&c. &c

To MIRZA MAHOMMED ALI, Superintendant of the Elephant Stables at NUGR;* dated PUTN (or Seringapatam), 2d of BYÂZY, Year UZL. (17th February 1785.)

THE humble address [you] sent [us] has passed under [our] view, and the circumstances submitted [therein] are duly comprehended.* You write, “that the Mûtusuddies* attached to you have adopted habits “of ease and of lounging in Nugr, pretending that it is necessary for “them to see and confer with the Taalûkdar* of Nugr; the conse­quence of which is, that fifteen days are consumed in preparing the “accounts of one,* and that nothing is done excepting at Nugr, “though a Kunry Mûtusuddy* (agreeably to our orders) attends on the “part of Nursia* to assist in the business.”

This [representation] has caused [us] the utmost surprize. When­ever the Mûtusuddies belonging to your department cease to yield you proper obedience, you must give them a severe flogging;* and making them prepare, with the greatest dispatch, the lists and other papers required by our former orders, transmit the same duly to the Presence.*


To understand the foregoing letter properly, it is necessary to suppose, what, indeed, is most probable, that the Elephant Mews, or Stables, were situated at some distance from the town of Nugr.

This letter furnishes a proper occasion for cautioning the reader, who may not be conversant in the history, or acquainted with the genius, or frame, of the native governments of India, against hastily drawing any general conclusions, with respect to the latter point, from the particular practice, or maxims, of Tippoo Sultan. The conduct of this prince was too commonly governed by caprice, and was too often the mere result of individual feelings and character, to afford a just criterion of the generality of Asiatic sovereigns, or Asiatic states. Thus, any one who should be led to infer, from the punishment here directed to be inflicted on the idle clerks of the elephant department, that it is customary in India (as in China and Russia) to flog any but the menial servants of government for neglect of duty, would be greatly mistaken: as he would, also, if he supposed that castration was no uncommon penalty in that country, for corruption, or other misdemeanors in the administration of public affairs, because the Sultan sometimes thought proper to threaten official delinquents with that punishment. The fact is, that all his Hookm-nâmehs, or instructions to the governors of provinces, and others, conclude with a denunciation of the penalties to which they will be liable, in case of disobedience or disregard of the orders contained in them. Sometimes these are generally stated, under the vague, but emphatic, term of “the worst of punishments:” at others, they are specifically named; as crucifixion, in one or two instances, and emasculation, in others. Whether or not the latter menace was ever, in any case, actually executed, I am not able to determine; but there is nothing in the character of Tippoo Sultan to render the affirmative unlikely. Colonel Munro assures me, that it is an absolute fact that on one occasion he ordered all the male population of a particular village, which had given him offence, to be castrated.

What the practice of Hyder Ali was on similar occasions, I have not the means of stating; but there is sufficient reason to suspect, that the example of the father was not much calculated to restrain the severity, or cruelty, of the son. It is certain, indeed, as I learn from Colonel Wilks, that Tippoo himself was once publicly bambooed (or caned) by order of Hyder, in whose good graces he would never appear to have stood very high. This opinion is strongly confirmed, by a most curious original document, which I met with at Seringapatam, in the year 1799, while employed in examining the mass of papers discovered more immediately after the capture of the place. I found it amongst a variety of other papers of the time of Hyder, deposited in a basket or box, where it had probably remained undisturbed and forgotten ever since his death. It is a narrow slip, about twelve inches in length: is entitled, at top, <Arabic> or “an agreement;” beneath which words is the impression, in ink, of a small square seal, resembling, in all respects, the usual signet, or ring-seal, of the Sultan, and bearing, together with the name “Tippoo Sultan,” the date “1184” (Higera).* The instrument itself is without date; but it must, of course, have been executed some time between the year 1769 (the period when the seal was engraved) and 1782, in which last year Hyder died. On the back of this paper is a short endorsement of two or three words, in Canarese, which, I am sorry to say, I cannot explain.

I am equally unable to determine, whether this interesting document is in the hand-writing of the Sultan. It certainly bears but little resemblance to the specimens exhibited in a great variety of notes and memorandums, written by him in the latter part of his life. But his hand-writing might well undergo a material change in a period of twenty or thirty years: besides which, I suspect that most of the articles of his writing which happen to be in my possession, were written with a gold or silver pen, which he was much in the practice of using, and of which I obtained two or three at Seringapatam that had belonged to him. This occasioned his later writing (at least what I have seen of it) to have an air of stiffness and crabbedness, of which there is not near so great an appearance in the document under consideration.

But it is not essential to the authenticity of this paper that it should have been written in the Sultan’s own hand. The place in which it was discovered, joined to the seal and internal evidence furnished by its extraordinary tenor, sufficiently establishes its genuineness; but whether the engagement it contains was voluntarily entered into by the Sultan, or exacted by Hyder, does not appear. The latter, however, is not unlikely to have been the case, notwithstanding what the writer himself declares in the eighth article. After this general account of the document in question, I proceed to present the reader with a translation of it; and, for the satisfaction of those conversant in the language of the original, a fac-simile of it is given in article C. of the Appendix.


“1.* I will not do [any] one thing without the pleasure of your blessed Majesty, Lord of Benefits [or my bountiful Lord]: if I do, let me be punished, in “whatever manner may seem fitting to your auspicious mind.—One article.*

“2. If, in the affairs of the Sircar, I should commit theft, or be guilty of “fraud, great or small, let me, as the due punishment thereof, be strangled.* “— One article.

“3. If I be guilty of prevarication, or misrepresentation, or of deceit, the “due punishment thereof is this same strangulation.— One article.

“4. Without the orders of the Presence, I will not receive from any one, “Nuzzers, &c.; neither will I take things from any one [meaning perhaps forcibly]: if I do, let my nose be cut off, and let me be driven out from the city. “— One article.

“5. If, excepting on the affairs of the Sircar, I should hold conversation “[probably cabal or intrigue] with any person, or be guilty of deceit, &c., let “me, in punishment thereof, be stretched on a cross.— One article.

“6. Whenever a country shall be committed to my charge by the Sircar, “and an army be placed under my command, I will carry on all business regard­ing the same, with the advice, and through the medium of such confidential “persons as may be appointed [for the purpose] by the Sircar; and if I transact “such affairs through any other channel than this, let me be strangled.— One “article.

“7. If there should be any occasion for correspondence by writing, or to buy “or give [away] any thing, or any letters should arrive from any place, I will do “nothing [in such matters] without the concurrence and advice of the person “appointed by the Sircar.— One article.

“8. I have written and delivered these few articles of my own free will: “keeping the contents whereof in my heart’s remembrance, I will act in each “article accordingly. If I forget this, and act in any other [or different] manner, “let me be punished, agreeably to the foregoing writing.”

It will not, perhaps, be wondered at, that one, to whom the idea of corporal punishment, even in his own person, would seem, from the preceding instrument, as well as from Colonel Wilks’s report, to have been familiar, before his accession to the Musnud, should, after that event, have applied the practice, with similar disregard to the rank or station of offenders, to those then subjected to his authority.

Before I dismiss this subject it may be proper to notice, that the style of the foregoing document (and especially of the seventh article) is extremely perplexed and indistinct: but, even at a more advanced period of the Sultan’s life, most of the productions of his pen (as was observed on a former occasion) were charac­terized by the same involved structure of sentences, frequently creating considerable obscurity in the sense.