While a handful of historians have chronicled Mysore’s institutional transformation as a “modern” principality in the late nineteenth century, few have examined the reallocation of sovereignty itself from a legalistic perspective. With support from both the India Reform Society and the incipient East India Association, the case was propelled into the metropolitan limelight; luminaries like Goldwin Smith advocated for the restoration, while John Stuart Mill presented a petition to the House of Commons that favored the return. In this paper, I will briefly address three issues: Mysore’s treaty obligations and the legitimacy of the Company’s original seizure of sovereignty in 1831; the disputes between the reformers, Krishnaraja Wadiyar, and several viceroys over the applicability of western legal theory; and the colonial administration’s investment in the rhetoric of humanitarianism to justify its continued involvement in princely affairs. By examining these sources of friction, this paper will emphasize the legal casuistry inherent in colonial territorial contests and gesture to the creative amalgamation of classical law of nations theory with the emerging principles of international law.
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