British India

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Pitt and India

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One of the first things that Pitt the Younger did after becoming Prime Minister for the first time was to rationalise the government of India with the 1784 India Act. The country now had an increased value because of the loss of America and India had to be wisely administered. Pitt needed to frame legislation that would be acceptable to parliament, particularly since it was the Fox-North's India Bill that had led to the fall of that administration.

Pitt drafted his India Bill in the Christmas recess between 26 December 1783 and 12 January 1784. It was based firmly on Dundas’ work and apparently was completed between 5 and 10 January. The first attempt was rejected by the Commons but the second Bill passed. Pitt had ensured that he obtained the support of East India Company’s Directors for the second framing of the legislation In 1784 the India Act was passed; it clarified the spheres of influence between the government and East India Company and remained the instrument of government in India until 1858.

In 1782 the Commons passed a vote of censure on Warren Hastings, the first governor-general of India. In January 1784, Hastings resigned. He had had no support from anyone although had worked hard. He was tyrannical and megalomanic and also was thought to be corrupt. He was worth £74,000 - a small sum compared to some fortunes made in India. In 1786 Edmund Burke moved for censure of Hastings and in 1787, Hastings was impeached. His trial began in 1788 and was Burke’s crusade. The trial asted until 1794 but in 1795 Hastings was honourably acquitted. His defence cost him £71,000; he was awarded a pension of £4,000 p.a. for 28 years.

Hastings had committed misdemeanours and was not blameless as Pitt knew well, but Hastings' acquittal enhanced Pitt’s reputation since he had approved Hastings' impeachment. The trial further damaged Fox’s reputation.

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Last modified 13 February, 2019

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