Conquest of Oudh, the last kingdom of India

Dalhousie never anticipated, nor would he have desired or condoned, the long-range political implications of the changes he set in motion-no more than he anticipated the violent aftermath of his reign, which was primarily a reaction to the events of 1856, and most of all to the annexation of Oudh. Even if all the British complaints about the "effete," "corrupt," "debauched," "capricious" king of Oudh and his equally "slothful, lazy, and stupid" courtiers were true, the annexation of Oudh in February 1856 was surely the company's and Dalhousie's worst blunder. Never before had the company blantantly ignored a treaty it had honored for more than half a century. The columns of troops that marched north from Cawnpore to take control of Lucknow were, moreover, ranked with men who had been born in the very land they were now invading. No shot was fired. King Wajid Ali came in his mourning robes to place his turban in the hands of Chief Commissioner Sir James Outram, pleading for his homeland and his legal rights, but when that proved futile, he raised no armed resistance within or outside his palace walls, leaving peacefully for Culcutta with his entourage on February 7, to appeal directly to Dalhousie. But the governor-general was on the eve of his depature for home, a sick and lonely man with no more interest in or power to comfort the king whose throne he had usurped than Outram had expressed. Oudh was one of the richest regions of India, the Gangetic plain's heartland, yet its revenue surplus was hardly a tenth of that of the neighbouring Northwestern Provinces, and the company could not permit that potential revenue to be frittered away on courtiers and courtesans. Wahid Ali thought that in London he might find a more sympathetic audience, and justice, so he took his case and ministers there, only to confront the same expressionless wall of British faces he had seen in Lucknow and Calcutta.

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