John Munro was appointed as British Resident of Cochin in 1811, and later accepted the Dewanship of Cochin at the Raja's urging. Cochin those days was in turmoil. War torn country was saddled with heavy debt. Due to lack of Law and Order the only recourse to justice for people was by bribes. Corruption and avarice was rampant with a weak Raja unable to govern. Munro meticulously studied the situation, introduced reforms and transformed Cochin into a civilized, productive Society with a surplus in the treasury. He was ruthless against corruption yet fair and Just and treated natives with respect. He was the greatest administrator that Cochin ever had in the 150 years of British Dominion.
The Military records available in the British Library in London gave three pages of hand written information about John Munro. The salient points were the following :
He was born as son of James Munro in Alness, Ross-shire, Scotland, on 11th February 1775. Joined the army on 12th April 1791 and landed at Madras on 10th September 1791. Received medal for fighting in Seringapatam. Became deputy quartermaster in 1802 and later promoted to major and quarter master general. Appointed as Lieutenant Colonel in 1806. Reported critically about the tent contract system and the Commander in Chief had to arrest him, but, the Government released him. Posted as Persian translator at head Quarters in 1809. His enlightened approach to issues was noted by the commissioner’s department. At Lord Minto’s suggestion in 1811, he was appointed Resident at Travancore. He was to receive pay and emoluments of his regular rank and a salary of 800 pagoda per month. While in Travancore he assumed the position of Dewan also for a few years but the salary he was offered were not permitted by the advocate general on multiple occasions in spite of favorable recommendations from the Governor General Hastings in 1816. He received no remuneration as Dewan from both the States. He returned to Scotland in 1819 on leave and joined duty only in 1824. He left on furlough again back to his native Scotland. In 1832 he gave testimony to the select committee of the House of Commons.
For more details, please watch the video " In Search of Munro" - A Travelogue by Dr. Kocha Varma
COLONEL MUNRO IN INDIA
A paper was read before the Kerala Society in 1928, by Rao Sahib Uloor S. Parameswara Iyer, M.A, B.L, M.R.A.S. and was published in Kerala Society Papers II, Series 7. It was more than hundred years since John Munro had left Travancore. Travancore continued to be a flourishing feudatory of the British in 1928. To quote the author “Colonel John Munro, who in his combined capacity of Resident and Dewan brought peace and prosperity to her (Travancore) and started her on the road to progressive Government. Munro as being directly connected with the State, is more widely known among the masses, who even today, in a Spirit of involuntary veneration, trace the origin of everything good in the country to his golden age. Munro Sahib is beyond doubt a household name in Travancore – and also in Cochin, and the perfume of his memory pervades the atmosphere of both these countries.”
John Munro was sixteen when he landed in Madras and at age thirty three he was Quartermaster General of the Army. Munro's superiors had great confidence in Munro because of his devotion to duty and truthfulness exemplified by his controversial approach to the tent contract system being modified to cut down fraud and waste, while he was the Quarter Master General at Madras. As per the prevalent tent contract system in 1806 – 07, British officers commanding native corps received a permanent monthly allowance, alike in peace and war, on condition of providing the men under them with suitable camp-equipage whenever required. Sir John Craddock, Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army, as a measure of retrenchment desired to abolish the tent contract system. Munro strongly agreed and stated in his minute “ By granting the same allowances in peace and war for the equipment of Native Corps, while the expense incidental to that charge are unavoidably much greater in war than peace, it places the interest and duty of officers commanding Native Corps in direct opposition to one another: it makes it their interest that the corps should not be in a state of efficiency fit for field service, and therefore furnishes strong inducements to neglect their most important duties.”
Sir Alexander Cardew published his book – THE WHITE MUTINY in 1929. Chapter VIII deals with the tent contract system and Colonel Munro. On the 30th June, 1807, Munro submitted the report. He recommended that the system should be abolished, and compensation for the loss of profitable allowances of the officers be through enhanced batta. Sir John Craddock agreed and was approved by the Government of Madras and the Governor General in Council. Nothing remained but to carry out the decision. The Munro report was intended for the eye of the Commander- in- Chief only. By some indiscretion, it became public and the paper was circulated in the Army. This created significant unrest in some factions of the officers and Munro became an alien enemy. Lieutenant General Hay Macdowall who succeeded Sir John Craddock had resented Munro’s recommendation just before his departure from Madras, placed Munro under arrest to be court marshalled by the succeeding Commander-in-Chief. Munro promptly appealed to the Madras Government. Governor of Madras, Sir George Barlow ordered his release. General Macdowall, issued an order condemning Munro for disrespect to the Commander- in- Chief for disobedience of orders and contempt of military authority. This provoked a counter order from the Madras Government and reported to the Court of Directors “It is proper to state to Your Honourable Court that Lieutenant Colonel Munro the Quarter-master of the Army, is an officer of great merit and talents. He has, for a long period of time, filled the principal military staff situations of the Presidency: and it is probable that his reports on various subjects on military arrangements will have attracted your observation, from the degree of perspicuity and ability by which they are distinguished. It is on the suggestion of Lieutenant Colonel Munro that a great part of the improvements lately effected in our military establishment have originated and we are justified in stating to Your Honourable Court, that we consider the services of that officer to have been of the greatest value and importance.”
Sir Alexander Cardew observed that John Munro was an unpopular figure amongst the officers because of his sudden surge from Major to Quarter-master General overlooking many of his seniors in service. Lieutenant Colonel St Leger who commanded the forces from Trichinopoly against Velu Thamby was one of the officers who protested against Munro. Much acrimony resulted between General Macdowall and the Government of Madras and the European Army mutinied against the Government in1809, but ended in surrender on the 23rd of August 1809. Sir Alexander remarked “The Government intervention on behalf of Lt Col Munro was undertaken to save an innocent man from a malicious prosecution. It was forced on Government by the infatuated proceedings of General Macdowall and few unbiased judges would hold that in the circumstances it was not justified.”
Further insight into this episode involving John Munro was provided by S.R.Bakshi Ph.D. in his book – BRITISH DIPLOMACY AND ADMINISTRATION IN INDIA – 1807 – 13 Chapter Six titled The Madras Mutiny. The tussle between the Civil and Military authorities which occurred is further detailed here. General Macdowall did not appreciate the Governor Barlow’s decision to release Munro and called it interference of the civil authority was ‘unprecedented and it encouraged very great dangerous example, proving destructive to every military discipline.’ Not only did General Macdowall denounced the Governor, he charged Colonel Munro with indiscipline and disrespect to him in addressing the Governor directly. He wanted Munro to be court- marshalled. The General arrogating himself to be the custodian of military discipline and guardian of the rights of army under him, he deemed it his duty to set things right in the army by punishing the act of indiscipline. In the opinion of Judge Advocate General, the Governor was right in his action as the whole civil and military Government of his Presidency was vested in him and his Council by the Act of Parliament and they were fully competent to protect their servants, in the discharge of their duties, from punishment from an inferior authority. In this respect the Commander - in- Chief was himself subject to the orders of the Government as any other officer under his command and that officer could legally be released by a power superior to that of the person who ordered the arrest. He conceded to the Commander-in-Chief’s contention that obedience to higher authority was undoubtedly an important part of military discipline and a great duty of a soldier; but in the event of a conflict in the orders of civil and military authorities, his first obedience was due to the civil laws of the country and second to the military.
At the suggestion of Lord Minto the Governor General, and endorsed by Sir George Barlow, the Governor of Madras, the Chief Secretary to the Madras Government Mr A. Falconer informed Munro of his appointment as the Resident in Travancore on the 23rd of March 1810. Falcolner wrote " The nature of the past transactions and the existing state of affairs in that quarter render the situation of the Resident in the court of Travancore in a high degree important, difficult and delicate, and his Lordship in Council is satified that in selecting an officer possessing all the requisite qualifications for an office so arduous , he fully provides for the public interest s in confiding his trust to you."
Though John Munro was appointed as Resident to Travancore and Cochin in March of 1810, he could only take charge in October of 1810 for the above reasons. He was thirty five years old.
TRAVANCORE AND COCHIN WHEN RESIDENT MUNRO ARRIVED
C.M.Agur in his Church History of Travancore, (page 738) remarks "The country was in such a disturbed and unsettled state that the plots of rival factions, the evil effects of the recent war, the heavy debts with which the Sircar was burdened and the inability of the Native Government to cope with them, all this threatened the entire ruination of the country.
Weak rulers, insurrection, inefficient and belligerent ministers had brought in a climate of corruption and lawlessness. This was what Munro had to confront in addition to various factors already dealt with. According to Colonel Munro’s account, “no description can produce an adequate impression of the tyranny, corruption and abuses of the system, full of activity and energy in everything mischievous, oppressive and infamous, but slow and dilatory to effect any purpose of humanity, mercy and justice. This body of public officers, united together on fixed principles of combination and mutual support, resented a complaint against one of their number as an attack upon the whole. Their pay was very small and never issued from the treasury, but supplied from several authorized exactionsmade by themselves. On the part of the people, complaint was useless, redress hopeless, they had only one remedy and that was bribery. This practice was universal, and it was one of the melancholy circumstances in the situation of the people that one of the greatest evils was necessarily resorted to as a good to mitigate the still more intolerable grievances of injustice and oppression. Innocence was protected, justice obtained and right secured by bribes.”
SUCCESSION ISSUE IN TRAVANCORE
Within a month after Resident Munro joined duty, the Raja of Travancore died. The first question the Resident had to settle was the succession to musnad. Traditionally, the oldest male member succeeds, even though a matrilineal system was followed. Two Princesses had been adopted by Raja Rama Varma in 1789 from Mavelikkara Royal Family in central Travancore. The older Princess had two daughters namely Ayilium Thirunal Gauri Lakshmi Bayi and Uthrattathi Thirunal Gauri Parvathi Bayi 19 and 9 years old respectively. They were the senior and junior Ranis of Attingal at that time. “One of the conditions on which the independent territory of Attingal was allowed to be merged in Travancore under the Silver Plate Treaty of about 1730 was that the succession to Travancore Musnad should descend to the offspring of the Rani of Attingal in strict accordance with precedent, and the Resident found that, in the absence of a male heir, Lakshmi Bayi as the senior Rani of Attingal was entitled to succeed to the Musnad until the birth of such an heir. Her title, however, was challenged by a young Raja of The Mavelikkara Family, Visakham Thirunal Kerala Varma Raja who was one of the close companions of Balarama Varma. Though he was not adopted into the ruling family, he was by courtesy styled Elaya Raja (Yuvaraja, young or junior prince) by the deceased ruler, and Rani Lakshmi Bayi used to call him “Annan” or elder brother. This Elaya Raja left no stone unturned to prevail upon the Rani to pass the Musnad to him, but did not succeed in his efforts owing to her remarkable resoluteness. Colonel Munro, after holding the needed enquiry, had no hesitation in declaring that Lakshmi Bayi, by whose great intelligence and capacity he was struck, was the legitimate heir to the Musnad- an opinion in which the Madras Government and the court of Directors concurred, and the Rani thereupon became the ruler of the State assuming the titles of SriPadmanabha Sevini, Vanchidharmavardhini and Rajarajeswari.” _ Ulloor Parameswara Iyer.
Munro had sent for the spiritual and temporal dignitaries including the yogam in Padmanabha Swamy temple to get a consensus and after discussing the issue he was convinced that as per tradition and precedents the pretender Kerala Varma had no chance. He happened to be in such a position because of certain cliques and machinations perpetrated by certain factions. He continued to live in Trivandrum. His presence was disconcerting to the Resident because of a faction always ready to hatch plots against the Rani. The Prince was alleged to be a partisan of late Velu Thamby. He was soon sent away to Tellicherry as a state prisoner and later to Chingelput in Madras.
INSTALLATION OF RANI
In her Speech she addressed Munro ‘Very esteemed Sahib’ – She continued ‘I had not expected even in my dreams that I would be called upon even in my life to assume a Musnad which has been most worthily and deservedly occupied by my ancestors from time immemorial and latterly supported and protected under the auspices of the Honourable East India Company………………………………….. I am ready to obey, but being a young woman quite unprepared and unqualified for such a high and responsible position, I cannot do better than to place myself under the guidance and support of the Honourable East India Company, whose bosom had been an asylum for the protection of an infant like Travancore since the time Sri Padmanabhaswami had effected an alliance with such a respectable Company of the European Nation. To you, Colonel, I entrust everything connected with my country, and from this day I look upon you as my elder brother and so I need say no more.’
The first thing that Rani Lakshmi Bayi wanted was to get rid of her Dewan Ummini Thampi. In her letter to the Resident dated 15 Th April 1811 she wrote:
‘Formerly certain seditious persons excited disorders and troubles and were even guilty of great embezzlements and injustice. They are endeavoring at present to pursue the same seditious course of measures……… The removal of these apprehensions, and the highly improper things which have created them, depends upon the power and protection of English gentlemen alone. As I consider the gentlemen of the Company in the light of parents, and myself as their daughter. I have committed my cares and my services to them, and expect the comfort and happiness of myself and my country from their justice and protection only. If the Company do not protect and assist me who will protect and assist me?................. As I am a woman, it is not becoming to write more: but I earnestly trust that my wishes may be taken into serious consideration, and the present Dewan may be removed from office.’
To paraphrase further from Ulloor Parameswara Iyer’s paper – Munro was convinced that Ummini Thampi ‘was particularly obnoxious to the Rani and his continuance in office would therefore be unfavorable to the attainment of that close and cordial union between the States’ which he considered desirable to establish. With the approval of Madras Government, Munro wrote to Ummini Thampi to say that “as there did not appear in the judgment of the British Government and of Her Highness the Rani to be any occasion at present for the office of Dewan, he was relieved from the duties of that situation” and assumed direct charge of the administration on the 18th Edavam 986 (June 1811) at the special request of the Rani.
RESIDENT MUNRO AS DEWAN OF TRAVANCORE
After the dismissal of Ummini Thampi, the question arose as to who should succeed him. The Rani wrote that “there was no person in Travancore that she wished to elevate to the office of Dewan; and that her own wishes were that the Resident should superintend the affairs of the country as she had a degree of confidence in his justice, judgment and integrity which she could not place in the conduct of any other person.” She added that “she regarded the Resident as her brother and was convinced that the Resident should always act for the good of herself and her people.”
Munro had observed this in one of his letters to the Madras Government. “I know no person in the country qualified for the situation of Dewan, and history of transaction in Travancore for the last ten years would not admit of my placing much confidence in the conduct of any Dewan that might be nominated to office, for of two Dewans appointed by the British influence during that period of time, one was guilty of open rebellion against its authority; and the other of numerous instances of mismanagement and oppression. It appears therefore to be desirable that the office of Dewan be discontinued, and that the Resident should superintend the administration of affairs if that measure should be agreeable to the wishes of Her Highness the Rani and the people. I had the best reasons for knowing that the measure would be highly acceptable to Her Highness, and to a great majority of the people; and its adoption was further recommended by a variety of considerations drawn from the past history and actual situation of Travancore.”
Ummini Thampi was enraged. He protested to the Government of Madras through a legal writ. This was not heeded to by the Government. He devised other plots and it is rumored that he even plotted against Munro’s life. At this point he was deported as a State prisoner to Chingelput.
For more details, please watch the video " In Search of Munro" - A Travelogue by Dr. Kocha Varma
The state of affairs in Travancore had demanded most of the Resident’s time and effort. It took more than six months for him to make a visit to the Cochin State to assess the situation. The State was being poorly administered by the Minister Cheruparambil Kunjikrishna Menon who was a loyal favorite of the departed Resident Colonel Macaulay. The Rajah and the Royal Family had asked Resident Macaulay to dismiss the Minister because of his belligerent attitude and total inefficiency in managing the State affairs. After the insurgency and war both the Minister and Resident Macaulay were paranoid about another impending conspiracy and violence to spread from Travancore.
Removal of the Dewan Kunjikrishna Menavan
On 24 Th of April 1812 Munro wrote to the Chief Secretary of the Government
The very little progress which has been made by the Government of Cochin, for some time past, in paying the arrears of subsidy, and the disorders which have prevailed in that State has been a source of great solicitude to my mind, and rendered me anxious to repair to Cochin as soon as the affairs of Travancore should admit of my departure from that country. When I arrived last year at Cochin I found little reason to approve of the proceedings of the Valia Sarvadhi Kariakar Kunji Krishna Menon. His conduct towards the Raja has been particularly offensive, towards his personal enemies, vindictive and severe, the management of the country improvident and irregular. After much reflection on the state of affairs at Cochin at that period of time, it appeared in my judgment to be requisite, that one of the following arrangements should be adopted for the management of the Sircar.” _
1. Kunji Krishna Menon should continue on, with explicit instructions regularly communicated to him.
2. Kunji Krishna Menon be dismissed and another person appointed promptly.
3. Kunji Krishna Menon be dismissed and the Resident with the concurrence of the Rajah should assume a direct control over the administration of the Government, at least until the debt should have been discharged and affairs of the country brought to a state of order.
4. The Minister should be retained in office, and an agent of the Resident appointed for the purpose of inspecting the proceedings, assisting him with counsel and advice and preventing further dispute between Rajah and the Minister.
Munro continued “The first of these plans involved many objections. I judged it to be highly important to conciliate the need of the Rajah, and to render whatever arrangements might be adopted for the conduct of affairs sufficiently acceptable to him, to avoid a recurrence of the complaints which he had never ceased to make since his accession, to the Minister. If Kunji Krishna Menon should be left in the sole administration of the Government he must in consequence of my frequent absence from Cochin be entrusted with considerable powers, and his past conduct furnished grounds for expecting that those powers would not be exercised with discretion, economy or efficiency. It appeared therefore to be inadvisable in relation both to the Rajah’s feelings and to the management of the affairs of the country, to have Kunji Krishna Menon in the sole administration of the executive Government.
The adoption of second arrangement was precluded by the impossibility of finding a man fit for the office of Dewan, all the principle men of the country were divided into factions, most of them had been actively engaged in the war, and few indeed I may affirm, none of them enjoyed a character that could qualify them for so important an office, a change of Minister was calculated therefore to aggravate the evils that existed, and to render the administration of affairs still more difficult than it was already.
The third arrangement was certainly better if adopted, than any of the others to secure the accomplishment of the objects in view. The administration placed in the hands of the Resident who has no personal, or local enmities to ratify, would be conducted with a degree of moderation and justice that would soon extinguish the animosities and the spirit of faction and turbulence which had existed by many years of disorders and wars. The strict economy and integrity of a British authority by preventing an improper application of the revenues would secure their constant appropriation to legitimate purposes, and soon recover the embarrassments that were experienced, the Resident acting upon fixed and approved principles of Government would establish a system of order, regularity and justice, that would eventually promote the prosperity of the State, the happiness of the people, and the stability of the interest of the British Nation.
The circumstance of a British authority being placed in the immediate management of a country full of fractious, discontented and turbulent subjects would strengthen the influence and power of the British Government, and provide additional securities for the constant acceptance of tranquility. The necessity of my being absent from Cochin during a considerable portion of every year will however, cause serious difficulties to the proper execution of this arrangement.
The fourth plan was apparently free from most of the objections that have been stated against the others. Though the Dewan had acted with much imprudence, he appeared still to be better qualified for the office that he held, than any other person who could be appointed to it. It was expedient to give him a further trial and an opportunity of repairing by his zeal and exertions the errors he had committed. But it also required to subject him to certain restrictions and to assist him with the advice of a person acting under the immediate orders of the Resident. That plan would be sufficiently agreeable to the Rajah who would feel secure from the grievances of which he had complained. The arrangement, which I adopted on that occasion and which was honoured by the approbation of the Government was founded upon the considerations which I have described. The Dewan was retained in the office, but subjected to greater restrictions than had formerly been imposed upon him, an agent named Prahlad Rao, was appointed by the Resident, with the full approbation of the Rajah to assist the Dewan with his advice, to co-operate with him in administering the affairs of the Government, to inspect the proceedings and report them to the Resident and if requisite to act as an open channel between the Dewan and the Rajah.
The accounts of the country were at the same time examined with as much exactness as the shortness of the period of time which I could pass at Cochin permitted and the expenses of the State were reduced to the lowest practicable scale. The Minister had affirmed, when I first arrived at Cochin that the revenues of the State scarcely exceeded four lakhs of rupees, but they were found upon examination, of the accounts of his own administration, to account to five lakhs and fifty one thousand rupees; and were supposed by persons conversant in the affairs of Cochin to surpass very considerably that sum. The Junmahbundy was therefore estimated on my departure at 5, 51000 Rupees; and a reasonable expectation was entertained that the collections would exceed that sum, as a balance of eight lakhs of Rupees, of which a part might be immediately realized was due from the people, and not included in the Sircar. The expenditure of the State was fixed at one lakh of Rupees; and the sum of four lakhs and fifty one thousands of Rupees would remain applicable to the payment of the accrual of the subsidy of 2,76,000 Rupees and to the liquidation of the debt.
On leaving Cochin I enjoined the Dewan and Prahlad Rao to employ the most strenuous exertions in realizing the revenues, settling the disputes of the people, and improving the situation of the country; and I intimated to the former an expectation that the propriety of his conduct would efface the impressions which he had received from his former proceedings.
(Munro adds this later assessment in this long letter)
I regret to state that the conduct of Prahlad Rao and the Dewan, during my absence has in no respect corresponded with the instructions which were communicated to him. Prahlad Rao , although recommended to me as a man of ability, and much experience in revenue concerns, lacked the knowledge of business, and vigour of mind which were necessary to give a just direction and proper efficiency to the re-arrangement of affairs long involved in confusion. Although he assumed a greater degree of authority than it was my intention to confide to him, yet he was unable either to secure the collection of the revenues, or to adjust the complaints of the people. In reply to the severe orders which I continually transmitted to him upon these points, he stated that the efforts which he incessantly made to obey my instructions were frustrated by his own want of powers, by the negligence or secret counteraction of the Dewan, and by the disobedience of the subordinate authorities. The Rajah frequently wrote to me in favour of Prahlad Rao and stated that Prahlad Rao’s measures were rendered nugatory by the influence and opposition of the Minister.
Kunji Krishna Menon instead of cordially co-operating in fulfilling the objects prescribed to him appeared to have either neglected his duty, or counteracted the measures of Prahlad Rao. He evinced soon after my departure from Cochin marks of disaffection at the restraints imposed upon his conduct; he absented himself nearly four months from the Cutcherry under the pretense of sickness and he frequently wrote to me complaining of the mismanagement of affairs and the animosity of his exercises.
The Minister’s own misconduct prevented me however giving credit to his assertions, for about two months after my departure, inpatient it would seem of the controls under which he was placed, he effected in a clandestine manner a reconciliation with the Rajah. I have already reported this transaction to the Government, and stated my intention of examining, and forwarding the depositions of the persons who were principally concerned in it. The papers No. 1 contains the depositions of those persons taken in my presence, and apparently show that the Rajah and the Minister equally laboured to produce the farcical reconciliation which took place. The secret motives of the Rajah in taking that step is still incomprehensible to me, for his sentiments towards the Minister both before and since the reconciliation, have been full of animosity and resentment. The conduct of the Minister in that affair was very improper. He had never failed to complain of the hostility of the Rajah, and express fears of being assassinated at his instigation; it was therefore his obvious duty in effecting a formal reconciliation with his declared enemy, either to apprize the Resident of his intention, or to solicit the Resident’s permission to carry that measure into execution- after several days passed in secret intrigues and communications, he effected a reconciliation with the Rajah, and then wrote to the Resident a letter in which he thanked him for his interposition in producing that happy event, although he knew perfectly well that the Resident was entirely unacquainted with its occurrence; again he circulated a report that he was in possession of a letter from Dr Macaulay which stated a very great reduction in the amount of the sum payable by Cochin on account of the expenses of the war.- This report could have been propagated by the Minister, and for a sinister purpose only- If such a letter had existed, it was the Minister’s duty to have submitted it openly to the Rajah and the Resident, but he made no mention of it while I was at Cochin, and afterwards employed it as an instrument in facilitating the accomplishment of his own views.
The conduct of the Minister upon this occasion was so improper, and that of Prahlad Rao in general so inefficient that I judged it desirable to send my own munshi, a man of very superior abilities, to Cochin, but the complaints preferred to the Government by Mullam Pillay against the munshi rendered it necessary to detain him until they could be investigated. I was therefore under the necessity of continuing Prahlad Rao at Cochin, and transmitted to him the strongest injunctions to exertion and activity- The want of success in his measures and of co-operation between him and the Dewan forced me about two months ago to recall him, and leave the Dewan in the sole administration of the Government.
The Minister since Prahlad Rao’s removal, has not had better success than before; and the affairs of Cochin have on the whole been so ill conducted subsequently to my departure that nearly 80,000 Rupees have been added to the amount of the debt due to the British Government – The disorders which have prevailed in the affairs of Cochin, the turbulence of the people, and the very bad description of the revenue servants, required a strong and vigorous Government – The powers necessary for that purpose if entrusted to the Dewan alone, would most probably be, as they had formerly been, abused – It seemed reasonable to expect that by placing near the Dewan an agent from the Resident in a capacity somewhat similar to the officer called (aumil) in revenue affairs – sufficient power would be given to the Government and the abuse of that power prevented. The want of Co-operation in the Dewan, a circumstance sufficiently indicated by his attempt to unite himself to the Rajah, and depend on the Rajah – principally for influence and authority, together with the inefficiency of the Resident’s agent, have disappointed the expectations that were founded upon that arrangement and shown that a more decided plan of measures be requisite for the Government of the State. –
The affairs of Cochin, were in the posture which I have described when I arrived at that place on the 21st Ultimo – I had on the following day a public interview with the Rajah – His Excellency after many professions of the firmest attachment to the interest of the British Nation, said that he had many complaints to make, that the situation in which he found himself was exceedingly disagreeable, and he would rather abandon his country, or even seek death itself than continue in a position so pregnant with humiliating reflections and painful feelings – He added, that his health was extremely bad, but would be improved he trusted by the relief afforded to his mind by my arrival---
I informed the Rajah that I was well pleased to find that he expressed the same sentiments of attachment to the British Government which he had stated the preceding year; that his comfort, happiness, and honor were and would continue to be primary objects of my care, that I equally regretted with His Excellency the failure of arrangements concerted with him for the management of the country, that more effectual measures would now be adopted I trusted for that purpose, and that I should be happy to receive from him at a private conference a detailed account of the complaints and grievances to which he had alluded. The Rajah promised to visit me as soon as his health would admit of his doing so, and said that he understood I was desirous of proceeding to Alwaye, he would be happy to accompany me, as he expected to derive much benefit to his health from the climate of that place.-
The Rajah visited me at Alwaye on the 25th Ultimo, and commenced his discourse by stating his extreme anxiety to discharge the debt due to the Company, and fulfill all his engagements to the British Government. He said that he had sworn solemnly to maintain his faith, and knew too well the sanctity of that obligation to entertain a thought of violating it. He felt the greatest regret, he observed at the smallness of the progress which had been made in paying the debt due by his country.
He stated that Prahlad Rao wanted more abilities, and had not acted either with diligence or prudence, that Prahlad Rao for few months after my departure was on the most cordial terms with the Minister, that those persons often quarreled, and the affairs of the country suffered a considerable degree of injury from their disputes. The Rajah remarked that I was well acquainted with the highly obnoxious course of proceedings followed by the Dewan previously to my arrival in this country, and that the continuance of the Minister in power was a measure in every view disgraceful and distressing to His Excellency.
The Rajah added that Kunji Krishna Menon, was supported and educated from his infancy by the Rajah’s family, and owed all he possessed to their care, that in return for these favours he manifested the most marked ingratitude; that his actions and language were insulting to the Rajah and the Ladies of the family; that on a late occasion the Minister had evinced towards the British Government the perfidy which belongs to his character, by attempting by means of a pretended letter from Dr Macaulay to impress the Rajah with a belief that too large a sum had been charged on account of the expenses of the war, that the Rajah was well acquainted with the faithless and treacherous disposition of Kunji Krishna Menon, and when he considered his own great age and the extreme youth of his successor he could not but regard the continuance of the Minister in office with the sentiments of the utmost grief and alarm.
The Rajah continued to state that the conduct of the Minister since my departure from Cochin sufficiently demonstrated his unfitness for his situation, and the little degree of dependence that could be placed upon his exertions for the improvement of the country, and the removal of the difficulties in which it was involved. His Excellency said that these considerations inspired his mind with the liveliest apprehension of the British Government being obliged by repeated failures on the part of his administration, to adopt harsh and extreme measures towards his country.
The Rajah further stated that there was no person in his country fit for the office of Dewan, that the people of Malabar were treacherous, turbulent and corrupt, and he therefore expressed a most earnest request that Kunji Krishna Menon might be set aside, and that I should myself assume the direct management of affairs. The Rajah repeated this request with much emotion, he burst into tears, saying that his comfort, honor and happiness depended upon my complying with his wishes, and that he had made up his mind in case of refusal to quit his country, and reside at a celebrated religious place in Travancore. I replied to the Rajah that while I was animated by a most sincere desire to redress his complaints. I could not help remarking, that some of those which he had alleged appeared to be destitute of solid foundation. With respect to Prahlad Rao, I said that the Rajah knew perfectly well that I was not satisfied by his proceedings, but the Rajah wrote to me repeatedly in his favour, asserting that he acted with much propriety, and that His Excellency’s recommendation constituted one of the causes which prevented me from recalling Prahlad Rao at an earlier period of time.
It now appeared extraordinary, that Rajah should condemn a person whom he had uniformly praised. Again, in regard to Dewan, the Rajah, notwithstanding all his wrongs, had, without my knowledge sought and effected a reconciliation with that Minister. His Excellency replied that there was justice in my observations – but as he considered Prahlad Rao to be attached to my service he did not venture to commit to writing the unfavorable opinion which he entertained of him; that he did wrong and would be more candid and explicit in future; on the subject of the reconciliation with the Dewan, the Rajah mentioned that he allowed of that proceeding with a view to see to what extent of treachery to the British Government the Dewan would go, but that he immediately appraised me of that transaction, and afterwards abstained from communication with the Minister. The Rajah concluded by repeating the request which he had already made to me. I replied that I begged the Rajah would prepare for the information of the Government a written statement of his complaints and his wishes, and that the proposition that he had made to me demanded much consideration, I requested permission to postpone replying to it until my next interview with His Excellency.
The Paper No 2 is the written statement sent to me by the Rajah. It is also my duty to submit to the Government a Letter No 3, which I received from His Excellency in November, last, with a very regular account of means said to have been employed by the Minister in effecting the death of late Illiah Rajah of Cochin by magic. It is proper to remark, that the inhabitants of Travancore and Cochin are believed to be particularly skilled in this art, and the degree of criminality of the Minister in having had recourse the proceedings ascribed to him, must be measured by the opinions of the natives of the country than by those of an enlightened people. I have not yet examined the persons from whom the Rajah received his information upon this subject.
I visited the Rajah again on the 28th Ultimo, and he repeated with the same warmth the request which he had already expressed. The affairs of Cochin, he said for many years been in a state of great disorder. The invasion of Tipoo Sultan, the irregular ill-advised measures of a late Rajah, the war with the British Government, and the inefficiency of Kunji Krishna Menon, had all contributed, he remarked, to produce this result. He further said that the people, particularly those in authority being naturally idle, dissipated and unprincipled, disobeyed orders, and embezzled the public revenues: that large balances were due by the inhabitants and by the Kariakars, that it was usual for the latter to embezzle the revenues and then bribing their superiors, or pleading poverty, to obtain a remission of their arrears, to be again employed and commit the same abuses; and that no prospect existed of removing those evils, and securing the payment of the debt unless I should assume the direct management of the administration, This picture of the state of the country is perfectly just, and equally applicable to Travancore, as Cochin .
I replied that however desirous I was of meeting the Rajah’s wishes, yet that the arrangement he proposed being of considerable importance, and also in some respect contrary to the general policy of the British Government, could not be adopted without the sanction of the Governor in Council, that a material distinction subsisted between the States united by alliance to the British Government, and the countries placed under its immediate management, that it was the wish of the British Government, a wish founded upon liberal and enlarged principles of policy, that its allies while they fulfilled the terms of their engagements should retain the interior management of their States and preserve their ancient institutions and forms of Government; that the functions of a Resident being to ensure in all cases a faithful observance of the spirit of subsisting treaties, were different from those of a collector; but I observed that cases might occur to justify a departure from the
line of policy which I had described, that a case of that nature had recently occurred in Travancore, and was justified by reasons that seemed to apply with equal force to Cochin, I was fully sensible I said of the disorders which prevailed in His Excellency’s State, and should willingly charge myself for a few months with the conduct of the administration, if that arrangement should receive the sanction of the Government.
The Rajah expressed a sense of gratitude for my compliance with his wishes, and said that it was probable that the Government would sanction the arrangement which he had suggested, he hoped, that it might be carried into immediate execution, I answered that the authority of the Government was essentially requisite to the execution of that measure, but as I have commenced a detailed examination of the accounts of Cochin, and the influence of the Dewan might be unfavorable to a proper exposition of them, I should desire him, during the inspection of the accounts, to abstain from issuing orders to the country, and should in all necessary cases issue orders myself.
The Rajah approved of this step, and desired me to be assured that he was not actuated by sentiments of unjustifiable resentment against the Minister, nor by a wish to assume a greater degree of authority than he exercised, that he would be well pleased to see KunjiKrishna Menon, pensioned upon his present salary, but recommended his removal upon a mature conviction of his unfitness, that with respect to himself, his life has been passed in studying the Shastras, and was now approaching the period of its termination, that he was unacquainted with business, and unable to enter into its details, and that his successor was young and inexperienced. In these circumstances he was of opinion that to commit the interests of his State to the care of the British Government, and the authorities acting under it, was the wisest measure that he could admit.
I afterwards sent for the Minister and Prahlad Rao, and demanded from them an explanation of the causes which had prevented them from realizing the revenues, or fulfilling the duties with which they were charged. They were unable to assign a substantial reason for their failure. The Dewan stated that Prahlad Rao having united himself with the Rajah’s party, endeavored to assume the whole administration, and exclude the Dewan from any share in it. Prahlad Rao denied the truth of this allegation, affirming that all the affairs of the Government were transacted in open Cutcherry with the concurrence of the Dewan who however sometimes affected to withdraw himself from the conduct of them. These men furnished Statements No 4&5 which are forwarded to the Government.
The observations which have been already made in the course of this letter appear to obviate the necessity of discussing in this, place the propriety of acceding to the request of the Rajah of Cochin. While Rajahs are maintained in the separate Governments of States, it appears to be a principle of policy, to endeavor to adopt such measures as may at the same time be consistent with their wishes and with the general interests of the Empire. Kunji Krishna Menon has not in my judgment established claims upon the support of the British Government sufficiently strong to justify an opposition to the earnest, and the repeated applications of the Rajah, for his removal; as far as regards the state of the country, the administration of a British authority, as it ought, from the nature of things to be more vigorous enlightened and Honourable than that of a native, should likewise be more conducive to the prosperity of the country and the early removal of the embarrassments under which it labours.
As for myself, the management of the affairs of Travancore has occupied all my time, and considerably injured my health, and I should undertake that of Cochin with a reluctance inferior only to my earnest desire to advance the interests of the State, my frequent absence from Cochin might render requisite the appointment of an assistant to this Residency, I shall not however make any application for an assistant unless I should find one to be absolutely necessary.
Alwaye I have the honor to be:-
7th April 1812 (Signed) J. Munro…….Resident
Few weeks later the following Letter was received by Munro. To the Resident in Travancore
I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter under date 7th instant and to inform you that on consideration of the circumstances concerned with the affairs of Cochin, stated in that letter the Honourable the Governor in Council is of opinion that it will be expedient to accede to the wishes of the Rajah of Cochin that Kunji Krishna Menon should be removed from the office of Dewan and the Resident should assume the immediate management of affairs, as a temporary arrangement, until a proper person can be found to fill the office of Dewan.
Fort St George, I have the honor to be:- 24th April 1812 (signed) W. Thackeray Chief Secretary.
Thus, Colonel John Munro had the unique distinction of being the Dewans of Travancore and Cochin as well as the British Resident for a critical period in the history of both these States.
Munro had a very poor opinion of the workings of the Governments in both Travancore and Cochin and he yearned to modify the administration to suit the principles employed by British India. To quote from his own report to the Madras Government dated 7th March 1818 “Their pay (public officers’ pay) was very small, and never issued from the treasury, but supplied from several authorized exactions made by themselves. They offered on receiving their appointment, large nuzzers to the Rajah, and had afterwards to make presents, on days of public solemnity, that exceeded the half of their pay. They realized in the course of two or three years, large sums of moneys and were generally subjected to a complete confiscation of their property for the benefit of the State. The Rajah, therefore imposed no restraint on their rapacity, aware that their plunder would be transferred to his own treasury. Nor does it appear that this consideration had any effect in checking their extortions. They calculated upon being able to conceal their extortions. They calculated upon being able to conceal their property during their lives, and felt little concern as to the mode of its disposal after their death. On the part of the people, complaint was useless, redress hopeless; they had only one remedy, and that was bribery. The practice was universal, and it was one of the melancholy circumstances in the situation of the people, that one of the greatest evils was necessarily resorted to as a good, to mitigate the still more intolerable grievances of injustice and oppression. Innocence was protected, justice obtained, and right secured by bribes. There were also still more efficacious means by injury, and their universal use produced an extraordinary spirit of avarice in the country, for every man endeavored to have a secret hoard of money, as the best protection of his liberty, property and life.”
Munro’s assessment may appear severely critical, but may be true at that point in time with weak Rajas, inefficient Ministers, and the country reeling from rebellion and war that the morale of the people totally lost. Both the Rani and the Raja of respective countries unable to recommend a native leader of character and capacity to be the Dewan at that particular period give support to Munro’s conclusion. Great Rajahs of Travancore, Marthanda Varma and Dharma Rajah Rama Varma, and Sakthan Thampuran of Cochin were able to wield dictatorial powers in a declining feudal system and enforce security and justice and also benevolence. That was a different era.
Fra Bartolomeo’s observation “Public security is again restored throughout the whole country; robbery and murder are no longer heard of; no one has occasion to be afraid on the highways; religious worship is never interrupted and people may rest assured that on every occasion Justice will be speedily administered. In the course of twenty-four hours he (the King) can be informed of everything that takes place throughout his whole kingdom. After deducting the expenses of Government, his yearly income may amount to half a million of Rupees, arising from trade, duties and various kinds of fines. One half of this revenue is deposited in the Royal treasury and never touched but in cases of utmost necessity.”- was made during that period.
It is conceivable that Munro had observed and followed the remarkable accomplishments of Sir Thomas Munro in Salem and Madras during his early days, Malcolm in central India, and Elphinstone in Poona in the State of Maharashtra who were the ‘The Three Great Men’ as described by Philip Mason. (THE MEN WHO RULED INDIA – Published by Rupa & Co 1985). John Munro certainly seem to have acted along the same style in Travancore & Cochin.
MUNRO THE ENFORCER
C. Achyutha Menon in his book COCHIN STATE MANUAL gives the following description about the suppression of lawlessness and corruption prevalent in the country. “He (Munro) stationed detachments of subsidiary force in a dozen different places in the State, and organized a police force to assist them in hunting down highway robbers and dacoits. Several sharp encounters took place between these forces and the outlaws, in which many lives were lost; those who were captured, after a summary trial before the Resident or his assistant, hanged in front of the houses of their chief victims. Munro and Blacker went on circuit throughout the length and breadth of the land with their office establishments and military guard with a view to enquire personally into the condition of the country and its people, to punish and overawe the lawless and to sooth and encourage their victims. Wherever the Colonel was encamped, he assembled the chief men of the place before him, and enquired into their wants and grievances and into the conduct of local officers. If after a summary enquiry he was satisfied that any such officer was guilty of corruption and oppression, a severe corporal punishment was then and there inflicted on him, the Colonel himself often wielding the cat-o-nine-tails. The officers thus punished were not dismissed from the service, but were allowed to continue in office with an admonition to mend their ways and work in a different spirit. Several officers, who carried to their graves these marks of correction on their back, afterwards rose to prominent positions in the service. These rough and ready methods were fully justified by the results achieved; and
order and discipline were restored among the officers, and security of life and property ensured throughout the country, to an extent unknown for several years past.”
REORGANISATION OF ADMINISTRATION
Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer stated ‘The very first matter that engaged the attention of Colonel Munro on assumption of the office of Dewan was to thoroughly overhaul the machinery of the administration which was till then being maintained on a quasi-feudal basis. ………….. Munro thus describes the situation as he found it on his arrival:’- “The country is divided into three principal Mukhams or divisions each of which is governed by an officer called Valia Sarvadhi Kariakar. Every principal Mukham is divided into 3 or 4 sub-ordinate Mukhams which are managed by officers called Sarvadhi Kariakars. The sub-ordinate Mukhams are divided into a certain number of inferior districts termed Mandapathumvathils, and managed by Kariakars. Each Mandapathumvathil contains from 7 to 10 smaller divisions called Provertis which are superintended by officers called Proverticars in some parts of the country and Adhicaris in others. Every Proverti is sub-divided into Desoms or Muris under officers called Moolackars. A Desom contains from 50 to 400 inhabitants and is again formed into smaller divisions under the directions of officers whose names vary very much. Thus from the Dewan to the Superintendent of a few houses, there is a regular and complete succession of authorities, subordinate in the strictest manner to their respective superiors, exercising all the powers of the Government, for they were charged with the assessment of the people, the collection of the revenues, the administration of justice, the punishment of offenders, the command of the militia and the defense of the country. No form of Government could be more calculated to obtain a complete command over the persons and property of the people, or more fitted for the purpose of oppression and of war.” Ulloor adds ‘The Kariakars form the backbone of this system. They were fiscal, magisterial, judicial and military officers rolled into one, who exercised their multifarious functions in professed, but not real, subordination to the chief authorities of the State. Munro further observes’ – “ The strict gradation of authority established among the karigars, and the entire command which they possessed over the services of the people, contributed to perpetuate military feelings in the country, and to facilitate the means of commotion and insurrection. They were in fact, at once military and civil governors exercising absolute power in their districts.
The investiture of their office was given by the Rajah with a sword, and this weapon, together with the ensigns of their office, was carefully displayed wherever they appeared. The unlimited powers exercised by the karigars were peculiarly liable to abuse in the capacity of revenue servants. In absolute Governments, the conduct of
the revenue servants required generally to be observed with more jealousy and vigilance than that of other public functionaries. The constant and authoritative intercourse which they have with the people, touching their property and interests, gives them an influence, which if strengthened by the power of a magistrate or judge, will assuredly be perverted by the natives of India to purposes of corruption and injustice. The authority of the karigars enabled them to prosecute the system of rapine, fraud and coercion, which I have described, and it was essential to the purity of revenue administration of the country, that they should be divested of the magisterial functions which they possessed.
The gradations of rank among the karigars opposed considerable obstacles to the efficient execution of their duties. An order disagreeable to the karigars was seldom enforced; it was sent from the wallee-survadykarigars with a private intimation to disobey it, and it was conveyed by the karigars to the proworteecars with a similar request. If called to account, these officers asserted that they had transmitted the order, and laid the blame of disobedience on their inferiors, and it was difficult to examine 200 or 300 proworteecars. But any order favorable to the feelings or wishes of the karigars was carried into effect with the promptitude of military obedience. In fact, responsibility could not be fixed; they had a kind of military constitution, without the laws, sanction and discipline which prevent it from degenerating into anarchy and misrule.”
Munro as Dewan, both in Travancore and Cochin, abolished Sarvadhi Kariakar posts. The Kariakars were made Tahsildars involved only with revenue subordination. They were stripped of civil and criminal authorities. Thus the revenue department was separated from judicial duties.
According to Achyutha Menon, in Cochin “ For the proper administration of justice, two sub-ordinate courts were established at Tripunithura and Trichur in 1812, each presided over by a Hindu and a Christian Judge and a Sastri, and a Huzur Court presided over by four Judges including the Dewan. Justice was to be administrated according to the Dharma Sastra and the customs and usages of the country, but a simple code was enacted for the guidance of the Judges in the matter of procedure.” In Travancore, adds Ulloor Parameswara Iyer Munro organized a court of appeal and five Zillah Courts, which were subsequently increased to eight, for the trial of offences and for the adjudication of civil claims. The appeal court was stationed at Trivandrum and presided over by Dewan, assisted by three judges. The Zillah Courts were each manned by two Judges assisted by a Pundit. A Huzur Court was also established for the trial and punishment of Sircar servants. Judicial officers were selected from among Nayars, Brahmans, and Syrian Christians. From a report of 1818 it is seen that the ‘Judges had liberal salaries, and their proceedings were to be regulated according to Hindu Shastras and usages, and such fixed rules (not inconsistent with the Shastras) as the Rajah might prescribe and the nomination of Christian Judges was received with satisfaction by Brahmans and Nayars.’-
REVENUE AND FINANCE
Munro abolished the Purushantaram tax altogether (succession tax levied at 25%, upon inheritance of property of all descriptions.). Numerous other petty and oppressive taxes such as poll tax, cottage-tax and net-tax under which Ezhavas, Parayas, and Mukkuvas suffered were also abolished. The arrears under the land revenue was found to be almost 20 lakhs of Rupees. This was due to a tax imposed termed Rupee tax when the country was threatened by Tippu Sultan, to build the Nedumkotta, to provide succor for the refugees from Malabar and Cochin during the invasion of Tippu. All these heavy arrears were written off with the sanction of the Rani. This generous act was greatly appreciated by the people. The State had a land register called Ayacut, but the landholders never knew what amount they had to pay. To remedy this, Munro arranged for ‘pattas or pattayam’ to be issued to landholders, specifying the extent of the holdings, its tenure and the Sircar demand, and arranged for the up-to-date land register. Various other innovative rewards were granted to land owners. Rewards for destruction of wild animals, for trees being felled for Sircar needs, for natural causes preventing cultivation and loss of revenue for the Ryot were instituted. Munro also insisted that no tree to be felled by the Ryot without Government order and without promising to grow five trees in its place. A revenue survey and settlement of garden lands also was taken.
REORGANISATION OF GOVERNMENT
The long standing Huzur Cutcherry was reorganized. The Huzur office was remodeled on up-to-date fashion. It was Munro’s desire to fashion according to the system which was in vogue in British India. All the letters to the office should be addressed to the Resident and the orders issued wherefrom should go in his name and should bear his signature. Ulloor describes “ The financial department was separated from the Huzur and invested with the functions of maintaining a correct account of all the receipts and disbursements, of examining and checking the expenditure of subordinate officers, and of preparing reports on the resources and the expenditure of the State. The posts of a Superintendent and a Deputy
Superintendent of Finances were created, and Munro ordered that no payments should be made from the treasury without due authority and sanction, that bills for all payments with the exception of a few fixed charges should be prepared in the Finance Department, certified by the signature of the Superintendent and the Deputy Superintendent and countersigned by himself and that no disbursements should be made from the treasury except on the authority of such bills. The Superintendent of finances was required to submit fortnightly reports to the Rani showing the receipts and disbursements of the State, as also the amounts paid and the balance due to the Company. The numerous treasuries in the State were abolished, and it was ordered that the entire collections of the State should eventually remitted into the Huzur treasury and disbursements made only from that treasury excepting certain fixed and urgent charges which could be met from the provincial collections. In cases of doubt, the Superintendent of the Huzur treasury had the right to refuse payment of a bill even though it bore the certificate of the financial Superintendent countersigned by the Resident, and to ask for further instructions. A jamabandhi committee was also organized. Every possible loophole for leakage was thus effectively closed.”
Rani Lakshmi Bayi wrote to Colonel Munro in 1811 indicating that the expenses of Palace, religious and charitable institutions were met from land revenue and the other expenses, the British subsidy, army and other Government expenses from the revenue generated from State monopolies and other receipts traditionally, in Travancore. According to Munro, the Raja was the general merchant and the Royal commerce was destroying the profitability. Land and sea customs were farmed to the highest bidder. This caused great abuse and oppression because the bidder was trying to maximize profits through inordinate number of Customs houses and levying duties during transit of goods and services. Munro streamlined the system to facilitate trade and commerce by eliminating the excesses and placing the customs houses in the direct control of Government officers.
Pepper, tobacco and salt came under the control of the Government. This was regulated to benefit the people and also to generate maximum revenue. The price of pepper was doubled. ‘The finest pepper in the world’ observed Munro ‘grows on this Malabar coast.’ Similarly, tobacco a luxury item was monopolized by the Government. The Jaffna tobacco was preferred by the users, and it appears that once Ceylon came under the British in 1808, a steady supply of tobacco from Jaffna was guaranteed to Travancore. Salt was manufactured in the country mostly and the rest was brought from Bombay. This was also controlled by the Government.
Since the failed insurrection, there were no standing army in both the States. Munro organized two battalions of Nayar sepoys and one company of cavalry. The latter provided body-guard and escort function to the Royalty. He had European officers in command of these forces. Ulloor notes “The expenditure under militia which was Rs 544000 in 1807 – 08 went down to Rs 44000 in 1812-13. The police duties, which had till then been discharged by the military, were entrusted to a separate police corps, independent of both the judicial and revenue departments and working directly under the head of the administration. The duty of the police Derogahs and Tanna Naiks consisted in the prevention and suppression of offences, in the investigation of crimes and in charging culprits before duly constituted courts.”
CONTROL OF DEVASWOMS
Colonel Munro’s assumption of the Devaswoms, was probably the most important of his measures. It is paradoxical that the daring Velu Thamby was the first to contemplate the annexation of these politically powerful institutions, in Travancore.
Chapter XI of COCHIN STATE MANUAL by C. Achyutha Menon gives the following account pertaining to Cochin.
The Major Devaswoms (Hindu Religious Institutions) were at one time, independent corporations similar to Catholic Churches in Europe during the middle ages. They exercised temporal as well as spiritual authority in their respective Sangethams or domains through their ecclesiastical heads. In Kerala, for centuries, the general control over the temples were invested in a body of Uralars or Trustees, who were generally Gramani Namboodiries. The latter was a class of military Brahmans elected by bodies of Vedic Brahmans known as Yogams. These ecclesiastical heads had powers akin to the Naduvazhi chiefs, including those of life and death over the people in the Sangethams. How and when these Sangethams became so powerful is uncertain. For centuries, however, the Rajahs exercised little or no authority over the temples and their Sangethams. In course of time, the Sangethams often requested help from the Rajahs due to internal dissensions or aggressive behavior from the neighboring Sangethams. To please the Rajah and to thwart the designs of aggression from outsiders, different Sangethams nominally made the Rajahs Aka-Koyma (inner lord) or Pura-Koyma (outer lord) or Mel-Koyma (over lord).
By the middle of the 18th century, the temporal power of the Sangethams had vanished. The Minor Devaswoms were public worship places endowed by individuals or communities and managed by hereditary trustees or managers from the Samudayams (local organizations). Here, the Rajahs exercised sovereign jurisdiction, but seldom interfered with the management. To paraphrase Achyutha Menon “The first time the State assumed the direct management of Devaswoms to any considerable extent was after the last invasion and the partial conquest of Cochin by the Zamorin in the middle of the 18th century, when many of the chiefs of Cochin transferred the allegiance to Zamorin. After the expulsion of that Prince in 1762, the chiefs were divested of their administrative powers, and the properties of the renegades were, in some cases partially and in others wholly, confiscated by the Sircar. As almost all the chiefs were Uralars or managers of a number of Devaswoms, these latter came under the direct management of the State. The corporations of the major Devaswoms were also like the chiefs, deprived of their sovereign powers, and the management of most of them was assumed by the State either because some of the members of the corporation joined the Zamorin and acted against Cochin, or because in the troubled times that followed, the managers found themselves unequal to the task of administering their affairs satisfactorily and consequently surrendered them to the Rajah. Several minor Devaswoms were subsequently taken over by the State owing to their mismanagement by incompetent and dishonest Uralars. Thus, by the time the State came under British Supremacy, it had a large number of Devaswoms under its direct management.”
The several Devaswoms taken over by the State were being managed by petty officers, enriching themselves taking advantage of the lax administration. People were dissatisfied. When Munro assumed charge, he effected the unification of the interests of Sircar and those of the Devaswoms by treating all Devaswom property as Sircar property merging all Devaswom receipts in the general revenues of the State and paying from the public treasury all Devaswom expenses according to a fixed scale. He appointed a committee to overhaul all Devaswom accounts. The committee prepared accurate registers of the Devaswom properties. They consulted with the high priests and prescribed daily, monthly and yearly expenses for the ceremonies of each temple and also remuneration for the temple servants. The committee completed their report in 2 years and Munro’s proposal was enacted 1814-18.
In Travancore, Munro assumed 348 of the more important temples and several more minor ones. The properties of these temples became State properties. The revenue generated by these actions were phenomenal. Ulloor states “As a result of this arrangement, the Devaswom charges, which amounted Rs. 280200 in 1807-08,
rose to Rs. 496600 in 1812-13, there being of course a corresponding increase in the revenue side of the account as well. In 1817, Rani Parvathi Bayi wrote to the Madras Government about the extremely satisfactory manner in which the reorganization of Devaswoms was working in the State, and the Madras Government stated in reply that it gave them great pleasure to read that letter.”
SYRIAN CHRISTIANS IN TRAVANCORE AND COCHIN
Syrian Christians enjoyed great beneficence from the Colonel as he was a very Christian man. It was through his influence that the Seminary at Kottayam was established to educate the clergy and the Syrian youth in general. At his instance Rani Parvathi Bayi presented a site for the college and a sum of Rs. 8000. Later the island of Munro at Kallada, and Rs. 20000 was given for the Syrian Christian cause. In Cochin, the Syrian Christians had enjoyed special favours under the Dutch. Colonel Munro, representing the States coaxed the British Government in 1814 to give up control over the Christians. To safeguard the interests of the Christians appointed Christian judges in each of the Courts.
REDUCTION OF SUBSIDY IN TRAVANCORE
To quote Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer’s paper “In fact there was not a single department which the energetic Colonel did not touch and in touching, did not adorn.
Notwithstanding the abolition of numerous imposts the revenue of the State steadily increased.
In 1812 – 13 the second year of his regime the revenue rose from Rs. 28 ½ lakhs to 34 lakhs, and the expenditure from 28 lakhs to Rs. 33,90000, leaving a balance of about Rs. 25000. Looking back on the activities of previous years Munro wrote in 1818: “The result of all these arrangements has not disappointed any expectations. In the course of my proceedings, the relief of the people and the benefit of the State were equally studied and pursued. Concessions were made gradually, and in proportion to the improvement of other resources; and a progressive augmentation of revenue has taken place. In consequence of the abolition of a number of harassing and burdensome imposts, the revenues have been reduced to five of six heads, moderate in their application to the people and susceptible of increase with the growing prosperity of the country.”
More laudable than even the success of his work in the State either as head of the administration or as Resident were his brotherly attachment towards the Rani and his anxious solicitude for the welfare of the ruling family. Personally he was not in favour of undertaking the duties of the Dewan in addition to that of Resident and his sole object in doing so was to save the State from financial embarrassment and the resultant political annihilation. To the question put to him by the Select Committee of the House of Commons in March 1832 - as to whether Travancore would be better managed indirectly through a Dewan or directly by a Resident, he gave the following straight answer: “While the native States retain possession of the Government of their territories it would be highly inexpedient that the Resident should take charge of the administration; it is only in a case of great exigency that if would be necessary for the Resident to assume the direct management of affairs”, and in a reply to a supplementary question added that the appointment of the Resident to be in charge of the administration “would excite extreme jealousy, and involve in fact, the subversion of the independence of a State”. Munro added “To procure the choice of an able and active minister, and to guide and support his proceedings, will often be the policy of British Government, connected with assiduous endeavors to concentrate and maintain the dignity of the Prince. Justice and policy equally dictate the necessity of avoiding every occasion that may lead us to take territorial possession of the dominions of any of the allied states; for it is of high importance to retain these native Governments, on the ground, without reference to other reasons, of their giving situations of trust, emolument and dignity to the natives in general, and especially to the higher classes of them.”
When John Munro’s term as the Resident ended in 1818, the Raja of Cochin wrote to the Director of the British East India Company :
“Since Colonel John Munro was appointed Resident in my Country in the year 1811, that gentleman, has, by his indefatigable exertions and vigilance, rescued me from an ocean of debt in which I was unfortunately involved due to the corrupt and treacherous conduct of my Ministers; enabled myself, my family and my subjects to now live happily and unconcerned, with favorable circumstances that I cannot, in justice, avoid bringing to the notice of your Lordship in Council.”
This was the undeniable truth and it was graciously acknowledged by the Raja of Cochin.
The information that is provided below has been extracted from the ' History of the Munros of Fowlis Castle ' by Alexander Mackenzie, M.J.I.
Colonel Munro returned home in 1820 and spent his time in Scotland for the next three years, after which he moved back to India. However, due to a severe bout of fever, he retired from the Army, very soon, with his rank as a Major-General, returned to Britain and in 1831, took up permanent residence at Teaninich. He purchased the estate from his elder brother, Captain Hugh and for the remainder of his life, took an active interest in the Public Affairs of his native country.
John Munro was born in June, 1778, and received his early education at the Fortrose Academy. He entered the Army at an early age and was delegated to Madras. He took part in the Battle of Seringapatanam and was, in a short span of time, appointed as the Adjutant of his Regiment. Quite soon, he grew to become an accomplished linguist, being able to fluently speak and write French, German, Italian, Arabic, Persian and several of the Indian Dialects. He held various appointments on the Staff, and was the Private Secretary and Interpreter to successive Commanders-in-Chief in India.
He was personally acquainted and in constant correspondence with Colonel. Arthur Wellesley, the famous Duke of Wellington, during the Maratha War. He provided his assistance in quelling the Nellore Mutiny and was soon afterwards, appointed as the Quartermaster-General of the Amy of Madras at the extremely young age of 27.
To quote Alexander Mackenzie : ' With Travancore being in a turbulent state by then because of internal war and anarchy, and several of the British Residents who had been sent there having been forced to return, especially with the last of them fleeing for his life, Lord Minto, the Governor General of India at that time, urged upon John Munro, now a Colonel, to undertake the task of restoring order and tranquillity in that tremulous and misgoverned territory, who, having accepted that dangerous appointment, soon succeeded in doing so very shortly after his arrival. '
'Colonel Munro discovered a plot, similar to those which before then, had convulsed India, but by prompt actions and timely decision-making, he quelled the conspiracy. He became uncontrolled ruler of the Province, with the British and native authorities being vested in him; and in five years the scene of rapine and bloodshed was converted into a place as safe and tranquil as Great Britain. Order was established, law was enforced and the desolate untilled land was cultivated and converted again into fertile fields.'
Mr. Mackenzie goes on to say : ' He first introduced the practice of having a Native Christian sitting on the bench as the Judge alongside a Brahmin, a blatant departure from the practice of the time, and the wisdom of which was doubted and censured then, but was very soon found to work admirably - Moslems and Hindus of the Higher Castes regarded the integrity and fairness of the Christian Judges supreme to any religious jealousies and scruples. Upon his departure, the Raja and the people of the land offered him a gift of of around 50,000 Pounds, which he refused.'
Mr Mackenzie has captured the essence of the man.
John Munro had married, on the 8th of December, 1808, Charlotte, the youngest daughter of Rev. Dr. St. John Blacker of Elm Park, County Armagh, Rector of Moira, County Down, and Prebendary of Inver, Donegal, with issue. John Munro and Charlotte had five sons and a daughter together.
1. James St. John served as a Major in the 60th Rifles. In 1857, he was appointed as the Consul-General at Monte Video, where he spent his last 20 years. Before he left, he had disposed his right of succession to his brother Stuart Caradoc. He married in 1856. They had two boys and several girls. None of the boys married.
2. Major John died unmarried.
3. Stuart Caradoc, who inherited the Teaninich Estate. also did not marry and willed the Estate to his grandnephew before he died.
4. Maxwell William died at sea, unmarried.
5. Charles Hector Hugh died in infancy.
6. Charlotte Munro.
Charlotte Munro, John Munro's daughter, was born in 1819 and met her death on the 18th of June, 1875. She married Lt. Col. Hon. George Augustus Spencer. They had a son, Lt. Col. John Winston Thomas Munro - Spencer, who married Synolda Ellen Le Petit Butler.
Captain Almeric Stuart John Munro - Spencer was born on the 26th of August, 1885, as the son of John Winston and Synolda Ellen. Captain Almeric married Phyllis Margaret Rivers and the couple had Synolda Joan Margaret Munro - Spencer, who was alive in 2003, at the age of 89. Synolda married Captain Cecil Campbell Hardy. The couple had Charles Rupert Almeric Hardy born on the 28th of April, 1951 and is alive. He married Helen Orgill and they have three children - Robin Campbell Richard Hardy born in 1984, Jack Spencer Hardy born in 1986 and Christopher Munro Hardy born in 1992.
It is more than evident from the data that we've compiled above that the only legacy left behind John Munro is through the daughter, Charlotte.
John Munro was invited to give testimony before the British House of Commons on March 27, 1832, regarding the affairs of the British East India Company over which the Government had a supervisory role.
The transcript of the testimony that details Munro's administration of the 2 Princely States of Travancore and Cochin as stated by him is included in this web site under " Digitized documents - Munro testimony".
General John Munro passed away in 1858, in Inverness, Scotland. Upon receiving the news of his death, the Raja of Travancore wrote to Resident General Cullen, “ I've heard, with sincere regret, of the death of the good and noble officer, General Munro,” and continued, “ His is a name which we cannot call to mind without the deepest feeling of gratitude and utmost respect. The British Government, ever so kind to this State, gave a bright instance of that feeling in the nomination of General Munro as the British Resident at this Court at a time when the State Vessel was drifting at random, amidst dismal confusion and when a man just, yet prudent, energetic yet merciful and zealous yet circumspect was needed at its helm. There exists, as you are perfectly aware, broad marks of his wise and enlightened rule, which time itself has struggled in vain to efface. The memory of such a British representative is very fond, as you were kind enough to grant me a Resident very dear to myself and all of whose interests are blended with the well being of this country. ”
The Raja of Travancore, in 1855, had written to Gen. Munro to maintain correspondence with 'a house to which I’m bound by ties which even time cannot sever.' Raja sent his condolences to the General’s daughter, Hon. Mrs. Spencer, condolences not only sent by himself and his family, but of 'the whole of my subjects.' "The loss of your dear and beloved parent is indeed a severe one to you, but no less so, to us. In your late, lamented and honoured Father, I have lost my best well wisher and Travancore, its greatest benefactor. ‘Munro’ is a fondly revered word and many an old Travancorean, and the noblest monument of the Late General is to be found in the hearts of the masses benefited by his wise and benevolent acts.”
Though he was a British Resident, as the Dewan( Minister ) of Travancore and Cochin, time and again, he argued against the British on behalf of the states. In due course, he was loved by the Rajas and Ranis, as well as by the people. He had already chalked out a plan for a new beginning for these states. History has recorded that Col. John Munro was the greatest British administrator of Travancore and Cochin in the 150 years of British domination.
With the passage of time, he was a forgotten entity until about 1931, when an article mentioned about his period. There, it was mentioned that John Munro had moved back to his place of birth in Teaninich, Ross-shire, Scotland and had lived there until he died in 1858.
There have been several great Munros who hailed from the Scottish Highlands and served the British in Colonial India during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Some have been knighted by Royalty and glorified by historians quite deservedly. The descendents of these illustrious ancestors have immortalized in various ways, these great men.
John Munro of Teaninich continues to be a forgotten great. There seems to be several factors for this.
1. He was a man of action, a duty-bound person, if I use an Indian expression, a karma yogi. Doing what needs to be done was all that mattered to him. He believed in letting the chips fall where they may. He is known to have followed this philosophy throughtout his long life. He never seemed to bask in the earlier achievements.
2. His greatness manifested itself in two small Princely States, away from the large Presidencies of Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and Madras. These ancient States had a culture and heritage that was distinct from that of the rest of India for Centuries and had tolerated the domination of maritime western powers ever since Vasco de Gama had arrived in 1498. British Colonialism had its excesses in many parts of India and the exceptions often are conveniently forgotten, unless re - examined with an unbiased view.
3. The Teaninich Branch of the Munro Clan has been extinct for several generations and there has been no legacy or genealogical interests in getting to know this regal man, who met his death in 1858.
ACCOLADES TO MUNRO SAHIB
"Since Colonel. John Munro was appointed as a Resident in my Country in the year 1811, that gentleman has, by his indefatigable exertions and vigilance, rescued me from an ocean of debt in which I was unfortunately involved due to the corrupt and treacherous conduct of my Ministers; enabling myself, my family and my subjects to now live happily and unconcerned, which are favorable circumstances that I cannot, in justice, avoid bringing to the notice of your Lordship in Council"
Raja Veera Kerala Varma, Cochin, 1818.
"To you, Colonel, I entrust everything connected with my Country, and from this day I look upon you as my elder brother and so I need say no more."
In 1814, she wrote ‘You conciliated the attachment and respect of the people, you paid the debts of the State to the amount of more than 25 Lakhs of Rupees and preserved, unviolated, all the Ancient Institutions of religious worship and public charity, you realized the duties of the State, and materially increased its revenues without augmenting any imposts and taxes, and after accomplishing all these beneficial objects, you obtained the authority of the Government in consonance with my desire for the appointment of a Dewan, pursuant to the former's usage. ’
Rani Lakshmi Bai of Travancore in 1811 and 1814 respectively.
"Munro has ‘displayed the most strenuous exertions for the good of my people and myself, and for the advancement of my name and reputation, and I am myself, a witness of your zealous proceedings and their beneficial results.’
RANI PARVATHI BAI, Travancore, 1817.
'Colonel John Munro, who, in his combined capacity as the Resident and the Dewan, brought peace and prosperity to her and started her on the road to progressive governing. Munro, because of his being directly connected to the State, is more widely known among the masses, who even today, in the spirit of involuntary veneration, trace the origins of everything good in the country, to his Golden Age. Munro Sahib is beyond doubt, a household name in Travancore and Cochin, and the perfume of his memory pervades the atmosphere of both these countries.'
RAO SAHIB ULLOOR S. PARAMESWARA AIYER, Kerala Society Papers II, Series 7, 1928.
'But for his strenuous and untiring labours over ten long years and his wholehearted devotion to his self-imposed duty, Travancore and Cochin would, in all probability, have long ago, ceased to be Feudatory States.'
C. ACHYUTA MENON, The Cochin State Manual, 1911.
'The late Mr. K.P. Padmanabha Menon, in his 'History of Cochin', is thoroughly justified in finding fault with that State for not having done anything to keep alive, the memory of her Great British Saviour.'
RAO SAHIB ULLOOR S. PARAMESWARA AIYER, Kerala Society Papers II, Series 7, 1928.
'Such an unselfish nature, sincere and godly – such a prince among men – is not to be had for love or money. Of all the Britishers that influenced the destinies of this State, Munro reflected most the justice, humanity, and providing care that characterized the Lord, whom he cherished in his heart of hearts. As expressed by Rani Lakshmi Bai herself, in a moment of prayerful gratitude, ‘such a man was sent by the Bhagavan (the Great God) himself.'
I. MATHEW OF MALLAPPALLY, Kerala Society Papers II, Series 8, 1925.