Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

FOR long the Dutch, French, and English trading Companies had been content to restrict themselves to commerce; their interests not travelling outside the  limits of their settlements along the sea coast. Their servants were merchants engaged in trade, drawing  but a poor salary. The English president of a factory such as Surat received ^500 a year, the head  merchants £40 a year after they had first served for five years as writers on a yearly salary of £10, and  then for three years as factors on ^”20 a year.

These merchants were for the most part unnoticed by the Mughal Emperors, though they were sometimes harassed by the native governors who ruled over the territories in the vicinity of their settlements. Neither the English nor Dutch ever dreamed of interfering in the internal politics of the country, or even of acquiring land more than sufficient for the defence and pro- tection of their trading stations.

The English settlement started at Madras in 1639, on land granted by the ruler at Chandragiri, gradually extended itself five miles along the coast and one mile inland. North and south of Madras from the river Kistna to Cape Comorin, the land was known as the Karnatik ruled by a native Governor or Nawab, subordinate to a Viceroy or Nizam of the south, who held his office direct from the Emperor at Delhi. Tanjore and Trichinopoli were under the charge of their native Rajas, or Chieftains, who were accountable to the Nawab.

In 1672 when the last native ruler of Bi’japur, Sher Khan Lodi, found himself in want of money, he borrowed it from the French, and, according to Oriental custom, gave them in return the right to collect the revenues arising from the district around Pondicherry. Here Francis Martin fortified his position, making it secure against the raids of wandering Marathas who in 1677 swept past Madras and pillaed the interven- ing villages.

In 1740 these Marathas to the number of ten thousand came swarming down on the south and slew the Nawab of the Karnatik. Safdar All, his successor, deemed it wise in the disturbed state of affairs to send his mother and family to the safe keeping of the French at Pondicherry — a precaution also adopted by Chanda Sahib, Raja of Trichinopoli, who sent there his wife and property.

The next year the Marathas, on their annual raid, carried off Chanda Sahib to their northern fortress of Satara, leaving one of their own leaders, Morari Rao, with fourteen thousand picked troops in charge of his territories. The Viceroy of the south, Nizam-ul-Mulk, drove out Morari Rao, and in place of Safdar All who had been assassinated, nominated in 1743, one Anwar-ud-Din, a soldier of fortune, to the governor- ship of the Karnatik.

When England became involved in war with France, on the death of Charles VI. of Austria, respecting the succession of Maria Theresa, the English ships appeared in 1745 off Pondicherry, then held by its new Governor, Joseph Francois Dupleix. Anwar-ud-Din, remembering the services rendered by the French to the former Governor of the Karnatik, and to Chanda Sahib, in protecting their families from the Marathas, at once came to the rescue and threatened vengence against the English unless their ships departed from before the factory of his friends and allies. The English ships sailed away, and on returning the next year found that the French Admiral La Bourdonnais had arrived from Madagascar with a fleet of nine ships having on board 3,342 men, including 720 blacks. After a fight at long range, lasting from four in the afternoon until seven in the evening, the English admiral deemed it advisable to retire to Ceylon, leaving the French fleet to sail for Madras, then held by some three hundred men, including two hundred so-called soldiers. The chief of Madras, Governor Morse, applied in vain to the native Governor of the Karnatik for protection. Forgetting the Eastern maxim that those seeking favours should not appear before kings or rulers with empty hands, his envoys carried no presents with them, nor did they bring, like the French, any record of services rendered in the past, so they returned to Madras with their mission unaccomplished. On September 18th the French batteries and ships opened fire, and Fort St. George sur- rendered on the 2 ist after having lost five men.


Dupleix had promised the Governor of the Karnatik to hand over to him Madras when taken. Unfortu- nately the French Admiral La Bourdonnais had agreed to restore Madras to the English for the sum of .£421,666, payable in Europe in six months, and, as it was afterwards alleged, for a personal present of .£40,000 — a false charge of which he was acquitted by his own Government.

The quarrel between the French admiral and French general waged fierce and long, Dupleix striving with all the tenacity, skill, and finesse of which he was so perfect a master, to oppose La Bourdonnais and prevent Madras being restored to the English. In the midst of their disputes the annual monsoon storm burst, on the night of October 1 3th, and of the admiral’s eight ships four foundered, two were virtually destroyed, and two rendered un- seaworthy, while over twelve hundred of his men perished in the seas.

The plans of La Bourdonnais were wrecked. He hastened home to add his name to the long list of those whose fame and life have been sacrificed in their efforts to found their countries’ fortunes in the East. He was cast into the Bastile, where he lay for three years in solitary confinement, dying shortly after his release of a broken heart.

Dupleix was left with Madras to sell or to destroy. He tore the treaty of La Bourdonnais in pieces, and sent the English garrison in captivity to Pondicherry, a few daring spirits escaping to find a refuge in Fort St. David — a weak fortress twelve miles south of Pondicherry — garrisoned by a handful of soldiers, one hundred Europeans, and one hundred sepoys.


The Governor of the Karnatik was, however, determine:! that the French should not hold Madras. He advanced at the head of six thousand horse and three thousand foot to compel Dupleix to keep his promise, certain that the host he commanded was sufficient to drive all foes out of his territories.

For one hundred years the foreigners had been overlooked by the native rulers. As traders they had come and gone peacefully. If they dared to transgress the will of the Emperor or disobey the dictates of his Viceroy in the south, there were ten thousand native soldiers, foot and horse, for every foreign soldier then in India.

The rude awakening was now to come. Four hundred of the French garrison sallied out with two small field-pieces to meet the charge of the native cavalry. Slowly the French force opened out, and seventy of the foremost native troopers fell before the rapid fire of the French guns. The Nawab and his army turned and fled, leaving the French masters of the field without the loss of a single man.

The weakness of native troops, when not under the discipline and firm rule of European officers, had been shown by the Portuguese in 1 504, when Pacheco, with a little over one hundred Europeans and a few hundred native soldiers of the King of Cannanore, defeated the Zamorin of Calicut, driving back an army of fifty thousand with heavy loss. It was pointed out by Leibnitz to Louis XIV. ; it was known to Dupleix ;

it was afterward recognised by De Boigne when he counselled Scindia’s invincible Maratha infantry never to dare face the Company’s troops ; it was seen later by Baron Hiigel, who told Ranji’t Singh that the Sikhs would inevitably fall back defeated before the English battalions.

While the army of the Nawab halted on the banks of the Adyar river, wondering over its defeat, the brave but ill-fated Mons. Paradis marched forth against it from Pondicherry with two hundred and thirty Europeans and seven hundred sepoys. The French were now without guns, yet, rushing through the river, they drove the terror-stricken army before them, the pursuit continuing through the streets of St. Thome. Fresh troops from Madras appeared on the scene and completed the rout. Those left of the Nawab’s forces found refuge behind the walls of Arcot, whence they spread the tidings far and wide of the newly discovered power of the foreign traders.

There was none now to stay the advancing tide of French supremacy. The English entrenched at Fort St. David were but a few hundred in number, sup- ported by some hastily armed peons or servants.

There they held out, although the French advanced against them four times, until Rear- Admiral the Hon. E. Boscawen, who had arrived from England with fourteen hundred regular troops, joined the fleet of Admiral Griffin, and came to the rescue with thirty ships, of which thirteen were ships of war. The English were now in turn able to lay siege to Pondicherry ; but after an investment, lasting from September 6th to October 17th, during which they lost one thousand and sixty-five men, and the French but two hundred Europeans and fifty natives, the mon- soon storm burst and the fleet had to sail away, leaving Pondicherry safe in the hands of the French. By the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle peace was restored, and, to the mortification of Dupleix, Madras was given back to the English in exchange for Cape St.Breton.

In 1748 the Viceroy of the south died, leaving the succession to his son Nasir Jang — a succession disputed by Muzaffar Jang, a grandson of Nizam-ul-Mulk. Dupleix again played his game with consummate skill. Throwing in his lot with Muzaffar Jang, who had been joined by the Marathas and Chanda Sahib, freed from his imprisonment at Satara, the combined army advanced against Anwar-ud-Din, Governor of the Karnatik.

At Ambur Anwar-ud-Din was shot through the head by a stray bullet, his army scattered, his son, Muhammad Ali’, escaping to Trichinopoli to seek the protection of the English. Chanda Sahib was immediately proclaimed at Arcot as Governor of the Karnatik, and the French were given as a reward for their aid eighty-one villages near Pondicherry.

Dupleix had succeeded at length in gaining political influence over the internal affairs of the south, standing forth as the friend and ally of the Viceroy, Muzaffar Jang, and the Nawab Chanda Sahib. The English, on the other hand, had cast in their lot with the two defeated candidates, Nasir Jang and Muhammad Ali Whichever side, French or English, would now succeed in successfully supporting their rival claimants might ultimately hope to reign supreme over the whole political affairs of the south of India.

The French quickly followed up their success by capturing, in the night-time, with the loss of but twentymen, the fortress of Gingi, a stronghold of Nasi’r Jang, always held to be impregnable — a success whichenabled them to induce most of the native troops to forsake the cause of Nasi’r Jang, who soon afterwardswas shot through the heart by one of his own allies.

Muzaffar Jang and Chanda Sahib were at once, amid a scene of Oriental pomp, respectively installed Vice-roy of the South, and Governor of the Karnatik, Dupleix receiving in return the title of Commanderof Seven Hundred Horse and the right to coin money current all over the south.The French were now dictators over the affairs of the Karnatik, ruling in the name of Chanda Sahib.

As the new Viceroy Muzaffar Jang was being escorted by Mons. Bussy and three hundred Frenchsoldiers to his capital at Aurangabad he was attacked by some opposing native forces and slain, piercedby a javelin in the forehead. The position was at once retrieved by Bussy. Salabat Jang, a son ofNizam-ul-Mulk, was proclaimed Viceroy, Bussy remaining with his troops at Aurangabad to supportthe new administration.

The policy of Dupleix had succeeded beyond expectation ; the English were left without allies,their only friend, Muhammad All, aided by six hundred Englishmen, was closely besieged at Tri-chinopoli by nine hundred Frenchmen and the army of Chanda Sahib. The position seemedhopeless. There was, however, one Englishman forthcoming who, by his reckless daring, doggedtenacity, and stubborn perseverance, not only succeeded in thwarting the diplomatic ingenuity bywhich Dupleix had made the French influence supreme in the native states but in establishing, forthe first time, the prestige of the English in India. This man was the ill-fated Robert Clive.



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