|Palace.the first Indo-Saracenic building in India. built by Benfield en.wikipedia.org|
Paul Benfield (1742–1810) was an English East India Company employee, trader, financier and politician. He was targeted by Edmund Burke for financial irregularities and for acting against the English company's certain basic norms and at last he became bankrupt.
Benfield landed in India as a civil servant of the East India Company in 1764, and drew a meager salary not greater than two or three hundred rupees a month. While in the employ of the company, he amassed a fortune running into half a million sterling on the side lines which was quite incongruous and it aroused the attention of higher ups in England and India.
Upon his arrival at Madras, he got into an understanding and friendship with an Indian trader and made partnership with him. In the mean time he also developed close contacts with the local bankers. While on a job, he moonlighted by doing civil contract work and giving loan at a higher interest rates. Ocourse, he got substantial help from the local bankers. He undertook projects with the government for the construction of fortifications for the town of Madras and for Fort St. George, East India company's headquarters. He developed close contacts Indian elite and royals, in particular, with the Nawob of Arcot for whom Paul Benfield, is said to have designed the Chepauk Palace, in Madras (now Chennai,Tamil Nadu)), the first Indo-Saracenic building in India. The Nawob took heavy loan from him for the main purpose of declaring war on the Thanjavur Marata ruler along with the British. He captured the Thanjavur kingdom, including Dutch settlement that was part of the Maratha rulers. In 1777, the British India company condemned this irresponsible act and the modus operandi of such operations that were against the Company's interest and brought charges against Benfield. He resigned the job and in 1779 returned to England. He told the council that he made large loans to the Nawob and it was a transparent deal and not a clandestine one and the Governors and the council were very much aware of it. He further, in no uncertain terms, stated that he indirectly helped the East India company and its interests in India and not against it. Later the charges were withdrawn and and his company job was restored to him.
Upon his final return to England in 1793, he married Miss Swinburne of Hamsterley, Durham. The marriage settlement was lavish. They had a son and at least two daughters; He, in partnership with Walter Boyd, founded a company called Boyd, Benfield, & Co. in London - a mercantile firm that engaged in speculations. Following the depression of stocks, and poor negotiations, his business failed and he became broke. Leading a miserable existence pushed down from sublime to disgrace, he spent rest of his life in a state of dereliction in Paris and died in Paris in poverty in 1810.
The seesaw eventful life of Benfield reminds of a wise-saying in India: ''In this transient world nothing is permanent, and we leave the world one day the way we came here from our mother's womb.''