, ‘I had two or three fits of fever after I returned here, but I am now tolerably well.’  (WSD  vol 2  p 407-11).

Clive, Webbe and Close welcomed his return, and disliked the Mauritius and Red Sea expeditions:

Clive to AW, 29 April 1801, WSD  vol 2  p 373-4n

Webbe to AW, 26 Feb 1801,  WP 1/71

AW to Close, 11 April 1801, WD  I p 251.

AW’s promotion:

AW to Henry Wellesley, 19 Oct 1798, WSD vol 1 p 108-110 expects to be made a major-general within a year and will have to go home if not placed on the staff here.

AW to Henry Wellesley, 10 Nov 1798, WSD vol 1 p 128-9

 I see that Major-Generals are made.  This promotion brings me to the top of the list of Colonels [it did not], and I shall certainly be a Major-General upon the next.  That may be in January or perhaps not till the following year, but at all events I shall be a Major-General at or before the peace.

The rules of the Company’s service and the custom of the King’s will then oblige me to go home.

 Mornington to Dundas, 26 Nov 1798, Two Views of British India p 112-3: AW will certainly be included in the next promotion.  He is very valuable here, and so needs to be put on the staff.

Dundas to Mornington, 17 April 1798, Two Views of British India  p 142:  There are so many colonels who must be promoted that we are delaying it as long as possible.  But don’t worry, I’ll make sure that he will be placed on the staff when it does happen.

When Mornington protested at his Irish Marquessate, he also said:  ‘Colonel Wellesley not only unnoticed, but his promotion protracted so studiously, that every Intriguer here believes it to be delayed for the express purpose of thwarting me.’  (quoted in Roberts India under Wellesley  p 75).

Lord Wellesley to AW, 3 March 1801, enclosing an extract of a letter from the Duke of York:

Having the pleasure of knowing personally Col. Wellesley I am thoroughly acquainted with his merits & Your Lordship may be assured of the satisfaction I shall feel in laying his name before His Majesty to be placed upon the Staff in the East Indies as soon as his standing in the Army shall admit of his being promoted to the Rank of Major General (WP 1/73).

 This appears to be a bland official and largely meaningless statement, not reflecting any true regard for AW, but containing a promise that AW would indeed be placed on the Indian staff when he was finally promoted.

The promotion which did not include AW was gazetted 1 January 1801 and he missed out by at least 20 places (it was 20 in 1811, but some others may have died by then). In a letter of commiseration Henry Wellesley blamed the decision on the Duke of York’s desire not to lose his military secretary Colonel Brownrigg, the King having ruled that it was improper to have a general in that post. (Henry Wellesley to AW, ‘Private’, 18 May 1801, WP 1/78).  However Brownrigg was only two places above AW, which casts doubt on Henry Wellesley’s story.   Among those 20 who also missed out were John Stuart (future victor of Maida), Sir John Hope, and Lord Paget – all of whom were senior to both Brownrigg and AW.

John Shee and the 33rd:

AW to Webbe,  Seringapatam,   4 Oct 1801,   WP 1/98

My dear Webbe,

                                 I believe you know how much interested I am about my Regiment – which I have now commanded for nine years.   Within these two last years however I have been so much away from them on other services, that I have been obliged to give over more of the Command than I should otherwise do, to my Major, Lieut-Col Shee; & the consequences have been neither very advantageous to the men, nor comfortable to the officers.   In short nothing can have gone on worse than they have at all times when I have been absent from this place, excepting the manner in which they have gone on at Vellore, I understand, since they have been there.

               I cannot express to you my anxiety to be rid of this same Major, and that the Command of the Regiment should devolve upon a very good man, a Relation of Mrs Dallas’ lately come from England, Major Eliott.  A mode of doing [so] occurs to me, which I will state to you, if you will turn it over in your mind, and put it in execution if you think it practicable.

               The Command at Arnee is now vacant and if it should be possible to force Lt Col Shee to take it, I should be glad if he were appointed to it.  If he cannot be forced to take it I shd be glad at all events, if it was offered to him in such a manner as that he may be induced to take it; and in doing this particular care should be taken not to let him know that I recommended it, as he is so suspicious that notwithstanding his wishes might lead him to accept it, he would decline it only because I recommended it.

               You cannot conceive how anxious I am upon this subject, and I shall be extremely obliged to you if you will urge Lord Clive to take any steps to remove him from the 33rd Regt.   I am not acquainted with General Stuart, or I would write to him; but I have reason to believe that he knows how badly things are going on in that Corps; and that he would not be displeased to see Lt Col Shee removed from the Command of it.

               I am convinced you will excuse the trouble I give you, and that you will impute it to its true motive, the interest I feel in the welfare of a Regiment I have Commanded so long.

 AW to Major Elliott, 33rd,  15 May 1802, WSD vol 3 p 184-6: gives a full account of the drunken quarrel between Shee and Lt Goodlad in the middle of the previous year (i.e. before the letter quoted above had been written).   Too long to quote here, but it helps explain AW’s dislike of Shee.

But the fullest expression of AW’s hostility to Shee comes in an 1803 letter from AW to Malcolm:

Colonel Shee will give your Brother some trouble, but he will not be able to prove anything, & I conclude that your Brother will be able to prove his Brutality toward his wife.  In that case the Captain will come off with flying Colours.  Shee will afterwards endeavour to force him to fight, as he is a species of assassin who has practised pistol shooting, merely that he might have an advantage in Dueling, & he has accordingly fought above a Dozen duels.   But I conclude that your Brother will be upon his ground, and will proceed against him at Law, if he should make such an attempt.  (AW to Malcolm, 16 Sept 1803, WP 3/3/71 – passage deleted from the printed version of this letter in WD  I p 713).

 Changes in the command of the 33rd:

Ron McGuigan explains the changes in the command of the 33rd as follows:


In 1802 the field officers in HM’s 33rd Regiment of Foot were, in order of seniority

 Lieutenant-Colonel and Brevet Colonel Arthur Wellesley

            Lieutenant-Colonel and Brevet Colonel John Sherbrooke

Major and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel John Shee

Major Walter Elliot

1.  AW is promoted major-general in the army, but retains his commission in the 33rd as senior Lieutenant-Colonel, but being placed on the staff is no longer in active command of the regiment, from April 1802.

2.  Sherbrooke had already gone home due to ill-health.  He exchanges with Arthur Gore, then on half-pay of the 5th Foot (i.e. not actively employed).

3.  Gore is now the junior lieutenant-colonel in the 33rd, but with AW on the staff, Gore will assume command of the regiment when he reaches India.

4.   In the interim Shee is the de facto commander of the 33rd; but if, as AW hoped, he could be persuaded to take up another command, the regiment would be left under the command of Major Walter Elliot.

5.  When Shee sends in his resignation and sails for England (where he will sell his commission), Major Elliot assumes command of the 33rd.

6.   Elliot is promoted brevet lieutenant-colonel in April 1802 (the brevet rank being in the army; in the regiment he remains a major).

7.   Shee sells his majority to Captain George Crawford, the third most senior captain serving in the 33rd.   (The chance to purchase the majority would be offered first to the captains in the regiment in order of seniority; if they all declined, it would be offered to captains outside the regiment).

8.  This means that Elliot becomes the senior major (i.e. senior to the new Major Crawford).

9.  In 1806 AW is appointed regimental colonel when Lord Cornwallis dies (see chapter 11 below).  This makes Arthur Gore the senior lieutenant-colonel, and Elliot is promoted to become the junior lieutenant-colonel.

AW and the black officers in the 33rd:


  I wish to have your opinion upon the subject of two officers in the 33rd regiment, Lieutenants Hook and Stewart, who, I understand, are as black as my hat; at least I am told so by Lieutenant-Colonel St John, in whose garrison at Poonamllee they were quartered for some time.   I am also informed that one of them, Lieutenant Hook, says that he contrived to avoid showing himself at the War Office or to the Duke of York; and I am sure he must have equally avoided Lord Cornwallis.   Without having any prejudice against half-caste men, who, I dare say, may be intrinsically as good as others, I have a strong objection to a black face in a European corps in this country; and I think that, if these gentry are of the colour that I hear they are, it is not proper that they should be allowed to remain in the 33rd regiment, at least without the particular orders of the Commander-in-Chief upon the subject.   My present opinion is, that they ought to be made to show themselves at the Adjutant-General’s office; and after this inspection, if the Commander-in-Chief thinks it proper that they should continue to be officers, it is his affair, and not ours.  (AW to Lt-Col Shee, Seringapatam, 2 Oct 1801, WSD  vol 2  p 566-7, see also p 567-8 letter to DAG to the same effect).

In 1789 Cornwallis had established regulations excluding native and half-caste men – often the sons of British officers – from holding commissions in King’s regiments serving in India.  He acknowledged their merit as individuals, but argued that the prejudice against them – in the country, and in the regiments themselves – was too strong to be ignored.  (Wickwire Cornwallis  p 88-89).  Dutton and Elder Colonel William Light p 38 quote the regulations issued and renewed in 1791 and 1795.

AW was therefore insisting that well-established regulations be enforced, not imposing a personal view.   Nonetheless Lieutenant Archibald Hook remained in the 33rd until 1809 when he transferred to the 82nd and was then promoted without purchase captain in the 11th Foot where he was still serving in 1815.   Stewart’s career is more difficult to trace, as his name is so common in the army and no one appears to exactly match the facts as given by Wellelsey.  However he was probably Ensign Kenneth Bruce Stuart who joined the 33rd in May 1800 (the same time as Hook) and who retired, and sold his commission (still an ensign) in 1804.  (Information from Ron McGuigan).

As for AW’s own views, no doubt he was prejudiced, as were almost all his contemporaries – if nothing else, the structure of British rule in India at the time was based on an assumption of European superiority, which was firmly reinforced by the demonstrated battlefield superiority of European troops.   Nonetheless, his prejudice did not blind him to the excellence of Purneah’s government, the capacity of Bistnapah, or the failings of any number of British officers and men.   He described the Nabol of Savanore (or Nawab of Savanur) as ‘a perfect gentleman by birth as well as in his manners and appearance’ (AW to Close, 14 Dec 1801, WSD  vol 3 p 1-3), and gave similar praise to Sindia’s peace negotiator in late 1803.

AW and racism:

Boyd Hilton in A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People? says ‘They might have been hypocrites, but the English in this period were not in general racists, thanks in part to the sway of evangelical ideas.’ (p 246) This may go a little too far.  Hilton cites compelling evidence that British officials insisted that non-whites be treated as people, and points to the influence of the campaign against slavery.  But that does not mean that they were regarded as fully equal.   It might be more accurate to say that most Britons of the time were to some extent racist in their attitudes, but that this didn’t matter very much to them: it was something that they took for granted, but it wasn’t a very important part of their identity, far less important than their religion, their class, their occupation, their gender or their locality, because it was seldom relevant to their daily lives.   It would have been more significant for those with direct experience of the world outside Europe, and strongest in the West Indies or Australia; and perhaps weakest in India, where most officials would encounter educated sophisticated Indians like Purneah.   Equally it would probably be strongest among the lower ranks of Europeans who had only their skin colour (and language and, often nominal, religion) to set then apart from the local population, and weakest for those at the top of the tree who could look down with Olympian impartiality on all those below.

But there was nothing special about Britons attitudes to race in the period: the prejudice against Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other non-Christians was probably stronger and more widespread; while the division between Protestant and Catholic was much more of a live issue, as can be seen in the highly prejudiced comments of many British soldiers who served in the Peninsula.   Nor is any slice of our own society notably more tolerant: we simply choose to focus our prejudice on other differences, and distinguish our coterie from the wider society on grounds ranging from consumer preferences (brand of car, computer, or music) to ‘ethical’ issues (environmentalism; attitude to religion; or even attitude to racism itself).

Trial of three officers for Corruption:

There are many references to this in WD with the names suppressed.  The most senior officer was Lt-Col Saxon, an elderly and otherwise meritorious officer of the EIC Artillery.   When it seemed likely that he would be dismissed from the army, AW asked Clive to grant him a small pension to save him from absolute penury (AW to Clive, 23 Oct 1801, WSD vol 2 p 592).   However, according to Weller (Wellington in India  p 116n) Saxon was finally allowed to retire, not dismissed from the service.

See also WSD vol 2 p 575-77, 592, 625-6 and Elers p 125.

General Braithwaite welcomed AW back from Bombay, saying that he feared a revival of jobbing and corruption in AW’s absence – WSD vol 2 p 388n.

The Minor Campaigns of 1801-1802:

The Campaign against the Raja of Bullum, Jan-Feb 1802:

Weller (Wellington in India p 124-6) provides a convenient summary, and there is an abundance of material in WD  and WSD  – see esp. AW’s own accounts of operations in WSD vol 3 p 86-89 and 89-91.

And also the comment of Lt John Brown that ‘Colonel Wellesley makes it agreeable where he commands’ quoted in Lawrence James The Iron Duke p 59.

Against the Pyche Raja:

The background is well filled in in U. Bala Krishnan Nair’s articles ‘Wellington and the Pyche Rajah’ East and West vol 4 1905 p 420-36, 551-563, although it does not extend to the actual operations.

The Polygar War:

Welsh Military Reminiscences  vol 1  p 51-135.

See also AW to Baird, 21 June 1801, WSD vol 2  p 460-1.

See also Fortescue History of the British Army vol 4 pt 2  p 760-8.

AW’s affair with Mrs Freese:

Joan Wilson Wellington’s Marriage  p 61-2 is inclined to doubt that the relationship ever extended beyond platonic admiration, and there is no proof that she is wrong.   However there really seems no reason to doubt Elers’s testimony, or to believe that AW did not conduct affairs with married women before, as well as after, his own marriage.

Equally it seems likely that AW was the father of Arthur Freese – or at least that this was accepted as probable by all parties.   The chronology here is uncertain.  Longford (p 102) states that Captain Freese was only appointed Commissary of Stores in July 1802, the same month that Arthur Freese was born; however in a note cited on the same page she refers to a letter from AW to Webbe of 14 August 1801 in which he mentions Captain Freese’s arrival in Seringapatam.  If Mrs Freese accompanied her husband, or followed soon afterwards, the dates are compatible with AW being the father of Arthur Freese.  The appointment in July 1802 was probably the confirmation of an existing arrangement.

It was far from uncommon for ladies of this period to provide a home for the children fathered by their husbands prior to their marriage; and the story of the aunt who died may be nothing more than a polite fiction.

Longford (p 100-101) gives a sensible discussion of other possible affairs, showing that there is insufficient evidence for confident statements.

Longford also states that Mrs Freese was the daughter of General James Stuart (CinC Bombay, then Madras), which may possibly explain Captain Freese’s acquiescence.   Certainly the affair did not have an adverse effect on AW’s relations with Stuart.  (The Letters of Captain John Orrok does not confirm or disprove the point, the family tree showing only that her father was a man called Stewart.)

The letter from AW to Mrs Freese from St Helena has never been published and there is no copy of it in the Wellington Papers in Southampton, but AW told Major Barclay, in a short letter dated 9 July 1805, ‘I have written to Malcolm and Mrs Freese a full account of all our adventures, etc from Madras to this place.’  (WSD vol 4  p 512 – the letter to Malcolm is in ibid  p 509-12).

There are no fewer than three portraits of Mrs Freese at Stratfield Saye: the one reproduced by Longford; a half length in a white dress by Thomas Hickey reproduced in The Letters of Captain John Orrok p 65; and one in a white dress at an easel, looking over her shoulder.  (Information from Jane Branfield, archivist at Stratfield Saye, e-mail of 15 Sept 2012).

In April 1814 John Orrok reported that Wellington ‘constantly corresponds with Mrs Freese’ and she had agreed to approach him about getting John the agency of the 33rd when Wellington returned to England; however John did not get it.  (The Letters of Captain John Orrok p 141).

AW on British Politics, 1801-2:

AW to Jonathan Duncan, 5 November 1801, WSD  vol 2  p 612-4:

 I am sorry to observe by the Frankfort papers, that the new ministry do no get on in Parliament so well as might be wished.  I perceive that they have submitted to some abuse from opposition, and that in one instance they have brought forward a strong measure, respecting which they had not agreed among themselves.

In December he wrote with some exasperation to Major Macaulay:

I agree with you in not thinking much of the new ministry.   There is too much moderation and candour for these bad times: besides, they have not agreed among themselves upon all occasions, and I see that they have submitted to abuse from the opposition, and instead of retorting it according to the good old custom, they have deprecated it, and have held a tone of moderation and submission which will soon drive them out (AW to Major Macaulay, 22 Dec 1801, WSD  vol 3  p 14-16).

 Arthur Wellesley disapproved of the preliminaries of the peace which Addington’s government had negotiated with France in October 1801, telling Webbe:

 I agree with you entirely about the peace.  It establishes the French power over Europe, and when we shall have disarmed we shall have no security excepting in our own abjectness.  There is a report that the finances were in a very embarrassed state, which I am afraid is true, as there could have been no other inducement to make such a peace (AW to Webbe, 22 March 1802, WSD vol 3 p 119-120).

 He also objected to its implications for his part of India, both the probable return of French possessions, and the possible arrival of more adventurers and mercenaries from Europe.  See:

AW to Col Stevenson,  9 Feb 1802 WSD  vol 3  p   73

AW to Webbe,             27 Feb 1802 WSD  vol 3  p 102

AW to Macleod,     15 March 1802 WSD  vol 3  p 109-11.

For the connection between the change of Government and Lord Wellesley’s position:

There are many letters on this: see

AW to Webbe, 22 March 1802, WSD  vol 3 p 119-20

Malcolm to AW, 27 March 1802, WP 1/112 (NBk p 36-7)

AW to Malcolm, 20 April 1802, WD  I p 284-5

Malcolm to AW, 20 June 1802, WSD  vol 3 p 226-7n

AW to Webbe, 15 July 1802, WSD  vol 3  p 234-5

The attempted dismissal of Webbe and other actions of the EIC Directors:

AW comments on this in his letter to Duncan of 5 November 1801:

 You will have heard of the late dismissals and changes at Madras.  All of them are known to be extremely disagreeable to the Governor-General, and many of them are, I believe, in direct contradiction to his express recommendation….

               The dismissal of Webbe and the disapprobation expressed of almost all the measures of this government, which I believe have been approved by Lord Wellesley, are still more unpleasant, and render it more impossible for Lord Wellesley to carry on his government…. You are, of course, acquainted with Lord Clive’s character, and the dependence which Lord Wellesley has placed in Mr Webbe to carry on this government…  (AW to Jonathon Duncan, 5 November 1801, WSD vol 2 p 612-4).

 While in April 1802 AW told Malcolm (then attending on Lord Wellesley in Bengal), that he thought the Governor-General should resign, ‘if the ministers do not give him security that he shall not be again liable to the corrupt and vulgar interference of Leadenhall street in the operations of his government …. he cannot remain in the government, and no gentleman  can succeed to him, if means are not taken to prevent them in future.’  (AW to Malcolm, 20 April 1802, WD I p 284-5).





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© Rory Muir

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