First Newspaper Of British India

Bengal Gazette, or. Calcutta General Advertiser. It was a two sheet paper, about 12 inches by 8 inches, with three columns printed on both sides. It published mostly extracts from the English newspapers and correspondence from local and distant writers. Its special features were addresses to the public from Mr. Hickey, a “poets’ corner”, and all the local gossips relating to the British -Community in Calcutta. For the first few months, Gazette Was politically harmless, through it turned after the fashion of the times to a broad humour. Its public was mainly the merchants and traders, and at first the non-official European class.

There was opposition from officials not only in Bengal from the very out set, many of them feared that the newspaper would at an early date turn to attack on them. But Warren Hastings seems to have been fairly tolerant. Reports that another newspaper was, being planned and that the subscribers of “Hickey’s Gazette” were being approached,’ provoked the intemperate wrath of Mr. Hickey, who started vilifying everyone who was suspected of promoting the rival venture. In June 1780, Hickey to his supporters not to desert him for the new proposed paper.

Possibly the appearance of the “India Gazette”, four pages, each 16 inches long with three columns and well printed, infuriated him and drove him to adopt desperate measures to meet the challenge. His behaviour was directed first to the Swedish missionary, John Zachariah Kierhander, who was suspected or selling types to his rival, to the twcf proprietors of the India Gazette, Peter Rued, a salt agent and B. Mussiak, a theatrical producer, and to Simon Droze whom he suspected of convassing for the rival product.

On the two indictments of Hastings on which Hickey was charged, he was convicted to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of Rupees two thousand on the first occasion. The Chief Justice awarded Warren Hastings damages to the tune of Rupees five hundred but the Governor General waived it. There is a reference to another claim by a “padri” in the letter from Chief Justice Impey to one of his colleagues, but there is no award on it. It is a strange commentary on the times that, though Hickey was sent to jail, and the intention of the sentence seemed, to silence his newspaper, the “Bengal Gazette” continued to appear regularly and with no change in the tone.

Infact, Hickey’s addresses to his public were even more different to the (iovernment, even the personal atacks continued unabated. Willi Mickey’s reference to his consiitutional rights and to the persecution of the Governor General and the Chief Justice, the Hcngal Gazette, began to receive considerable support. As the news of Hastings’ Benaras War ani Oudh incidents reached i alcutta, Hickey rose to the new height and published a satire on “The Congress at S.R.R.”, ani a “Vocal concert given previous to the rising of the congress”.

Here is lampooned all (lie members of the Government. This was the last of Hickey’s editorials. In March 1782, four fresh actions by Warren I lastings were instituted and a plea was made for permission to seize the types. Hickey told his reiders that the petition was rejected, the judges holding that actions were repugnant to the British constitution. Hickey’s rejoicing was short lived. The types were seized and the Bengal Gazette was silenced eventually.

Hickey’s Gazette reflected life in the European Community in Calcutta faithfully. Calcutta had become the capital of the company’s possessions in India. Lord North’s regulating act o 1773 had created the maximum difficulties in the administration of the territories. The Governor General and one other company’s servant formed a council with three others nominated by the British Government.

A supreme court had been established to administer British law to British subjects in India. Frances regarded himself Geneal Clavering and Colonel Mouson as representatives of the English nation and, Hastings and Barwell as representatives of the company. The Supreme Court, about which Lord Hastings had been in difference, was neutralised because it was presided over by Elijah Impey, Hastings’ old class-mate.

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