University Archives


British East India Company Regarding Governor-General of India Warren Hastings

Two pieces related to the British East India Company, an incredibly powerful joint stock company and a major force in British politics. Established in 1600, the British East India Company trafficked in such lucrative commodities as tea, opium, spices, silk, indigo, and salt. Company trade routes to modern day India, Afghanistan, China, and southeastern Asia facilitated the expansion of the British Empire.

Both pieces relate to Warren Hastings (1732-1818), a career employee of the British East India Company who also served as Governor-General of India. First employed as a clerk in the company, Hastings secured a series of promotions through a combination of hard work, ambition, and a talent in languages. Hastings eventually served as the Governor-General of India between 1773-1785, overseeing British settlements in Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. Hastings was impeached by the House of Commons for misconduct in office upon his return to England. (More on this below.)

The lot includes:

1. 1p autograph letter signed by Warren Hastings as "Warren Hastings" at lower right. Written at Daylesford House in Gloucestershire, England on March 3, 1811. On watermarked bifold paper. The inner pages are blank, but a later collector affixed a brief catalog description and biography on the third page. The fourth page consists of an holographic integral address leaf bearing philatelic markings. Expected paper folds, some well-worn and reinforced with professional repairs. Two areas of loss corresponding to the red wax seal have been in-filled. Else very good. 7.25" x 8.875".

Warren Hastings addressed this letter to his nephew, Reverend T.B. Woodman, who served as Chaplain to the Duke of Clarence. Hastings advised his nephew to visit in a few weeks, as he would be gone at mid-month attending "the levée of the Prince Regent".

2. Admissions ticket "For the trial of Warren Hastings Esq", Day 74, signed by "Stanhope" with the latter's armorial seal in red wax at lower right. Engraved in green ink on watermarked paper. Expected wear including some brittle paper folds which were professionally repaired verso. An area of in-filling can be found at upper right. 6.5" x 8.25". Another example of an admissions ticket can be found in the Curiosity Collections of the Harvard University Library.

Hastings's trial for professional misconduct did not take place all at once, but dragged on over seven years. Irish-born philosopher Edmund Burke led the prosecution. By all accounts, the trial devolved from an examination of Hastings's individual malfeasance into a referendum on the British East India Company and British empire-building in general. Hastings was acquitted by the House of Lords in 1795; as we have seen, his reputation as a social influencer was unaffected by the trial.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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