Napoleon's victories in Europe had alarmed the British, who, fearing
a French attack on the country through Afghanistan, decided to win
the Sikhs over to their side and sent a young officer, Charles Theophilus
Metcalfe, to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's court with an offer of friendship.
Metcalfe met the Maharaja in his camp at Khem Karan, near Kasur, on
12 September 1808, taking with him a large number of presents sent
by the Governor-General of India. He told him how the English wished
to have friendly relations with him and presented to him the draft
of a treaty.
Ranjit Singh did not credit the theory that the British had made the
proposal to him because of the danger from Napoleon. On the other
hand, he showed his willingness to co-operate with the British, provided
the latter recognized his claim of paramountcy over all the Majha
and Malva Sikhs. He suspected that the real object of the British
was to put a seal on his southern boundary and draw a permanent line
between his dominions and their own. He rejected Metcalfe's terms
and made his own, seeking the British to recognize his authority over
the Sikh country to the south of the Sutlej.
Metcalfe expressed his inability to make any changes in the draft
of the treaty he had brought, but offered to forward Ranjit Singh's
proposal to the Governor-General. Ranjit Singh suddenly struck camp
and crossed the Sutlej. Metcalfe followed him from place to place,
without being able to secure another interview with him for any serious
discussions. Ranjit Singh overran the territory on the left bank of
the river, thus shrewdly imposing on his English guest the role of
a witness to his Sutlej acquisitions.
Ranjit Singh's bold and skilful policy would have borne fruit, had
not the situation in Europe changed. As the danger of Napoleon's attack
lessened, the British became arrogant in their attitude. On his return
to Lahore, Ranjit Singh received a
message from the Governor-General that the British had taken the Sikh
chiefs south of the Sutlej under their protection. The British sent
a force under the command of Colonel David Ochterlony who, passing
through Buria and Patiala, came very close to the Sutlej and stationed
himself at Ludhiana. Ranjit Singh also started making warlike preparations.
Diwan Mohkam Chand was asked to proceed with the troops and artillery
from Kangra to Philiaur, on the Sutlej. The guns were mounted on the
Fort of Gobindgarh in Amritsar and powder and supplies laid in. The
chiefs and nobles were asked to keep their soldiers in readiness.
A large body of troops gathered in Lahore in a few days' time.
Meanwhile, Metcalfe, who had followed Ranjit Singh to Lahore, presented
a new treaty which was based on terms first offered by the British
and the proposal made by Ranjit Singh. The treaty in this form was
acceptable to the Sikh ruler. Although it stopped him from extending
his influence beyond the Sutlej, he was left master of the territories,
south of the river, which were in his possession before Metcalfe's
visit. The treaty was signed at Amritsar on 25 April 1809. It provided
that the British government would count the Lahore Darbar among the
most honourable powers and would in no way interfere with the Sikh
ruler's dominions to the north of the Sutlej. Both governments pledged
friendship to each other. Ranjit Singh appointed Bakhshi Nand Singh
Bhandari to stay at Ludhiana as his agent with the English. The English
sent Khushwant Rai to Lahore as their representative at the Sikh court.
Although the treaty of 1809 halted Ranjit Singh's ambitions at the
Sutlej and prevented the unification of the Majha and Malva Sikhs
into a new commonwealth of the Khalsa, it gave the Sikh sovereign
one clear advantage. Security on the southern frontier allowed him
freely to consolidate his power in the Punjab, evolve a centralized
system of government, build up a powerful army, and pursue unhampered
his conquests in the north, northwest and southwest.
The Text of the Treaty:
Treaty with the Rajah of Lahore - 1809
Whereas certain differences which had arisen between the British Government
and the Rajah of Lahore have been happily and amicably adjusted, and
both parties being anxious to maintain the relations of perfect amity
and-concord, the following Articles of treaty, which shall be binding
on the heirs and successors of the two parties, have been concluded
by Rajah Runjeet Sing on his own part, and by the agency of Charles
Theophilus Metcalfe, Esquire, on the part of the British Government.
Article 1. Perpetual friendship shall subsist between the British
Government and the State of Lahore. The latter shall be considered,
with respect to the former, to be on the footing of the most favoured
powers; and the British Government will have no concern with the territories
and subjects of the Rajah to the northward of the Sutlej.
Article 2. The Rajah will never maintain in the territory occupied
by him and his dependants,.on the left bank of the River Sutlej, more
troops than are necessary for the internal duties of that territory,
nor commit or suffer any encroachments on the possessions or rights
of the Chiefs in its vicinity.
Article 3. In the event of a violation of any of the preceding
or of a departure from the rules of friendship on the part of either
State, this Treaty shall be considered to be null and void.
Article 4. This Treaty, consisting of four Articles, having
been settled and concluded at Amritsar, on the 25th day of April,
1809, Mr. Charles Theophilus Metcalfe has delivered to the Rajah of
Lahore a copy of the same, in English and Persian, under his seal
and signature, and the said Rajah has delivered another copy of the
same, under his seal and signature; and Mr. Charles Theophilus Metcalfe
engages to procure, within the space of two months, a copy of the
same duly ratified by the Right Honourable the Governor-General in
Council, on the receipt of which by the Rajah, the present Treaty
shall be deemed complete and binding on both parties, and the copy
of it now delivered to the Rajah shall be returned.
Seal and signature of
Signature and seal of
RAJAH RUNJEET SING
Company's 'Seal MINTO (Sd)
Ratified by the Governor-General in Council on 30th May, 1809.