A sudden presence of Daniel Du Jardin [Daniyal du Jardi of Persian records] in the year 1777 in the Kol (Aligarh), Khair, Etah and Farrukhabad regions of North India and a deep silence about him post-1788 mar the obscurity around Du Jardin, which makes it difficult to construct a life sketch of him. Nonetheless, his presence in the late eighteenth century polity and economy of northern India was by no means insignificant.
It is reflected in the plethora of historical records left behind by him, presently preserved at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BnF). The records present the ‘inner’ and very ‘other’ notion of the eighteenth century polity of the turbulent northern Indiaof that time, a narrative that differs greatly from Anglophile and Persophile discourses. Interestingly, no one knows how that material reached the BnF. One can just conjecture on the basis of some of the indicative references culled out from the existing records, that in all likelihood it reached there through Antoine-Louis Polier, in whose jagir at Lucknow Du Jardin probably stayed clandestinely to save himself from the English wrath during the closing years. Unfortunately, there hardly is a single document of him speaking about himself.
Du Jardin was French by descent, for wherever he signed, it carried dates and months in French. But when he entered India and how he was able to establish himself so successfully that he could penetrate deep at the local level to such an extent that he received ijaras
(revenue farming) is a mystery. It is sure that he had mentors. Though nothing is known about the former, there are some he collaborated in business about whom we know with certainty. His business partners and close collaborators were Antoine-Louis Henri Polier, Louis Percerel and Louis Perry . From among his business deals, other names that emerge are: James Grant, Robert Grant Sarfaraz-ud Daula Mustaqim Jung, and Stewart. His gumashta
(agent) in all his business deals was Munshi Tek Chand. It appears that he was politically quite active as, as early as 1777 the British Resident at Lucknow, Nathaniel Middleton, accuses Du Jardin of corresponding with Chevalier
and negotiating with Najaf Khan against the British in his correspondence with Lord Hastings.
As per Du Jardin’s own testimony, he declares himself primarily a trader and a merchant dealing with indigo, cotton and also grains. However, the records, which he has left behind, suggest that in the process he turned himself into a primary producer, factory owner-cum- merchant-trader.
Du Jardin does not seem to be an ordinary European-merchant-trader. Instead, his reach and connections within and among the elite circles are quite evident. Apart from his close association with the leading French merchants and elites living in South Asia at that time, he received favours from the then leading and most powerful of the Nawab wazirs, Shuja-ud Daula (1754-1775), Asaf-ud Daula (1775-1797) and the deputy wazir Najaf Khan of Awadh. His connections were not limited to the elite; he was also well-connected in local politics. He received the favours of Raja Himmat Singh Bahadur (1780-1812) of Etah.
He is perhaps the only known European merchant-trader to have received the ijaras (revenue farming) from the local Nawabs and the local Rajas. Raja Himmat Singh of Etah granted him ijaras of mauzas (villages) Pilwah, Nidhauli, and Porah in taalluqa Jarara, tappa Khair, sarkar Kol (Aligarh). Other villages held by him in ijara in Jarara were Andla, Bajhera, Bhanera, Bamni, Bhogpur, Bargaon, Jahangarh (Hasangarh?), Jarara, Jaisinghpur, Kakola, Kunwarpur, Nigola, Naila, Tatarpur, Uswara. He also held ijaras in parganas Sikandarpur and Marehara (villages Dehgawan and Dharawi in taalluqa Marehara). Such were the deep roots, influence and power of Du Jardin in the locality of Jarara that a separate village, Du Jardin Nagar (though presently no longer traceable), was named after him. His chief item of trade was indigo which not only was he getting cultivated in his ijara villages but he was also processing in his own factories which he established at Pilwah, Porah, Marehara and Farrukhabhad. He established his personal storage houses (kothar) at Etah, Farrukhabad, Jarara, Kasganj, Kol, Marehara, Pilwah and Porah.
His role as moneylender-ijaradar in the local village economy is of no mean significance. In Du Jardin’s collection of papers, there is a huge collection of taqavi (agricultural loan) papers pertaining to tappa Jarara, pargana Khair, sarkar Kol (Aligarh) in which details of taqavis (agricultural loans) granted to individual peasants as well as village muqaddams are provided. What is important about these documents is that Du Jardin, in his capacity as ijaradar, advanced huge loans which do not appear to be just a philanthropic act. The mere fact that they were issued for an agricultural season at a 25 per cent interest rate (commuting annually amounts to 50 per cent) definitely formed another huge source of income for Du Jardin as merchant-financier.
The success story of Du Jardin suggests that during a period of utter turmoil when the Mughal emperor Shah Alam’s (1760-1788) authority was almost fading away, local Rajas (rulers) like Himmat Bahadur of Etah were showing signs of exerting their power and authority. It also clearly indicates the transition, conflict and cooperation among the local powers vis-à-vis the British and the French during this crucial phase of Anglo-French rivalry. An interesting point needs to be brought to light here is that, even after the 1763 peace treaty there prevailed in the British administrative parlance in India an atmosphere of strong distrust against the French. This is clearly reflected in the destruction and final disappearance of Du Jardin’s power in the region. The blatant distrust shows up in Du Jardin’s post-1780 pleadings to the British Resident of Farrukhabad John Willes who completely distrusted the French and blamed them for conspiring and aligning with local powers, Najaf Khan and Chevalier against the British. The Resident was bent upon uprooting them completely from northern India. His subordinate, Duke, who was sent by Willes appears to be finally behind the complete doom of Du Jardin, as he succeeded in forcibly closing down he’s indigo factory at Pilwah and uprooted him from his house at Marehara. Though we do not get details of what happened to Du Jardin’s vast commercial empire, the very fact that post-1788, the same year Polier himself left for Europe, we do not get any of his documents , suggests that before Polier left, Du Jardin was probably getting completely crushed by the anti-French British forces. It seems that most likely he was ‘killed’ or ‘died’. Though documents do not indicate anything of this sort, Polier’s decision to carry the entire collection of Du Jardin suggests that Du Jardin during his closing years had taken refuge with Polier, a move of which the British often accused him, and breathed his last in Polier’s estate, leaving behind his vast repository of data which fortunately Polier carried to France.
Published in may 2023