Warren Hastings (1732-1818), first Governor General of British India, went to Calcutta at the age of eighteen in the service of the East India Company.
He rose rapidly to important positions, and in 1772 became Governor of Bengal, which had been ruled badly since Clive's departure. A year later, after Lord North 's Regulating Act, he was appointed Governor-General with a council of four. One of these was Philip Francis, who opposed him at every turn and with whom he fought a duel.
Hastings introduced reforms into the law courts and taxation system, besides taking steps to encourage education and Anglo-Indian understanding.
During the American War of Independence, when the French stirred up opposition to the British, he sent armies to hold Bombay and Madras, seized ports to prevent the French using their fleet, strengthened Oudh as a buffer state against attack on Bengal by the Mahrattas and managed to break up a hostile confederacy of Indian princes.
Without doubt he saved British rule in India, but after his return to England in 1785, his enemy Francis, aided by the politicians, Burke and Fox, had him brought to trial on charges of 'high crimes and misdemeanors'. He was principally accused of executing a Hindu banker, of hiring out Company troops to the Nawab of Oudh and of ill-treating the Begums (princesses) of Oudh to extract money from them. His trial before the House of Lords lasted seven years and ended with his complete acquittal, but the costs left him a ruined man. However, the Company granted him a large pension, though he received no honors from his country, apart from being made a Privy Councillor.
It now seems clear that Hastings was not particular what he did under pressure, when he felt he was serving British interests, but, unlike some officials, he made no effort to amass a fortune for himself.
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