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Claim on the Nawab of Oudh

RA Collection: Archive

Archive context

Showing item 8 of 8 in this group

Reference code

HU/8

Title

Claim on the Nawab of Oudh

Date

1787-1856

Level

File

Extent & medium

1 volume, of 154 items

Historical Background

In 1786, Ozias Humphry travelled from Calcutta to the Court of the Nabob [Nawab] of Oudh at Lucknow with letters of introduction from the Governor General, Sir John Macpherson. He painted five miniatures of the Nabob and members of his court as presents for Macpherson and charged the Nabob 47,000 rupees. He reached this figure, worth about £4,500, by calculating the sum he could have earned had he been fully employed in Calcutta for the time he spent in Lucknow and in travelling, and then doubling this sum which he later claimed was the recognised practice when dealing with Nabobs. The Nabob offered to round the price up to 50,000 rupees; but, as he claimed that he was short of ready money, he paid 5,000 rupees on account and gave Humphry a bond for the remainder. While Humphry was in Lucknow, Macpherson had written to him stating that he would pay if the Nabob would not, as the pictures were for him. When Humphry returned to Calcutta, he found that he was unable to sell or raise money on the bond, as the Nabob had a reputation for not aying debts, particularly to Europeans. He then demanded payment from Macpherson a the rate he had fixedf for the Nabob. Macpherson, who had been replaced as Governor by Cornwallis, refused so Humphry brought a civil action against him and lost. The action took place in Humphry's absence as he had already left for England.

For the rest of his life Humphry tried every possible means to recover this debt. The East India Company refused to intervene but Humphry had many influential friends who were sympathetic and who wrote on his behalf to Lord Cornwallis and his successors in India. In about 1796, he was offered the principal of the debt but he refused to accept this without the interest. After the Nabob's death in 1797, there was little hope of the debt being paid, but Humphry continued to petition for its recovery. The topic is a recurring theme in all his correspondence after his return from India.

Content Description

Containing papers relating to Humphry's claim. Many are copies of letters in other volumes. All the copies are contemporary; they were probably made by Humphry's son, William Upcott; many are arranged as if for a law suit - with the text on the right side of the paper and a space for notes on the left. There are also a number of original letters, in particular letters between Humphry and his agents in India, which clearly show the difficulty of negotiating business when an exchange could take as long as a year. Loose at the end of the volume is a small group of letters presented to the Academy by G.C. Williamson; these were written in 1856-57 when Humphry's neice, Juliana, Lady Ashburnham, was considering resurrecting the claim.

At the front of the volume was a newspaper cutting, dated 1815, that the late Nawab of Oudh has left seventeen and a half millions in sterling.