Relation of East India Company with States

Paramountcy of the British Crown over the Princely States in India did not conform to any of the constitutionally recognized models of relationship between two powers, one dominant (British) and the other dominated (Princely States). It is pertinent to mention that Paramountcy was not an international relationship. However, Henry Maine did claim for the States quasi-international status. The reality that under Paramount power the States had no international life stood well established and none of them enjoyed an independent status.

The princely States of India and their relations with the British Government offer no parallel or analogy to any institution known to history. It was neither feudal nor federal, though in some aspects it showed similarities to both. It was not an international system, though the principal States in India were bound to the British Government by solemn treaties and were spoken of in official documents as allies.

The Military supremacy of the British found recognition in the treaties and engagements entered into between the East Indian Company and the Indian States. This established a form of military protectorate. Intertwined with their military supremacy was the political supremacy of the British as the unquestioned dominant power in India. Paramount power rested on the firm foundation of this two-fold supremacy. The implications of this relationship, though not precisely defined, were several and varied. The most important of these was the political subordination of the protected government to the protecting power. This implied, it was claimed, the right of the protecting power to ensure reasonably good government in, and the right to control the military forces of, the protected governments. Under the Indian States’ System, which was an unavoidable consequence of the acknowledged supremacy of the one and the complete dependence of the other, the States retained in varying measure limited sovereignty but lost their international life with their nationality vesting in the British government. With the acceptance by the Indian States of the British supremacy and of the condition that continued enjoyment of ruler ship was subject to loyalty to the British Crown. The British established themselves as the sole independent sovereign power in India. No State could claim the attributes of independent sovereignty in the aggregate. Not only had the States been divested of their external sovereignty but even in internal affairs the sovereignty of the Rulers, big and small, was over-borne and limited by the prerogative of intervention exercised by the sole independent sovereign in India. Paramountcy was an inevitable corollary of these facts.

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