After J.T. Seton, second state, mezzotint portrait, good impression, full margin, 527 x 375mm, London, R. Dutton, 1797
The portrait is almost full length in a 3 quarter profile, showing Hastings in a plain coat and necktie, with unpowdered hair. This portrait was produced in its first state in 1785. This same year Hastings resigned as Governor-General of Bengal, returning to England as his trial began on charges of corruption in the administration of India.
Warren Hasting was first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William, and Governor-General of India from 1774 to 1785. Under his ten year term he helped extend and regularise the nascent Raj created by Clive of India. Much of the precedent set profoundly shaped later attitudes towards the government of British India. The respect Hastings had for the ancient scripture of Hinduism set governance as one of looking back to the earliest precedents possible, using this to found the laws and inadvertently accentuating the Hindu caste system. In 1781 he founded Madrasa ‘Aliya at Calcutta and supported the foundation of the Bengal Asiatic Society in 1784.
On his return to England, in 1785, Hastings was impeached at the House of Commons for crimes and misdemeanors during his time in India, especially for an alleged judicial killing of Maharaja Nandakumar. The prosecution was managed by Mps including Edmund Burke, who was encouraged by Sir Philip Francis, whom Hastings had wounded during a duel in India. The House of Lords acquitted him of all charges on 24 April 1795.
Hastings’s legacy as an administrator has been somewhat dualistic: he was able to institute reforms during the time he spent as governor that would change the path India followed in subsequent years, but he retained the distinction of being also the ‘architect of British India and one ruler of British India to whom the creation of such an entity was anathema”.