Tuesday 14 May 2013

A King who was a Jacobian

Though much has been written about Tipu Sultan and his times, there are still many facets of his life that are not well known.
While everyone knows that Tipu hated the British and tried his best to throw them out of the country, not many know that Tipu wanted to send one of his sons to France for higher education and that he had even approached Frenchmen stationed in Srirangapatna, his capital, for this purpose.
The powers that be at France had agreed to Tipu’s suggestion but they had felt that it would be better if Tipu’s sons learnt French before coming over to France. They had suggested that Tipu’s sons learn French from a tutor in Srirangapatna and then embark to France. 
Another little known fact is that Tipu was one of the founder member of the Jacobian Club of Srirangapatna. A  piece of paper discovered in his library after Tipu’s death on May 4, 1799 in Srirangapatna testified to this fact.
The paper was entitled “Proceedings of a Jacobin Club formed at Seringapatam by the French Soldiers in the Corps commanded by M.Dompart”.
A Scotsman, Capt W Macleod, attested to the authenticity of the paper. The paper listed by name 59 Frenchmen in the pay of 'Citizen Tippoo' as it described the Sultan. It further said that  a gathering of a Primary Assembly was held in Srirangapatna on May 5, 1797, to elect a President, Francois Ripaud, and other officers.
The gathering proclaimed the “Rights of Man”, and Ripaud then  lectured the members on Republican principles. Further deliberations and formalities followed before, on 14th May, the National flag was ceremonially raised and a small delegation were formally received by Tipu.
Tipu, the “Citizen Prince” ordered a salute of 2,300 cannon, all the musketry and 500 rockets, with a further 500 cannon firing from the Fort. A Tree of Liberty was planted in his palace in Srirangapatna on May 15, 1797 and crowned with a Cap of Equality, before Ripaud challenged his co-patriots: “Do you swear hatred to all Kings, except Tippoo Sultaun, the Victorious, the Ally of the French Republic - War against all Tyrants, and love towards your Country and that of Citizen Tippoo.”Yes! We swear to live free or die,' they replied.
Tipu Sultan then became a founder-member of the Jacobin Club. While accepting the membership, he said of France, “Behold my acknowledgement of the standard of your country, which is dear to me, and to which I am allied; it shall always be supported in my country, as it has been in the Republic, my sister!”.
The Sultan was thus named as “Citizen Tipu”. Tipu remained and even now remains the only Indian King who was a member of the Jacobian club. Unfortunately, neither the French nor the club could stave off the British conquest of Srirangapatna and the subsequent death of  the Sultan. When Srirangapatna fell, the Jacobian Club automatically wound up.
Though the Jacobin Club at his court and later in India died down, its influence on France was tremendous. It led to the French revolution and the club was so named after the Dominican convent where its members first met.
In France, the club of thousands of chapters totaling more than 4.2 lakhs members. The club closed down after the fall of Robespierre.
Today, there is no trace of the tree in Srirangapatna. The palace of Tipu is in ruins. Except for the many graves of Frenchmen who fought alongside Tipu, there is no trace of the French connection in Srirangapatna today.
The piece of paper that was found in Tipu’s library is long gone too. However, the ideas of the club found expression in the French revolution and its slogan of liberty, equality and fraternity.

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