Supreme Council of Bengal
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Supreme Council of Bengal
Supreme Council of Bengal
Formation1773
HeadquartersCalcutta, British India
Location
Official languages
English

Supreme Council of Bengal[1][2] was the highest executive authority under Company rule in India from 1774 till 1833 when Charter Act of 1833 established Council of India. The Council was established in 1773 by the Regulating Act of 1773. It was designed to consist of five members, including the Governor General, and was appointed by the Court of directors.[3] At times it also included the Commander-in-Chief of India, who was also at times the Governor General. The council was also known as Governor-General-in-Council and was subordinate only to the East India Company's Court of Directors and to the British Crown.[4]

History

The Regulating Act of 1773 created the post of Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal Presidency and the presidencies of Bombay and Madras were made subordinate to the Bengal Presidency.[3] Prior to this all the three presidencies were independent of each other and was headed by Governor General and his Council or Governor-in-council. The act designated Governor of Bengal as the Governor of the Presidency of Fort William to serve as Governor General of all British Territories in India. It also added provision that Governor General was to be assisted by an executive council of four members and was given a casting vote but no veto.[3] This changed the structure of Governor in-council where Governor General was the sole authority to a council of 5 members. The members could only be removed by the British Monarch on representation from Court of Directors.

In 1774, Warren Hastings became the first Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William, hence, the first head of the Supreme Council of Bengal. Other members of the council included Lt. General John Clavering, George Monson, Richard Barwell and Philip Francis.

Philip Francis along with Monson and Clavering reached Calcutta in October 1774, and a conflict with Warren Hastings started almost immediately. These three members of the council opposed Hasting's policies as Governor General and accused him of corruption. The situation climaxed with the Maharaja Nanda Kumar affair - in which Nanda Kumar accused Hastings of fraud and high corruption. This attempt to impeach Hastings was unsuccessful and Nanda Kumar was hanged in 1775 after being found guilty of forgery by Supreme Court of Bengal in Calcutta.[5] The trial was held under childhood friend of Hastings Sir Elijah Impey - India's first Chief Justice. The majority - Francis, Clavering and Monson - within the council ended with Monson's death in 1776. Clavering died a year later and Francis was left powerless, but he remained in India and strove to undermine Hastings' governance. The bitter rivalry between the two men culminated in a duel in 1780, where Hastings shot Francis in the back.[6] Francis left India in the hope of impeaching Hastings in 1780. Hastings resigned in 1785 and was later accused of committing a judicial murder of Nanda Kumar. Impeachment proceedings against him along with Elijah Impey were initiated by the parliament.[7] A lengthy attempted impeachment by Parliament lasted from 1788 to 1795 eventually ending with Hastings being acquitted.[8]

Conflict with Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William

From 1774 (when the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William was founded) till 1782 (when Bengal Judicature Act of 1781 was passed), the Court claimed jurisdiction over any person residing in Bengal, Bihar or Orissa. This resulted in conflict of jurisdiction with Supreme Council of Bengal. The conflict came to an end with Parliament's passing of the Bengal Judicature Act of 1781. The act restricted the Supreme Court's jurisdiction to either those who lived in Calcutta, or to any British Subject in Bengal, Bihar and Odisha. This removed the Court's jurisdiction over any person residing in Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.

Role

The Regulating Act of 1773 made presidencies of Bombay and Madras subordinate to Bengal.[3] Governor-in-Council of Bombay and Madras presidencies were required to obey the orders of Governor General of Bengal. Governor-General-in-Council was given the power to make rules, ordinances and regulations. These rules and regulations were required to be registered with the Supreme court and could only be dissolved by the King-in-Council within 2 years.[9]

Notable members

See also

References

  1. ^ (capt.), Joseph Price; Francis, sir Philip (1783). A letter ... to P. Francis ... late member of the Supreme council at Bengal [vindicating J. Price's character and conduct from the charges made against him by P. Francis in the minutes of the East India company].
  2. ^ The Monthly Review. R. Griffiths. 1781.
  3. ^ a b c d "Regulating Act | Great Britain [1773]". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved .
  4. ^ Webster, Anthony (2007). The Richest East India Merchant: The Life and Business of John Palmer of Calcutta, 1767-1836. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 8-. ISBN 978-1-84383-303-1.
  5. ^ Gentleman, resident in Calcutta; Barwell, Richard; Hastings, Warren (1776). A Narrative of Facts Leading to the Trials of Maha Rajah Nundocomar and Thomas [or Rather Joseph] Fowke for Conspiracies Against Governor Hastings, and R. Barwell, Members of the Supreme Council at Bengal; and to the Trial of Maha Rajah Nundocomar, for Forgery: with Some ... Anecdotes Pending, and Subsequent to Those Prosecutions. In which are Introduced the ... Addresses of the Grand Jury, European and Armenian Inhabitants of Calcutta to Sir E. Impey, Chief Justice ...
  6. ^ "The enigmatic Warren Hastings and his Calcutta properties". www.victorianweb.org. Retrieved .
  7. ^ Stephen, James Fitzjames (1885). The Story of Nuncomar and the Impeachment of Sir Elijah Impey. Macmillan and Company.
  8. ^ a b "Warren Hastings | British colonial administrator". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved .
  9. ^ Mukerji, Panchanandas (1915). Indian constitutional documents, 1773-1915, comp. and edited with an introduction. Robarts - University of Toronto. Calcutta, Spink.
  10. ^ Archives, The National. "The Discovery Service". discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved .
  11. ^ Commons, Great Britain Parliament House of (1806). Reports from Committees of the House of Commons: Which Have Been Printed by Order of the House, and are Not Inserted in the Journals.
  12. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine. 1788.
  13. ^ "BARWELL, Richard (1741-1804), of Stansted Park, Suss. | History of Parliament Online". www.historyofparliamentonline.org. Retrieved .
  14. ^ Bowyer, T. H. (1995). "The appointment of Philip Francis to the Bengal Supreme Council". The Historical Journal. 38 (1): 145-149. doi:10.1017/S0018246X00016320. ISSN 1469-5103.
  15. ^ Archives, The National. "The Discovery Service". discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved .
  16. ^ Council, Bengal (India) Supreme (1780). Authentic Abstracts of Minutes in the Supreme Council of Bengal, on the Late Contracts for Draught and Carriage Bullocks, for Victualling the European Troops, and for Victualling Fort William; the Augmentation of General Sir Eyre Coote's Appointment, and Continuation of Brigadier-General Stibbert's Emoluments, Though Superseded in the Chief Command; and a Remarkable Treaty, Offensive and Defensive, with the Ranah of Gohud, a Marratta. J. Almon.
  17. ^ "MACPHERSON, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1744-1821), of Brompton Grove, Mdx. | History of Parliament Online". www.historyofparliamentonline.org. Retrieved .
  18. ^ Commons, Great Britain Parliament House of (1806). Reports from Committees of the House of Commons: Which Have Been Printed by Order of the House, and are Not Inserted in the Journals.
  19. ^ Commons, Great Britain Parliament House of (1806). Reports from Committees of the House of Commons: Which Have Been Printed by Order of the House, and are Not Inserted in the Journals.
  20. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine, August 1818, Published by F. Jefferies, 1818; Item notes: v.88 pt.2 1818; p. 184
  21. ^ The Quarterly Oriental magazine, review and register. 1825.

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