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 Articles,
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.
Originally Published By All About Sikhs