Treaty of Bassein (1802) – All you need to know

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In this article we will describe the circumstances leading to the treaty of Bassein, 1802 and will also talk about its consequences.

Treaty of Bassein, 1802 : Introduction

The internal affairs of the Marathas deteriorated further after the close of the first Maratha War. Nana Fadnavis grew fond of power, jealous of Mahadaji Sindhia and became progressively inclined to seek the support of the English. The young Peshwa, Madhava Rao II tried to improve the affairs but failed. Mahadaji Sindhia died in 1794 and was succeeded by his grand nephew, Daulat Rao Sindhia whose succession was challenged even by his mother. Tired of the control of Nana Fadnavis, Peshwa Madhav Rao II committed suicide on October 25, 1795. First, Chimnaji and next Baji Rao II were placed on the gaddi of the Peshwa respectively after him. Baji Rao was completely unfit to manage the affairs of an extensive empire as that of the Marathas. Nearly at the same time Tukoji Holkar also died which gave a further setback to the Maratha affairs. Kashirao, the legal heir but an idiot was supported by Baji Rao and Daulat Rao Sindhia while the cause of the three younger ones, Malhar Rao, Vithoji and Jaswant Rao was upheld by Nana Fadnavis. Malhar Rao was killed by Sindhia’s men but Vithoji and Jaswant Rao fled away and started devastating the territories of the Sindhia who blamed Nana Fadnavis for their acts. Nana Fadnavis also died in 1800. It has been the opinion of several historians that the wisdom of the Marathas passed away with him. But modern historians do not accept this view. Nana Fadnavis, during his later years of life, had harmed Maratha interests by his rising ambition to keep control over the state-affairs and was responsible to a large extent, for the mutual rivalries among the Maratha chiefs.

Such was the condition of the Maratha state when Lord Wellesley came to India. Wellesley was determined to make the Company the paramount power in India. He first extinguished the power of Tipu Sultan. Next, he paid his attention towards the Marathas. He soon got an opportunity of interfering in the affairs of the Marathas. Jaswant Rag Holkar was fighting against the Peshwa and the Sindhia. He defeated Peshwa Baji Rao in a battle near Poona in October 1802. The Peshwa fled towards Bassein while the Holkar placed Vinayak Rao, grandson of Raghunath Rao, on the gaddi of the Peshwa. Feeling desperate, the Peshwa sought the alliance of the English and signed the treaty of Bassein, on December 31, 1802.

Terms of the treaty of Bassein

The terms of the treaty were as follows:

  1. The English agreed to help the Peshwa militarily. The force was to be kept permanently within the territory of the Peshwa.
  2. The Peshwa agreed to surrender a part of his territory in return for the help provided by the English.
  3. The Peshwa would not employ any European under his service without the consent of the English.
  4. The Peshwa surrendered his foreign policy to the English. He agreed not to enter into any treaty or agreement with any native ruler without the consent of the English.
  5. Thus, Baji Rao accepted the subsidiary alliance imposed by Lord Wellesley. He lost his independence in return for the gaddi of the Peshwa. An English force under Arthur Wellesley entered Poona on May 13, 1803 and Baji Rao was declared the Peshwa.

The treaty of Bassein has been described as very important by many historians. Owen expressed: “The treaty by its direct and indirect operations gave the Company the empire of India,” Yet, the treaty itself did not wholly explain the supremacy of the Company in India. Of course, by entering into treaty with the Peshwa who was regarded as the head of the Maratha confederacy, the English gained prestige. But, to draw practical advantage from the treaty, the English had to fight war against the Marathas which, very soon, became inevitable. And, if they had lost the ensuing war, the treaty would have proved disastrous to the English.

The Maratha chiefs felt alarmed at the news of the signing of this treaty. The Holkar declared that Baji Rao had destroyed the Maratha state. The attitude of the Sindhia and the Bhonsle was also antagonistic. Baji Rao was also dissatisfied with the treaty and very soon started secret negotiations with other Maratha chiefs against the English. However, the Marathas could not unite among themselves.

The war started in August 1803, The English had planned their tactics in advance. The northern command was given to General Lake while Arthur Wellesley was placed in charge of the army in the South. Besides, the English prepared themselves to fight in Gujarat, Bundelkhand and Orissa as well. Their aim was to engage the Marathas at several places at the same time and not to allow the Maratha chiefs to combine their forces. The Marathas had no such definite plan. Besides, the Maratha chiefs did not fight according to their traditional war methods but adopted European method in which they were not well adept. It resulted in quick defeat of the Sindhia and the Bhonsle who alone stood in the field. Arthur Wellesley captured Ahmadnagar on August 12, 1803 and defeated the combined forces of the two Maratha chiefs at Assaye. The Bhonsle was decisively defeated at Argaon on November 29 and the English occupied the strong fort of Gawilgarh on December 15, 1803. General Lake succeeded the same way in north India. He captured Aligarh in August 1803 and occupied Delhi in September. The Mughal emperor Shah Alam was also, then, taken under the protection of the English. The Jat Raja of Bharatpur also entered into a treaty with the English. The English also captured Agra in October. The Sindhia was badly defeated at Laswaree in the month of November and lost all his territory south of the river Chambal to the English. The English succeeded against the Marathas in Gujarat and Bundelkhand and occupied the province of Cuttack in Orissa. Thus, within five months, the Bhonsle and the Sindhia were defeated. They were forced to enter into treaties with the English.

The Bhonsle signed the treaty of Deogaon with the English in December 1803 by which he surrendered large territory to the English and accepted other terms of the Subsidiary Alliance.

The Sindhia also accepted a treaty with the English at Suraj-Arjangaon on the terms of the Subsidiary Alliance. Both rulers accepted the treaty of Bassein.

The treaties brought the Sindhia and the Bhonsle under the influence of the English. But, Jaswant Rao Holkar was yet undefeated. He had not participated in the war so far. Holkar plundered the territory of Jaipur and, in April, 1804, the English declared war against him. The Holkar defeated Colonel Monson at the Mukand-dara pass very badly. Emboldened by his success he besieged Delhi in October, 1804. But Lt. Colonel Ochterlony defended Delhi and the Holkar was forced to raise the siege after a week. He was then defeated at Dig on November 13 and next at Farrukhabad by General Lake on November 17. The Raja of Bharatpur had been friendly to the Holkar. Therefore, the English desired to befriend or crush him. The Raja agreed for peace with the English in April, 1805.

Thus, the English were gradually succeeding against the Holkar. But, at that very time, the Directors called back Wellesley and deputed Lord Cornwallis to India as the governor-general. The recall of Lord Wellesley saved the Holkar, Lord Cornwallis had come with specific Instructions to make peace with the Marathas. He, however, died on October 5, soon after his arrival at Calcutta. But Sir George Barlow who, after him, worked in a temporary capacity as the governor-general, was also in favour of peace. General Lake had pursued Holkar up to Amritsar where he had proceeded in the hope of some help from the Sikhs. He was, however, disappointed in his hopes and opened negotiations for peace with General Lake. Barlow immediately agreed for it and the treaty of Rajpurghat was signed with him on January 7, 1806.

Conclusion

Thus, the treaty of Bassein resulted in the second Anglo-Maratha war. This war resulted in a serious blow to the power of the Marathas. The Maratha chiefs were forced to surrender large pan of their territories and surrender their foreign policy to the English. The acceptance of subsidiary forces and English residents within their territories further reduced their power and influence concerning even internal affairs of their states. Thus, the Maratha power was seriously crippled. From this point of view, the treaty can certainly be regarded as an important treaty.

Points to remember

  1. By the time Wellesley came to India, all capable Maratha chiefs had died and the remaining ones fought against each other for predominance.
  2. Peshwa Baji Rao, after being defeated by Jaswant Rao Holkar, sought help from the English and signed the treaty of Bassein (Subsidiary Alliance) in December, 1802.
  3. All the Maratha chiefs including Baji Rao, felt humiliated by this treaty and became antagonistic to the English.
  4. The Bhonsle and the Sindhia started hostilities which resulted in the second Maratha war in 1803.
  5. The English planned their strategy well, gave separate commands to Genefal Lake and Arthur Wellesley of the North and the South respectively, did not allow the Maratha forces to unite while the Maratha chiefs failed to form a common strategy among themselves.
  6. Both Bhonsle and Sindhia were defeated within five months and forced to sign the treaties (Subsidiary Alliances) of Deogaon and Suraj- Arjangaon respectively.
  7. Jaswant Rao, Holkar who stood next alone was defeated at the battles of Dig and Farrukhabad in 1804.
  8. The Raja of Bharatpur, an ally of Holkar, also accepted peace in 1805.
  9. Treaty of Rajpurghat was signed by the Holkar in 1806, after the departure of Wellesley.
  10. Thus, the treaty of Bassein itself was of no significance as described by Owen and several other historians : but as it resulted in the second Maratha war and weakening of the power of different Maratha chiefs, it has been regarded as an important landmark in the expansion of English power, prestige and territories in India.

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

Tags : PDF for UPSC exam notes. Treaty of Bassien signed between whom? 

Questions for UPSC mains :

Describe the circumstances leading to the treaty of Bassein (1802). What were its consequences?

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