THE BRITISH ADMINISTRATION,
ON July 19, 1805, Sir Thomas Maitland (1805-1812), succeeded North as Governor. No intercourse was held with the Court of Kandy, but there was no aggression by either party. In 1808 the Seven Korales were divided by the king in pursuance of his policy of reducing the power of the chiefs, and Ehelepola and Molligoda were appointed as heads of the two provinces so formed. The new arrangement was the cause of popular `discontent, owing to all the services being doubled, and this finally broke out in rebellion. The rising was suppressed by Pilama Talauwe and his son-in-law Ratwatte. But the First Adigar's success increased the king's jealousy and suspicion and at last he was disgraced; he then conspired to assassinate his master, but the plot being revealed by a premature rising he was condemned to death and beheaded in 1811. Pilama Taluwe was succeeded as First Adigar by Ehelepola.
In internal affairs Maitland reversed his predecessor's land policy. The cost of the cooly corps which had been raised to supply the labour formally rendered by the holders of service-lands was found to exceed the revenue obtained from these lands, and the loss to Government was heavy. Cultivation had decreased, because of the tax, the collection of which was vexatious to the people; the new liberty enjoyed by them was misused, and, in consequence, crime had increased; in short, North's policy had been premature, and accordingly the old system was re-established. Grants of lands to Europeans, save in Colombo and its district, were prohibited. By the Charter of Justice of 1811 trial by jury was extended to all British subjects. The Provincial Courts also were abolished and the Landraads revived, a measure reversed the following year. The year 1806 saw Catholics relieved bf the disabilities imposed on them by the Dutch, and also the first appointment of Police Vidanes or headmen entrusted with police duties. The apathy of Maitland in effecting Major Davie's escape is not to his credit.
Sir Robert Brownrigg (1812-1820) assumed the Government on March 11, 1812. With the exception of the establishment of the first Botanic Garden in this year there is nothing to record in the British territories, and Brownrigg's administration was entirely taken up with the Kandyan question.
In 1814 the king sent the chiefs to their districts. Among them Ehelepola Adigar went to Sabaragamuwa, of which he was Disawa. Complaints as to his rule reached the king, already suspicious of his minister; Ehelepola was summoned to Kandy, but well knowing his master's temper refused to obey and rebelled. Molligoda, suceedding to his offices, crushed the revolt, and Ehelepola fled to British territory and safety in May. The king unable to lay his hands on the chief offender gave rein to his sanguinary temper, and executed the late Adigar's wife, infant children and other relatives, with a barbarity which shocked even the Kandyans, accustomed as they were to such spectacles. Not content with this the king again investigated the old rebellion of 1808 in the Seven Korales.
But the king's cup was now full. The British Government was aware of his unpopularity with the chiefs and endeavoured to win over Molligoda. Tn November ten merchants, British subjects, were robbed in the Three Korales, charged with espionage, and then mutilated; seven died on the spot, and the remainder were sent to Colombo. This outrage was deemed an act of aggression and preparations were made for war, but the expedition had to be postponed for the time, as the troops asked for from Madras were recalled to India. The army, however, moved early in 1815, two divisions marching from each of the fortresses of Colombo, Galle and Trincomalee, and one each from Batticaloa and Negombo. On January 10 the first engagement took place, the Kandyans pursuing Ehelepola's men across the Sitawaka River into British territory, where they burnt a house. War was declared the same day, the grounds alleged being the barbarity perpetrated on the ten British subjects, the implacable animosity of the king, and his unwillingness to enter into any agreement with the Government to terminate a state of affairs so unsettled and precarious. The objects of hostilities were declared to be the permanent tranquillity of the British settlements, the vindication of the honour of the British name, the deliverance of the Kandyans from their oppressors and the subversion of the Malabar dominion. The Governor further promised to the chiefs the continuance of their dignities. The division accom panied by Brownrigg advanced through the Three and Four Korales and met with little resistance. Molligoda had arranged to simulate defence, but soon in person surrendered his province of the Four Korales to the Governor. Kandy was occupied on February 14, and the king himself captured by Ehelepola's men four days later.
The royal prisoner was sent to Colombo and ultimately to India, where he died in exile on January 30, 1832, at the age of fifty-two. His only son died childless in 1843. The late king had been placed on the throne in his youth by the unscrupulous Pilama Talauwe, and for a time saw little except through the Adigar's eyes. He soon found himself confronted with intrigues to dethrone him, if not to take his life, on the part of his minister and though he succeeded in freeing himself from this danger he had become, surrounded as he was by intriguing chiefs, subject to constant fear and suspicion, never sleeping two watches of the night in the same room. Further, perhaps as a result of his situation, he became addicted to drink, and developed into a bloodthirsty despot. His punishments went beyond custom, and he even executed Buddhist priests. In his favour must be set the construction of the Kandy lake, of the Octagon and other buildings, all carried out after 1803. It must also be recorded that he defended the lower and middle classes from the exactions of the chiefs, whose power he strove to diminish. In so doing he incurred the displeasure of powerful families, and their desire to be rid of him extended to his whole house, in whose debt many of the chiefs stood. Had he not alienated these the expedition of 1815 might not have had a successful issue. As it was, in the words of the Official Declaration of the Settlement of the Kandyan Provinces `Led by the invitation of the chiefs, and welcomed by the acclamations of the people, the forces of His Britannic Majesty have entered the Kandyan territory, and penetrated to the capital. The ruler of the interior provinces has fallen into their hands, and the government remains at the disposal of his Majesty's representative.'
|Fig 11.1The crown of Sri Vikrama Rajasinha housed at its present location in the Colombo Museum|
The Governor acceded to the wishes of the Kandyans, and on March 2, 1815, a Convention was held at Kandy between His Excellency on the one hand and the chiefs as representing the people on the other. At this the king was deposed, his dynasty excluded from the throne, the chiefs were guaranteed the continuance of their rights and privileges, and the Buddhist religion was to be maintained. The Government of the Kandyan Provinces was vested in a Board of Commissioners, consisting of the Resident, John D'Oyly, afterwards created a Baronet for his services, the Judicial and Revenue Commissioners, and the Officer commanding the troops. These with the Adigars and principal chiefs formed the Great Court of Justice, from which there was no appeal except to the Governor. The native system of government was retained, subject to the supervision of Agents of Government in Uva, Sabaragamuwa and the Three Korales. Molligoda continued as First Adigar; Ehelepola had hoped to succeed to the vacant throne, and declined office.
But the new administration, after all a foreign one, was not popular. The people for generations had been accustomed to corruption, and the very fact of even justice regardless of caste and privilege was an offence. The chiefs in particular were affected as, though the old system was scrupulously maintained, in practice they were subordinate to the Agents of Government and to every military officer. Individually the British were not disliked, but there was no bond of sympathy, particularly in the matter of religion, and the wish was general that the foreigner, having ridded the Kandyans of a tyrant, should return whence he came. The chiefs even in 1815 were not credited with sincerity in signing the Convention. Ehelepola in particular, having failed to secure the crown for himself, was discontented. But in this lay safety for the new administration. The chiefs, at least for a time, preferred the British to Ehelepola; they were not prepared to submit to the royal authority wielded by an equal, and the usual jealousy prevailing among them prevented any formidable conspiracy to oust the British by force of arms. When the outburst came it was due to accidental causes.
The rebellion broke out in Wellassa. The local Moors had been put under a separate headman of their own race, and the Sinhala of the district were discontented. In September 1817 a strange priest appeared in the jungle, and Wilson, the Assistant Resident at Badulla, sent a porty of Moors to arrest him. Resistance was offered; Wilson found the country in opposition to authority, the priest posing as a member of the royal family, and he was murdered on September 16. The revolt spread to Uva and Walapane, and Keppitipola, Disawa of Uva, sent to put down the movement, joined the rebels. The flame spread, `uniformity of feeling supplying the place of organization,' until on February 21, 1818, all the Kandyan Provinces were placed under martial law. By the next month the only districts remaining loyal to the Government were the lower part of Sabaragamuwa, the Three and Pour Korales, and two small divisions near Kandy: every chief of note, with the exception of Molligoda, was in rebellion or in prison, including Ehelepola himself, who was arrested on March 3. The position was so serious that it is alleged that at one time arrangements were made for withdrawal from the interior. The situation was saved by Molligoda's loyalty, by which the road to Kandy was kept open; he was the enemy of Ehelepola, and be identified British rule with his own safety. The issue was still doubtful in May, June and July: but during the next two months the troops were chiefly occupied in pursuing fugitive chiefs. At the end of August Madugalle joined the pretender and became his Second Adigar, but soon discovered that he was an ex-priest known as Wilbawe; he thereupon imprisoned the impostor as well as Keppitipola. Wilbawe, however, after his exposure was released and disappeared, succeeding in escaping capture by the British until 1829. The people began to realize that they had nothing to gain from continued resistance except famine, and hostilities abated. On October 30 Keppitipola was captured, and on November 1 Madugalle. The rebellion now collapsed. The two ringleaders were beheaded on November 26. Ehelepola remained in Colombo until 1825, when he was sent to Mauritius; he died there in April, 1829, aged fifty-six.
|Fig 11.21821 George IV Silver Rix Dollar|
The suppression of the rebellion entailed great devastation, especially in Uva. On the British side the mortality among the troops, chiefly due to sickness, amounted neatly to 25 per cent. The principal political result was the alteration of the government in the interior. The Convention of 1815 had been deliberately broken by the Kandyans, and Government, having found by experience the difficulty of working the ancient system, accordingly abolished the old land tenure, reserving personal services save in a few cases only for work on the roads and bridges; in their place it imposed a tax payable in a share of the paddy crop, and further put the administration of the country in the hands of British officers. The temples continued on the old footing, the appointment of the chief priests and the lay headmen remaining as before with the Crown. Government also reserved to itself the right to make such further alterations as might appear necessary. On February 12, 1819, martial law ceased in the Kandyan Provinces, and the peace was not afterwards broken save by short disturbances in 1820, 1823 and 1824.'
From February 1, 1820, the government was administered by Sir Edward Barnes as Lieutenant-Governor. The next year the road from Kurunegala to Kandy was opened. Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Paget became Governor on February 2, 1822. In his period of office Molligoda the elder died on October 26, 1823. On January 18 of the following year Sir Edward Barnes succeeded and continued his policy of opening communications. The present road from Colombo to Kandy was completed in 1825; that from Kandy northwards had reached Matale in 1831, Dambulla in 1832, and had been constructed as far as the boundary of Trincomalee District in 1833. Sir John D'Oyly, the Resident, died on May 25, 1824. He was a Sinhala scholar, and had such an extensive and intimate knowledge of things Kandyan that it was found impossible to find an adequate successor; accordingly his post was not filled. It was under Barnes' administration that the cultivation of coffee was introduced into the interior. He was succeeded on October 23, 1831, by Sir Robert W. Horton (183 1-1837). Since 1829 a Commission of Enquiry under Major Colebroke had been investigating the administration of the country. The result of its labours was an Order of the King in Council, proclaimed on September 28, 1833. By this compulsory labour was abolished; the old Counci] of Government was dissolved, and Executive and Legislative Councils established in its place; the separate administration of the interior way done away and the Kandyan districts amalgamated with the old British settlements on the coast, each of the new provinces being under a Government Agent. The cinnamon monopoly, which had long ceased to be profitable owing to the competition of Java and China, was also discontinued. By the Charter of Justice of August 31, 1833, a new Supreme Court was erected, and shortly afterwards District Courts were brought into being. The union of the Kandyan with the Maritime Provinces, the substitution of smaller divisions under Ratemahatmayas for the old provinces under Disawas, and the abolition of forced service and of compulsory attendance at festivals were not acceptable to the chiefs, and resulted in a plot against the Government led by the younger Molligoda in 1834. The conspirators were tried before the Supreme Court in 1835 but were acquitted: Molligoda, however, was dismissed and his place taken by Mahawalatenne, the last of the old line of Adigars.
With the final disappearance of a separate administration for the interior we may review the Kandyan system of government as it existed in 1815. The king was supreme, and his autocratic power was controlled only by custom and by the fear of assassination. Where the succession was doubtful, the selection of the new monarch in practice lay with the principal ministers, and their choice was formally ratified by the people, but normally son followed father on the throne. The chief Officers of State were the two Adigars, the first of whom occasionally was styled in solemn documents by the old title of Senevirad or Commander-in-Chief: they were the royal ministers and had a general supervision over the whole kingdom. Their emoluments were few, and in consequence they always held one or more provinces with other offices for the maintenance of their dignity. For a long period of time there had been one minister, apparently the Vikramasinha; Rajasinha II. is said to have added a second, and the last king of Kandy a third. Beneath these were the Great Disawas or provincial governors of the Four and the Seven Korales, Uva, and Matale, and eight minor Disawas, but the number varied; they usually resided at the capital, and on going to their provinces were obliged to leave their families as hostages in Kandy. The smaller districts round the capital were governed by Ratemahatmayas, chiefs of much less importance than the Disawas. In addition there existed number of departments attached to the palace under chiefs styled Lekams or Secretaries;, most of these had once been military in nature, but by the end of the eighteenth century had become little more than bodies of messengers. Certain people throughout the country by virtue of the tenure in which they held their lands were liable to military service; they performed this duty for periods of fifteen days at a time, supplying their own weapons, portable shelters and food, and were then relieved by others. But the backbone of the military force was the small standing army, consisting chiefly of Malays, who received pay in lieu of land. By the beginning of the nineteenth century muskets practically had superseded other weapons; the gingals were supplemented by a few cannon. Usually guerilla tactics were employed; the enemy was allowed to enter the country, and on his return was perpetually harassed, and, if possible, entrapped in an ambush and attacked by musket and gingal fire from the cover of the forest, through which the road, a narrow track ran. The royal villages set apart for the maintenance of the king and of the royal family were under the supervision of the Gabada Nilames or chiefs of the Store Houses. All the chiefs held their office at the royal pleasure.
The administration of justice was in the hands of the chiefs and headmen, all of whom had the power of inflicting slight punishments and fines. The king alone had the power of life and death, and the Great Court consisting of the principal chiefs could only impose such punishments as were within the competence of the Adigars; all important matters were referred to the king. In the remoter districts popular courts, probably of great antiquity, survived, and almost everywhere the village councils (gam-sabe); no fines could be imposed unless a headman presided, and every member present received at least a small share of the money so recovered. In the courts of the Disawas at least great corruption prevailed, and there was no such thing as finality in a case, which could always be reopened for a bribe. The last king is said to have encouraged the old popular tribunals as a means of reducing the power of the chiefs. But these institutions in most places were already extinct or moribund, and his measures came too late. Ordeals were in common use.
All lands were held by service tenure. The chief source of the king's revenue was in the royal villages. He also received as tax rice from holders of lands other than those assigned for military service or allotted to members of particular castes organized for the performance of the duties proper thereto; the amount so raised cannot have been considerable. The marala or death duty has been discussed in Chapter III. Another source of income was the dekum or present from the chiefs on appointment. The king received these also at the New Year, at which festival the chiefs benefited as well, receiving presents from all the minor headmen whose turn of office only lasted for a year. The system still continues in the Kandyan temples.
The king's power was also felt in religion. The chief priests were appointed and the candidates for ordination approved by the sovereign; the chiefships of the Tooth Relic Temple and of the principal temples of the gods were granted by him to the Adigars and others as a means of maintaining their dignity. But in no case were the extensive temple lands considered to be free from the royal supervision, and no difference was made between the administration of the properties belonging to the Tooth Relic and to the gods and that of other departments of State.
|Fig. 11.3 The Sri Dalada Maligawa, Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy|
1. The slight trouble in 1842-3 and the formidable rising of 1848 lie outside our period.
Bertolacci, Davy, Forbos, Marshall, Tennent, as in Chapter X., and `Diary of Mr. John D'Oyly, 1810-1815,' in J.R.A.S., C.B. xxv. No. 69. For the constitution of the Kandyan kingdom, described by D'Oyly, see Report on the Kegalla District, p. 107. For Kandyan military matters see Major Johnston, op. cit.