Subsidiary Alliance of Wellesley : Analysis and Assessment

Sansar LochanModernLeave a Comment

The Subsidiary Alliance as imposed by Wellesley on the native rulers was the most effective instrument for the expansion of the British territory and political influence in India. Wellesley did not originate it. It was first devised by the French governor Dupleix. He started the practice of providing military help to native rulers in return for money. The English also adopted this practice and from Clive to Wellesley every English governor-general used it as a means to enhance the political influence of the Company. Wellesley, however, added some more terms to the subsidiary alliance and made it a perfect instrument of extending British territory in India.

Different forms of the Subsidiary Alliance

The subsidiary alliance took the different forms in its gradual evolution:

  1. Its first form was that by which the English agreed to help a native ruler with a fixed force in return for a fixed amount of money.
  2. In its second form, the English agreed to maintain a fixed and permanent military force to help their ally in return for a fixed annual amount of money. The subsidiary force, however, was kept in the territory of the Company.
  3. In its third form, the English agreed to maintain a permanent and fixed subsidiary force to help their ally in return for a fixed annual amount of money and kept the force within the territory of the ally.
  4. In its fourth and final form which was introduced by Wellesley, the English agreed to maintain a permanent and fixed subsidiary force within the territory of their ally and, in return, did not take money but took over a part of the territory of the ally permanently to themselves. That is how this term became a means of extending the Company’s territory in India.

Terms of this alliance

Besides, Wellesley added the following terms to the alliance –

  1. An English resident was kept at the court of the native ruler.
  2. The native ruler was not allowed to employ in his service any European or a citizen of a state which was enemy of the English.
  3. The native ruler could not maintain any relation with any other ruler without the approval of the English.
  4. The English agreed to protect the territory of the native ruler from foreign aggressions.
  5. The English agreed not to interfere in internal affairs of the native rulers.

Every native ruler who entered into an alliance with the British had to accept all the above mentioned terms besides permanently ceding a part of his territory to the English.

Was the subsidiary alliance advantageous to the British?

The subsidiary alliance was advantageous to the British from all points of view. It brought the following benefits to the English:

  1. The influence of the French from the courts of the native rulers was completely wiped out as they could not be employed by them anymore.
  2. The native rulers were separated from each other because their foreign policy was controlled by the English.
  3. The English increased the area of their influence. The native ruler who accepted the subsidiary alliance became entirely dependent on the English because of the presence of the subsidiary force within his territory. Therefore, the English gradually became the de facto rulers of his state.
  4. The English could maintain a large military force at the expense of the native rulers. The subsidiary forces which were kept in the territories of different rulers could be effectively utilized by the English against any one of them.
  5. The maintenance of the subsidiary force was very expensive. It put heavy financial burden on the allied ruler which he mostly failed to bear. The English, therefore, forced him to surrender more of his territory. It, thus, helped in further expansion of the Company’s territory.

Why was this alliance disadvantageous to the native rulers?

The alliance, however, was completely disadvantageous from the point of view of the native ruler and his subjects. A few disadvantages were as follows:

  1. The native ruler gradually lost most of his fertile and strategically important territory to the English.
  2. It led to the impoverishment of the subjects of the native ruler as the whole financial burden finally fell on them.
  3. The English residents were not expected to interfere in the internal administration of the native ruler. But, in practice, the residents controlled the rulers in every state-matter.
  4. The native rulers gradually lost their respect, patriotism, responsibility to rule and strengthen their armies. It resulted in the loss of their character and capacity to rule their states.
  5. The subjects no more remained in a position to dethrone their incapable or cruel ruler by revolting against him because the English, with much larger resources than a single ruler, protected every allied ruler against every foreign aggression and internal revolt.

Conclusion

Thus, the subsidiary alliance was harmful to the native rulers and their subjects from every point of view. The native rulers became puppets in the hands of the English. In return, the English safeguarded them both from external and internal troubles. Besides, the subsidiary alliance was a means by which, sooner or later, most of the rulers lost their states to the English because they were incapacitated to resist the English in any way. Arthur Wellesley remarked: “Our policy and our aim have rendered all the powers of India to the state of Sifars.”

Points to remember

Points to remember

1. The Subsidiary Alliance gradually evolved in four stages and its final and fourth stage was applied during the period of Wellesley.

2. Its four stages were :

i) The English agreed to help a native ruler with a fixed force in return for a fixed amount of money.

ii) The English agreed to maintain a fixed and permanent military force to help their ally in return for a fixed annual amount of money.

iii) The English agreed to maintain a permanent and fixed subsidiary force to help their ally in return for a fixed annual amount of money and kept the force within the territory of their ally.

iv) The English agreed to maintain a permanent and fixed subsidiary force within the territory of their ally and, in return took over a part of the territory of the ally permanently to themselves.

3. Besides, Wellesley added some more terms to the alliance, viz., a Resident was kept at the court of the ally; the ally could not employ in his service any European or a citizen of an enemy state; the foreign relations of the ally were to be controlled by the English; the English would not interfere in the internal affairs of the ally; and, the English would protect him from foreign aggression.

4. The subsidiary alliance brought several advantages to the English, viz., the influence of the French was wiped out from the courts of the allies; the allies could not come to an understanding with one another against the English; the English became the de facto rulers of the states of the allies; the English could maintain a large force at the expense of their allies; and, the alliance helped the English in further expansion of their territory.

5. The subsidiary alliance had all the disadvantages to the allies and their subjects, viz., the allies lost their most fertile and strategic territories to the English; it led to the impoverishment of the subjects of the allies; the allies became virtual puppets in the hands of English residents; the allies lost their character and capacity to rule; and, the subjects no more remained in a position to revolt successfully against their incapable rulers.

6. In the words of Arthur Wellesley, “the allies were reduced to the state of sifars.”

Source used : NCERT, Tamil Nadu Board, IGNOU Modern History, NIOS textbooks. Wikipedia notes for UPSC exam.

Tags : PDF for UPSC exam notes. Who introduced subsidiary alliance? 

Questions for UPSC mains :

What do you know about the Subsidiary Alliance of Wellesley? What were its results?

Or

How did the subsidiary alliance help in the establishment of the British empire in India?

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