HARDINGE PAPERS, private and public correspondence and public despatches of Lord Hardinge, Governor-General of India (1844-48), relating to the Punjab and the Sikhs. These papers are further categorized as (i) Hardinge Family Papers, Penshurst (Kent), arranged and compiled in 1850 by Emily Hardinge and styled as Helen Lady Hardinge's Collection: (ii) Hardinge's private correspondence with Lord Ellenborough from September 1844 to June 1846 in Ellenborough Papers, preserved in the Public Records Office in London (No. PRO 30/12 (21/7) ; and (iii) Hardinge's private correspondence with Sir John Hobhouse (June 1846-February 1848), preserved in the British Library and Museum (Broughton Papers, MS. No 36475). Besides these, official papers and despatches relative to the first Anglo-Sikh war were published in London in 1846 under the title The War in India, Despatches of Viscount Hardinge, Lord Gough, Henry Smith, and other documents comprising the engagements of Moodkee, Ferozeshah, Alival and Sobraon. Hardinge's public despatches and official correspondence relating to the Punjab affairs are contained in the Blue Books: XXI, 1846 -- Hostilities on the North-Western Frontiers of India; and XLI, 1847 -- Papers relating to the Articles of Agreement between the British Government and the Lahore Darbar.
Hardinge Family Papers contain Hardinge's letters to his wife and relations and friends in England. These repeat some of the common myths, such as that Rāṇī Jindāṅ, Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh's widow, was a desperate woman who, fearful of the temper of the Khālsā army, sent it across the Sutlej to its destruction and that a 60, 000 strong Sikh army, with 150 guns, invested Fīrozpur, the ultimate concentration point of British troops for a war with the Sikhs. These papers also describe the action at Sabhrāoṅ, Gulāb Siṅgh's overtures to the British Government, and the terms imposed upon the Sikhs. "Thus I have punished the Sikhs," Hardinge wrote to his wife, "for their unprovoked aggression upon us by stripping them of one third of their territory and making it over to a Rajpoot who is to be independent of them." However, Hardinge never fully trusted Gulāb Siṅgh: "I am rather discreet and moderate... I rather like diplomacy, when regulated by integrity... The man, whom I have to deal with, Gulab Siṅgh, is the greatest rascal in Asia... We can protect him without inconvenience and give him a slice of Sikh territory which balances his strength in the same degree against theirs; and as he is geographically our ally, I must forget he is a rascal and treat him better than he deserves."
Ellenborough Papers, comprising Hardinge's private correspondence with Ellenborough (1844-46), throw light on events leading to the Anglo-Sikh war of 1845-46. These documents provide information relative especially to the political conditions at Lahore during the prime-ministerships of Hīrā Siṅgh and Jawāhar Siṅgh; Gulāb Siṅgh's overtures to the English; the march of the Khālsā army on Jammū for his chastisement; and the movement of British troops to Fīrozpur, Ludhiāṇā and Ambālā.
Hardinge's private correspondence with Sir John Hobhouse, President of Board of Control, deals with the Peace Settlement after the Anglo-Sikh war and presents justification of his policy after the treaty of Bharovāl. Hardinge defends his avoidance of the annexation of the Punjab in favour of a set-up which tightened the grip of the English over the Punjab without adding to their responsibility. Extending the British frontier beyond the Indus would, according to him, have added to the military expenditure and the civil administration would have cost the Indian Government much more than the expected revenue. He thus argues the point with the Indian Board : "It is in reality annexation brought about by the supplication of the Sikhs, without entailing upon us the present expense and the future inconvenience of a doubtful acquisition... It relieves our finances from a heavy pressure, and in the interval which may elapse, it is a subsidary system without its injustices or its vices."
B. J. Hasrat