Supreme Council of Bengal

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Established in 1773 by the Regulating Act of 1773 the Supreme Council of Bengal was the highest executive authority in British India from 1774. It was designed to consist of five members, including the Governor General, and was appointed by Parliament. At times it also included the Commander-in-Chief of India, who was also at times the Governor General. It first sat on October 20, 1774.

It consisted of Sir Philip Francis, Lt. General Sir John Clavering, The Honourable Sir George Monson and a East India Company servant, Sir Richard Barwell, and Governor General Warren Hastings.

Francis attempted to persuade the other council members that Hastings was a corrupt despot. This was to create great turmoil in the following years. Monson, Clavering and Francis strove to undermine Hastings' policies and attempted to depose the Governor-General.

The situation climaxed with the Maharaja Nanda Kumar affair, in which Nanda Kumar accused Hastings of fraud and high corruption. This attempt to impeach Hastings was unsuccessful and Nanda Kumar was hanged in 1775 after being found guilty of forgery by Supreme Court of Bengal in Calcutta. Hastings was later accused of committing a judicial murder with Sir Elijah Impey's connivance during his impeachment by Edmund Burke.

The 'majority', (Francis, Clavering and Monson), within the council ended with Monson's death in 1776. Clavering died a year later. Francis was left powerless, but he remained in India and strove to undermine Hastings' governance. The bitter rivalry between the two men culminated in a duel in 1780, where Hastings shot Francis in the back. Francis left India in the hope of impeaching Hastings. A lengthy attempted impeachment by Parliament lasting from 1788 to 1795 eventually ended with Hastings being acquitted.

The first members were:

  • George Monson from October 20, 1774 to his death on September 25, 1776.
  • John Clavering from October 20, 1774 to his death on August 30, 1777.
  • Richard Barwell from October 20, 1774 to his departure on March 2, 1780. Officially resigned on October 1, 1781.
  • Philip Francis from October 20, 1774 to his departure on December 3, 1780. Officially resigned on December 12, 1781.
  • Warren Hastings from October 20, 1774 to his resignation on February 8, 1785.
  • Edward Wheler from December 11, 1777 to his death on October 10, 1784.
  • Eyre Coote from March 25, 1779 to his death on April 26, 1783.
  • John Macpherson from October 1, 1781 to his departure on September 11, 1786.
  • John Stables from November 11, 1782 to his resignation on January 19, 1787
  • Charles Stuart from February 28, 1785 to his resignation on January 21, 1793