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Lord Wellesley

Last Updated : 05 Aug, 2022
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Richard Colley Wellesley, also known as Lord Wellesley, was the British Politician and the fifth Governor-General of India. He served as the administrator of Fort Williams in India between 1798 and 1805. One of the most cunning breeds of British Administrators, his tenure was marked by massive victories over Indian kingdoms and policies to further spread the power of the British all over India.

Significant Events Under Lord Wellesley:

1. Fourth Anglo-Mysore War:

Soon after arriving in India, Wellesley disbanded the French troops who were likely to join with Tipu Sultan to fight against the British. Tipu Sultan refused to accept the Subsidiary Alliance and sent missions to Revolutionary France, Arabia, Afghanistan and Turkey to ally against the British.
In 1799, after analyzing the prospects, he attacked Tipu Sultan and defeated him by capturing Seringapatam in what came to be known as the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. As a result, Tipu Sultan was brought dead in the war, and Wellesley then restored the Hindu Kingdom in Mysore, which was removed by Tipu Sultan’s father Hyder Ali with the condition of signing the Subsidiary Alliance. The Mysore war further handicapped the French power in India. 

2. Second Anglo-Maratha War:

After winning a major battle, he moved to spread the British Influence in Central India and fought the Second Anglo-Maratha War in 1803. The Marathas won the first one. However, this time taking advantage of the internal feud among the Marathas, Lord Wellesley ordered his brother Arthur to attack the Central Indian Kingdom. The English defeated the armies of the Holkars, Bhonsle, and Shindia. This moment was the central turning point in the British influence over India as now the French were only reduced to Pondicherry, and the British made their way into the heart of Central India. This was a major achievement for the British as now they could directly access the western ports without much threat. 

3. Subsidiary Alliance:

  • Lord Wellesley spearheaded subsidiary alliance policy, and several kingdoms such as Jaipur, Oudh, Tanjore, Berar, Bundi, Jodhpur, and Hyderabad were brought into it, with Nizam of Hyderabad being the first ruler to sign this treaty. The Maratha and Mysore kingdom also signed the treaty. 
  • The Subsidiary Alliance banned the signatories from maintaining relations with the native rulers and employing any European without the Company’s permission.
  • The policy asked the rulers to deploy an Englishman at the King’s court along with the British army in his territory. In return, the British would guarantee protection from external and internal threats.
  • Moreover, if the payment for the protection were not made regularly, then a certain amount of the Kingdom’s land would come under the British. 
  • As a result of the Subsidiary Alliance, a vast majority of the indigenous population had to face severe consequences, including higher tax burden, unemployment, disbandment of the traditional armies and the extinction of handicrafts and other traditional industries. For instance, millions of local soldiers were now disbanded and deprived of their primary livelihood. These soldiers started to join the groups of Dacoits or Pindarees, who became a major irritant for the British during the early 19th century. 
    Major Kingdoms were brought under the indirect control of the British through this policy, which eventually helped the Britishers strengthen their rule in the subcontinent.

 4. Censorship Act 1799:

Another significant action taken by Lord Wellesley was the passage of the Censorship Act, 1799. It all began in 1780 with the launch of India’s first newspaper, the “Bengal Gazette” or “Calcutta General Advisor” by James Augustus Hickey, who was too outspoken against the Britishers. Over the years, other newspapers such as The Calcutta Gazette, The Madras Courier, and The Bombay came into existence and published news that was detrimental to the Company’s interest. For that reason, Lord Wellesley passed the Censorship Act of 1799. 
The act required the newspapers to take prior permission of the Company before publication. The act helped the Britishers control the publication of negative news about them by the French. The act was amended in 1807 to include all types of publications ranging from Pamphlets, Magazines to Books.

5. Building Fort William College:

He was the founder of Fort William College in 1800, which was solely made for those who wanted to govern India in the future. This was the first-ever move to train the government servants locally. For this purpose, he also created the Governor General’s Office, where direct recruitments were made from the College. The curriculum included Law, Administration, Oriental studies, and tradition for the British students.

Legacy of Lord Wellesley:

  • He ardently tried to remove trade restrictions between Asia and Europe.
  • Wellesley’s commercial policies, educational projects, and the costly wars he fought against Mysore and Marathas caused a massive drain on the public exchequer. This led to major disputes between him and the Court of Directors. 
  • Due to the dispute with the Court of Directors, he several times tried to resign from the post; however, due to public necessities, Wellesley had to continue till 1805. 
  • His legacy is marked by the wise policy of expansion he made to bring India under the British Dominion.


Coming from a Royal Background, he proved to be an excellent colonial administrator and, in later years, a successful politician. After returning to England, he became the Foreign Secretary of the country. His shrewdness is reflected in the steps he took in India and the policies he pursued to entrench British rule in the subcontinent further.

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