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
Clive was born on the 29th of September, 1725, near Market Drayton in Shropshire. Wayward and reckless as a schoolboy, he early showed signs of those talents which he afterwards so conspicuously exercised. Legend loves to tell how he climbed the high steeple of Market Drayton, and there, to terrify the townspeople, seated himself on the edge of a projecting stone. The story is also well known how he levied blackmail on the shopkeepers, threatening to break their windows unless they submitted to his demands and those of his schoolfellows.
In the year 1744 he landed at Madras as a writer in the service of the East India Company. There he listened in gloomy silence to the empty talk of his brother writers whose lives were wasted in idle folly and reckless dissipation. In bitter grief he wrote home, ” I have not enjoyed one happy day since I left my native land.” At length his proud spirit, finding no relief from its surging thoughts, sought refuge from inaction in death. The pistol, well loaded and primed, was twice pointed at his head, twice it missed fire ; a moment aftenvards a friend entered the room, and seeing Clive sitting morose and silent, raised the pistol and discharged it from the window at the first touch of the trigger. From that day Clive woke to life. He was well assured in his own mind that he had been spared for some great purpose, to take some great part in the history of his people — a part he afterwards played with a recklessness which can only be accounted for on the supposition that he believed he bore a charmed life. In Malcolm’s ” Life of Clive ” it is told how, during a duel with an officer whom he had accused of cheating at cards, he missed his antagonist, who thereupon advanced, and holding his pistol to Clive’s head threatened to fire unless an apology was at once made. ” Fire and be d d,” said Clive ; ” I said you cheated, and I say so still.”
During the siege of Pondicherry, having obtained a temporary commission as ensign, he greatly distin- guished himself, but on the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle had to return to the uncongenial employment of measuring cloth and checking office accounts. A welcome relief soon came. The native ruler of Tanjore, Raja Sahuji, being deposed, appealed to the English to reinstate him. As a reward for this service he offered to bear all the expenses of the war and on reinstatement to surrender to the Company the fort and lands around Devikota. The English failed in their efforts to restore Sahuji ; still, they determined to have their promised reward. Major Lawrence, with six ships, fifteen hundred native troops and eight hundred Europeans, sailed up the Coleroon and having breached the fort directed Clive, who had again obtained a temporary commission as lieutenant, to advance with the native troops and thirty-four Europeans across a deep rivulet to storm the breach and capture the fort. Clive charged at the head of his troops ; the sepoys held back, and of the Europeans twenty-six were cut to pieces by the enemy’s horse- men. Clive, however, escaped, having, in the words of Lawrence, behaved with ” a cool courage and a presence of mind which never left him in the greatest danger. Born a soldier, for without a military education of any sort or much conversing with any of the profession, from his judgment and good sense, he led an army like an experienced officer and brave soldier.” The fort was afterwards taken and with the sur- rounding lands, which brought in a revenue of 36,000 rupees, given over to the Company. TR1CHIN0P0LL
Clive was next directed to proceed from Madras with one hundred English and fifty sepoys, to the relief of the force at Trichinopoli where Muhammad All, was hemmed in by the French and the army of Chanda Sahib. For this duty Clive was nominated by the Governor, Mr. Saunders, the order in Council stating, ” We will give him (Mr. Robert Clive) a brevet to entitle him to the rank of Captain, as he was an officer at the siege of Pondicherry and almost the whole time of the war distinguished himself on many occasions, it is conceived that this officer may be of some service.”
The genius of Clive shone ever brightest in times of extreme danger and in situations where others might well deem all was lost, when by a clear and quick perception of all surrounding facts he rapidly evolved plans for safety or victory which his calm courage and inflexible determination sooner or later enabled him to carry into execution. He saw that the situation at Trichinopoli was hopeless, but he noticed that Chanda Sahib, in over-eagerness to crush the English, had summoned all the troops from the capital at Arcot, leaving its weak fortifications de- fended by only 1,100 sepoys. Clive at once deter- mined to make a bold dash for the capture of Arcot, intending to hold it until Chanda Sahib and the French should be compelled to come to its rescue and raise the siege of Trichinopoli. Hurrying back to Madras, he persuaded the Governor to place at his disposal all the available troops, two hundred English and three hundred sepoys, with whom and three small guns he set out on his heroic enterprise.
DEFENCE OF ARCOT
At Arcot, sixty-nine miles from Madras, consternation reigned. Travelers brought in word that Clive and the English soldiers were advancing ; that they had been seen marching unconcerned through a fearful storm of thunder, rain, and lightning. On receipt of the news the garrison fled, leaving the fort to Clive and his small band of Europeans and sepoys. For fifty days Clive held out against the allied troops sent against him. He repelled assault after assault ; he led charges to drive the enemy from their advanced entrenchments; he even marched out to protect some new guns coming to his aid from Madras. The sepoys, in this memorable de- fence of the fort of Arcot, stood side by side with the English soldiers to whom they gave their scanty portion of boiled rice, saying that they could live on the water in which it had been boiled.
The brilliant stratagem conceived by the master- mind of Clive succeeded : Chanda Sahib and his French allies were obliged to send troops to aid in the siege of Arcot, thereby weakening the forces before Trichinopoli and infusing fresh courage into Muhammad All and his dispirited supporters. The fort was breached, by aid of the newly arrived troops, and Clive was left with but eighty Europeans and one hundred and thirty sepoys to defend the dis- mantled walls one mile in circumference.
On November 14th the enemy, intoxicated with bhang and drunk with the fury of their religious fanaticism, advanced in four divisions ; two divisions headed by elephants with iron plates on their fore- heads to break in the gates, two divisions to mount the breaches. Clive and his handful of heroes fought for their lives along the crumbling walls. From post to post they hurried, driving back the swarming foe, Clive, with his own hands working the guns, at one shot clearing seventy men off a raft on which they strove to cross the moat. After an hour’s fight the besiegers were driven back, having lost four hundred killed and wounded in their attack, while of the defenders only four Europeans and two sepoys fell. Clive was reinforced from Fort St. David with two hundred Europeans and seven hundred sepoys, and at once marched out from behind his ramparts, captured the fort of Timeri, joined a band of one thousand Marathas under Morari Rao, and fought his first decisive battle against the French and their allies, beating a force double his own in numbers at Ami, seventeen miles south of Arcot. He then drove the French from Conjeveram, reinforced Arcot, and returned victorious to Fort St. David to receive the congratulations of the Governor and Council.
The French and their allies followed, raiding the country up to St. Thomas’ Mount, but when Clive sallied forth against them from Madras at the head of 380 Europeans and 1,000 sepoys, with three field- pieces, they retreated to Kaveripak, a village lying ten miles east of Arcot. There they concealed their artillery^ and cavalry in a dense grove of mango-trees by the side of the main road, along which they knew Clive must advance, and in a deep. channel on the other side they hid away their infantry. As Clive and his troops marched leisurely down the road, in easy confidence, they were suddenly met by a fire from a battery of nine guns, which swept their ranks at not more than 250 yards’ distance.
Clive, undoubtedly, over and over again led his troops with reckless carelessness into positions such as this, from which nothing but his own genius, which seemed to draw inspiration from the very presence of danger, could have ever extricated them. It is easy to cavil at his conduct and tell the tale of disaster that might have followed if he had failed ; but fail he never did, for with a charmed life he faced his enemies amid the smoke and hurry of battle with the same cool determination with which he afterwards faced his opponents in the Council Chamber.
It was late in the afternoon when Clive and his troops marched into the midst of their enemies at Kaveripak, and little time remained for action. With a small body of infantry and two guns he held back the enemy’s cavalry, directing the rest of his troops to seek shelter from the guns in the water-channel by the roadside, and thence keep up a fire on the French infantry.
For two hours the artillery fire continued, the cavalry repeatedly charging Clive’s guns and baggage. At length it was discovered that the French had neglected to defend the back of the grove where their guns were posted. Clive secretly dispatched two hundred Europeans and four hundred sepoys to within thirty yards of the French battery, whence they poured in a volley among the gunners, who fled, leaving their guns behind them. The victory, though decisive, was dearly won ; forty of Clive’s European troops and thirty sepoys lay dead. The newly won prestige of the French in the south had, however, been shattered. Clive, before he returned to Madras razed to the ground a city Dupleix had founded and called after his own name, overturning the triumphal column therein erected, on which was emblazoned in many languages a full record of the French victories
From Trichinopoli the French, heedless of the remonstrances of Dupleix, retreated to the neigh- bouring island of Sn’rangam, leaving Chanda Sahib to his fate. To cut off their retreat and to prevent reinforcements reaching them, Clive took up a posi- tion in the village of Samiaveram, eleven miles north of the island, where now the French were practically isolated.
On the night of April 14, 1752, Clive, wearied from a long day’s operations he had carried out in order to prevent a relieving force from Pondicherry break- ing through the English and joining the French, lay- down to sleep in a rest-house near the entrance gateway of the village temple. The camp was quiet : the English soldiers, Maratha troopers, and allied sepoys were sleeping uneasily in and near the temple, while close at hand the sentinels, but half awake, paced to and fro. In the dead of night seven hundred of the enemy’s sepoys and eighty Euro- peans stole silently towards the camp, guided by a band of deserters from the English. The drowsy inquiries of the sentinels were answered by whispers that the force was a relief sent from Lawrence. Silently making their way to the front of the temple gate, the enemy first gave notice of their presence by pouring volley after volley amid the sleeping soldiers. In an instant the camp awoke in startled surprise. Moans from the dying and confused cries from the awakened soldiers were mingled with the clatter of arms and heavy boom of the enemy’s muskets. Through the shed where Clive lay sleeping, the bullets flew ; a soldier by his side was shot dead, and a box at the foot of his cot was shattered to fragments. Deeming that the firing close at hand came from his own troops, blindly repelling some imaginary attack, Clive rushed forward and beat down the guns with his hands, commanding the firing to cease. He was attacked by six Frenchmen, seriously* wounded, and summoned to surrender. Wounded and faint though he was, he grasped the situation in a moment. Raising himself, he cried out to the French soldiers that they were surrounded, and
ordered them to surrender. His tone and manner carried instant conviction ; the six Frenchmen in the confusion gave up their arms. The native troops broke away to fly from the vengeance of the fierce Marathas, who were afterwards heard to declare that not a single sepoy who entered the camp that night escaped with his life. The remaining French soldiers with the European deserters sought refuge in the temple where, as it was found impossible to dislodge them, they were shut in till dawn. In the morning the temple was stormed, and after the French had lost twelve men, Clive, weak and faint from his wound, was led to the temple gate by two sergeants who stood by his side supporting him. As he stood swaying to and fro offering terms one of the deserters fired ; the shot missed Clive, slaying the two ser- geants who were standing slightly in front. Horrified by the treacherous act the French threw down their arms and capitulated.
Shortly after the entire French troops under Captain Law surrendered to Lawrence, and the re- lieving force under d’Auteuil to Clive, who, now completely broken down by the arduous campaign, returned home in 1753.
Dupleix remained still striving to re-establish the French influence with the native rulers of the south. But the French Company realised not the value of his *■ acquisitions, and knew not the meaning of his policy. Traders they were, and their profits were now falling fast. Acquisition of territory or bearing of Eastern titles by their Governors in the East had for them no interest. In vain Dupleix pleaded for time in vain,
DUPLEIX AND CLIVE.
in order to carry out his designs, he expended the wealth he had accumulated by private trade or gained from foreign princes ; he was ignominiously recalled, and his successor Godeheu, who arrived in 1754, re- signed the exclusive right over the rich and fertile Northern Circars which Dupleix had succeeded in gaining for the French, and gave up all claim to the sounding titles so eagerly sought after by his predecessor. Insulted and laughed at at home as an impostor when he pressed his claims for the return of the money he had spent in the service of his country, Dupleix sank deeper and deeper into poverty and dejection, until at length, three days before his death, he wrote in the bitterness of despair, ” My services are treated as fables, my demand is denounced as ridiculous ; I am treated as the vilest of mankind ; I am in the most deplorable indigence.”
Clive, on the other hand, had been feasted and toasted by the Court of Directors, and presented with a diamond-jilted sword, ” as a token of their esteem and of their sense of his singular services,” which he refused to receive until his old friend and commander, Major Lawrence, was also likewise honored.
Clive soon grew tired of an inactive life in England. The excitement of a contested election led to nothing but loss of time, patience, and money, so in 1755 he sailed again for India, having accepted a commission of lieutenant-colonel in the British Army, the appointment of Governor of Fort St. David and the succession to the Governorship of Madras. He reached Fort St. David on the 20th of June, 1756. the day of the dire tragedy of the Black Hole of Calcutta.
Siraj-ud-Daulah, Viceroy of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, had long watched, with growing distrust and haughty anger, the dominant position gradually acquired by the English and French traders in his dominions. Forts had been built, fortifications raised, refuge given to those flying from his wrath or cupidity, while round Calcutta the famed Maratha ditch had been laboriously dug, though never completed, to keep out the Marathas, who levied chauth from all villages in reach of their flying cohorts.
CAPTURE OF CALCUTTA.
Not satisfied with the assurances given him by the Governor of Calcutta that the new fortifications had not been raised against the native powers, but in view of the coming war between France and England, Siraj-ud-Daulah first captured the English factory at Kasimbazar, and then marched for Calcutta at the head of his forces, followed by the robber-bands in the neighborhood to the number of some forty thousand, all eager to share in the sack of the rich city of the English traders. Of riches there were but little at Calcutta, and of defenses virtually none. There were obsolete shells and fuses, dismantled guns, walls too weak to support cannon, and warehouses built in the line of fire to the south. The garrison consisted of one hundred and eighty men, of whom only one-third were Europeans. Gallantly the handful of English- men set to work to erect outlying batteries, and dig trenches, they were even reduced to seek ammunition and help from the French and Dutch factories — an aid, however, withheld. The women and children took refuge in the ships lying in the river, two Members of Council, officers of militia earning un- dying infamy, and subsequent dismissal for desertion, by volunteering to accompany the fugitives and re- fusing to return even when taunted for their cowardice. The Commandant, Captain Minchin, likewise fled, accompanied by the Governor, Mr. Drake, who unluckily escaped the parting shots fired after him by his comrades, with whom he lacked courage to re- main as they slowly turned to meet the foe. Well might it be imagined that history could never hand down a tale of fouler shame and infamy. So might the garrison have thought were it not for the fact that as they turned, with despair in their hearts, to meet their swarming foes, they saw the last of the ships sail out of sight, Captain Young of the Dodolay finding courage sufficient to declare that it would be dangerous to wait near or even to send a boat to take off his countrymen. Prayed to return and bear away the wounded, he refused ; prayed to send a boat with ammunition, for that in the fort was all but exhausted, he refused ; prayed to throw a cable to the Prince George, which had stranded in endeavouring to return, he refused, saying he needed all he had for the safety of his own ship. For five days the garrison, headed by the famed civilian, Mr. Holwell, held out until out of one hundred and seventy men fifty were wounded and twenty-five killed. At length Holwell had to sur- render, delivering up his sword to Siraj-ud-Daulah on a promise that no harm should befall his followers. To those who have not lived in the burning plains of India during the long months, when the brazen rays of the sun pass away towards the close of evening, and the blasts of the hot winds cease, only to be succeeded by the dead, stifling heat when even the birds fall to the ground gasping with open beaks for breath, no pen can ever convey an idea of the suffer- ings of those who died in agony on that night of the 20th of June, when Calcutta was surrendered to Siraj-ud-Daulah.
BLACK HOLE OF CALCUTTA.
As the night approached the prisoners, one hundred and forty-six in number, all wearied and many wounded, were gathered together in the fort. In the guard-room a space of eighteen feet square had been walled in to form a prison cell. It had but two small iron-barred windows, opening into a low verandah. Into this cell, known to history as ” The Black Hole of Calcutta,” the prisoners were driven at the point of the bayonet.
It is possible that Siraj-ud-Daulah may have known nothing of the events that transpired during the night, but when details of the slaughter were brought to him in the morning he displayed neither emotion nor regret, venting his rage at finding but ^”5,000 in the Treasury by ordering that Holwell and the European survivors should at once quit Calcutta under pain of having their noses and ears cut off.
CLIVE AT CALCUTTA.
On news of the disaster reaching Madras Clive was directed to hasten with all available troops to Bengal, accompanied by the English fleet under Admiral Watson. It was not until the end of the year that the ships sailed up the Hugh’ and landed Clive and his troops at Maiapur. After a weary march of fifteen hours over swampy land the force arrived late at night within one mile and a half of the fort of Baj-baj, twelve miles from Calcutta, where, weary and tired, they lay down to rest in the bed of a dried-up lake, intending to attack the fort in the morning. They were here surrounded by the enemy, who, as soon as all were sleeping in the camp, opened fire and seized the guns, which had been left unpro- tected and unguarded. Clive had again, with careless indifference, marched straight into the midst of the enemy, but again his presence of mind saved him. Advancing his soldiers the guns were recovered, the foe driven off with heavy slaughter, and in his own words, ” the skirmish in all lasted about half an hour, in which time … 9 private men were killed and 8 wounded.” In the meantime the guns from Admiral Watson’s fleet breached the fort, and a body of sailors landed to co-operate with Clive. One of the sailors, named Strahan, being intoxicated, lost his way, and stumbled about until he reached the fort, which he entered through one of the breaches. Finding him- self alone in the midst of the garrison he fired his pistol, and cut right and left with his cutlass, crying lustily that he had captured the fort. The sepoys, deeming they had been surprised, seized their arms, fired random shots in all directions, and then fled. The English troops, hearing the strange commotion, came to the rescue and took possession of the fort. So the night of strange accidents closed, and, on Strahan being ordered up for punishment in the morning, he indignantly swore that if he was flogged, he would never again so long as he lived, take another fort by himself.
The fort at Hugh’ was captured by Captain Eyre Coote with a loss of two Europeans and ten sepoys, after which the avenging force raided the surrounding country, returning to Calcutta with a booty of some ;£ 1 50,000.
Siraj-ud-Daulah, raging at the insult offered to his power, at once collected together troops to the number of 40,000, and marched again towards Calcutta, his course being marked by the smoke and flames from the villages his followers burned and plundered. Clive collected together all his troops — 650 European soldiers, 600 sailors from Watson’s fleet, 14 field- pieces, with 1 50 European artillery, and 800 sepoys — and started on February 4th, at three o’clock in the morning to drive Siraj-ud-Daulah’s immense army from before Calcutta. In a dense fog he marched on, his troops pausing now and then to fire, they knew not where, to their right and left. A rocket from the enemy’s outposts exploded the ammunition in the cartouche-box of one of Clive’s sepoys, and was followed by explosions from the ammunition of other sepoys close by. Still they pressed on, the guns in the rear mowing down their own troops in front, none recognising friend or foe in the dense mist. The cavalry of Siraj-ud-Daulah, riding close up to Clive’s troops, broke back when met by a volley fired at random in the direction of the charging horses. In the early morning, on the fog rising, Clive retired and reached Calcutta towards noon, having lost two field-pieces, twenty Europeans, and one hundred sepoys in his daring assault.
The enemy was thoroughly cowed. Siraj-ud-Daulah withdrew his troops and sued for peace, for not only did he fear the next move of Clive, but from the north came the dreaded news that the Afghans, under Ahmad Shah Durani, had invaded the land and captured the imperial city of Delhi.
Clive was nothing loth to enter into a truce. War had been declared between Great Britain and France, and he was anxious to obtain the aid and consent of Siraj-ud-Daulah to an attack on the French settlement at Chandranagar. A treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, against all common foes, was accordingly entered into. Siraj-ud-Daulah agreed to give up all the factories and property he had taken. The Company was granted permission to fortify Calcutta, to coin money at their own mint, and to carry their merchandise through native territory without payment of tolls.
Admiral Watson was, however, not to be thus trifled with. He at once demanded that Siraj-ud- With or without the consent or aid of the Viceroy it was at length decided that Chandranagar should be attacked before Bussy could come to the rescue.
At Chandranagar the French had but a feeble garrison of 146 Europeans and 300 sepoys, supplemented by 300 civilians and sailors hastily armed. Against these Admiral Watson brought up his fleet — The Kent, of 64 guns ; The Tiger, of 60 guns ; and The Salisbury, of 50 guns — while Clive advanced by land with 700 Europeans, 1,500 sepoys and artillery. Defence was not long possible ; treachery showed Watson a safe passage for his ships, the bastions were swept of their defenders, 100 of the garrison were slain, and on the 23rd of March, 1757, the fort surrendered.
This success of the English so roused the fear and anger of Siraj-ud-Daulah, that he wrote to Bussy, praying him to march from the Deccan to his aid. The letters fell into the hands of Clive, who summed up the situation by declaring ” the Nawab is a villain and cannot be trusted ; he must be overset or we must fall.”
Mir Jafar, the Commander of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s force, was bribed with the promise of being made Viceroy if he could succeed in bringing over his troops to the side of the English and aid in deposing Siraj-ud-Daulah.
The contemplated treachery of Mir Jafar was known to many, but the secret was well kept, Amin- chand, a wealthy Hindu banker, being the chief agent in carrying out the negotiations. At the last moment Clive found his carefully laid plans likely to fail, for Aminchand suddenly declared that he would reveal the plot to Siraj-ud-Daulah unless he received a promise that his share of the spoil should be 5 per cent, on all the treasures at Murshidabad, or a sum of 30 lakhs of rupees, more than .£300,000. Clive bought the silence of Aminchand, promising to give him all he desired, and to sign a deed to that effect. To Watts, Resident at the Viceroy’s Court, and chief agent in the revolution, Clive wrote : ”Omichund is the greatest villain upon earth . . . to counter-plot the scoundrel and at the same time to give him no room to suspect our intentions enclosed you will receive two forms of agreement, the one real to be strictly kept by us, the other fictitious.” The real treaty, signed by all the allies, was on white paper, the fictitious treaty was on red paper, similarly signed, with the exception of the signature of Admiral Watson, which was forged when he bluntly refused to have anything to do with the intrigue. Clive, when afterwards asked before the House of Commons to defend his action, haughtily replied that he thought ” it warrant able in such a case, and would do it again one hundred times.” The announcement of the forgery was, after the battle, made in the following words : ” Omichund, the red paper is a trick ; you are to have nothing.”
In after years, when the Duke of Wellington traced out on the field of Plassey the lines on which was fought the first great battle, establishing the supremacy of the English in India, his admiration for the genius of Clive must have been mingled with feelings of sorrow that the fame of the great General would ever be tarnished by that one act of calculated deceit.
At Plassey Clive stood with nine small guns and a band of 3,000 men, of whom 2,100 were native troops, surrounded by 35,000 infantry, 15,000 cavalry of fierce and warlike Pathans, 53 pieces of artillery, and a body of Frenchmen forty to fifty in number. Clive paused long before venturing to attack, for he knew that if Mir Jafar again turned traitor and joined his forces to those of the Viceroy none among the British troops would escape to tell the tale.
The danger of the situation is seen from the fact that Clive for the first time called together a council of his officers, to whom he proposed the question, ” Whether, in our present position, without assistance, and on our own bottom, it would be prudent to attack, or whether we should wait till joined by some native power ? ”
Clive ‘s own name heads the list of those who voted for no further advance, Eyre Coote’s name heads the list of those who voted for immediate attack. When the Council broke up Clive wandered apart by him- self, and after some hours spent in solitary meditation beneath the shade of the trees by the river bank he returned to tell his officers to prepare their men to cross the river on the following morning, for he had determined to risk all in one great effort to establish the supremacy of the English in India
On the 23 rd of June, 1757, as the first rays of the hot morning sun blazed across the wide field of Plassey, Clive ascended to the roof of a small hunting hut in which he had lain without sleep during the night. To his right were the troops of the wavering traitor, Mir Jafar, now biding his time to cast in his lot with the side likely to win. Should Clive be defeated, Mir Jafar’s cavalry were ready to sweep down on his rear and pillage his baggage ; should the hosts of Siraj- ud-Daulah fall back, the troops of his trusted Com- mander-in-Chief would range themselves beside those of Clive. From where stood the camp of Mir Jafar, 38,000 of the enemy, with the French and their guns in the centre, stretched in a semicircle round the soldiers of Clive, still sleepmg quietly in a large mango grove guarded by a ditch and strong mud banks. As Clive watched the scene in front of him the first shot from the French guns woke the English and laid low two of their number. Soon the heavy artillery of the enemy was in full play, answered back by Clive’s six light guns. Eagerly the serried masses of Siraj-ud-Daulah pressed forward to drive the handful of English into the deep Bhagi’rathi, but Clive’s soldiers lay safe behind the shelter of the mud banks, and the shells and shot sang harmlessly over- head amid the branches of the mango-trees. By noon the rain came down in torrents, and the enemy’s ammunition, soaked through and through, was ren- dered useless, so that their fire gradually slackened, while Clive’s guns and ammunition had been covered up and kept dry.
Mir Madan, chief of the native cavalry, loved and trusted by Siraj-ud-Daulah, determined in one brave effort to silence the English gunners, but as he charged at the head of his cavalry he fell dead before the flying grape-shot With frantic haste Siraj-ud- Daulah gave orders for the troops to fall back. He called Mir Jafar to his side, told him of his loss, and casting his turban at the traitor’s feet, prayed him to fight against the foreign foe. Mir Jafar, vow- ing that he would bring up his troops and defend his chief, hastened away to send word to Clive to advance and win the day. The English charged from their entrenchments, taking care to fire now and then on the treacherous troops of Mir Jafar to make them keep their distance. By five o’clock the whole army of Siraj-ud-Daulah was in full retreat, the brave band of Frenchmen in the centre standing firm until Clive drove them from their position and captured their guns. The Viceroy fled, leaving behind his wealth, baggage, cattle, elephants, and artillery, and five hundred of his troops dead and wounded on the field.
After the battle of Plassey, in which the English lost seven Europeans and sixteen sepoys, Mir Jafar presented himself to receive the reward of his treachery. As the English soldiers presented arms he started back in alarm at the rattle of the muskets, but his coward heart took courage when Clive advanced and saluted him as Viceroy of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa.
At Murshidabad, the capital of the Viceroy, the rich merchants and bankers came forward and bowed down in lowly supplication before their conquerors, praying that their city might be spared the horrors of rapine and plunder. To the right and left of Clive was stored up the long-accumulated wealth of the richest provinces of India. In the treasure-house of Siraj-ud-Daulah gold and silver were heaped high. The custodians came forward and crowned Clive’s head with jewels. In after years, when he was charged before the House of Commons with over-greed, he boldly exclaimed, ” By God, Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation ! ”
For the Company he claimed the right to hold all the lands south of Calcutta, 882 square miles, on payment of the usual rent. He claimed a sum of 10,000,000 rupees as compensation for previous losses and for the expenses of the campaign. For those who had suffered during the capture of Calcutta by Siraj-ud-Daulah he claimed 8,000,000 rupees. For the army 2,500,000 rupees, for the navy 2,500,000 rupees, and other large sums for the Governor and Select Committee at Calcutta. For himself he demanded besides 280,000 rupees as Member of the Committee, 200,000 rupees as Commander-in-Chief, and 1,600,000 rupees as a private donation — in all, 2,080,000 rupees. Be it remembered that at the time when these awards were made the rupee was worth two shillings and sixpence.
Mir Jafar, wh’o had put Siraj-ud-Daulah cruelly to death, was left to raise these sums from his subjects as best he could. The result was a rebellion, to quell which Clive was called on for aid, and in return received further rights for the Company. It was not long before the new Viceroy had again to plead for the assistance of the Company’s troops in repelling a threatened invasion of his dominions by the son of the Emperor of Delhi and the Nawab Wazi’r of Oudh. In return Clive was granted a right to retain in his own hands the rent of the lands south of Calcutta which, according to the agreement after Plassey, had been annually paid by the English to the Viceroy. By this agreement Clive virtually became landlord to the East India Company. The amount, some ^30,000 yearly, was paid to him from 1765 until his death in 1774, when the right to collect and keep the rent passed to the Company.
DUTCH AND FRENCH.
The supremacy of the Company firmly established in Bengal, the richest province in India, needed but to be maintained and supported by the care- ful husbanding of the resources and revenues of the newly-acquired lands, so that it might finally grow powerful enough to triumph over all rivals. The Dutch still had their settlement at Chinsurah, twenty miles above Calcutta, and in the Deccan the French under Bussy supported the Nizam, or Viceroy, Salabat Jang, the revenues of the ” Northern Circars,” or districts of Ganjam, Vizagapatam, Godavari, and Kistna, some seventeen thousand square miles in extent, having been assigned to them for the main- tenance of their troops.
On Bussy being summoned south for the purpose of joining in a French attack on Madras, Clive entered into an alliance with the local Raja of Vizianagram, and sent a force under Colonel Forde, to the Northern Circars. Masulipatam fell, position after position was speedily captured, and the French driven out of the Northern Circars and deprived of their main source of revenue.
The Dutch at Chinsurah, finding Give’s forces weakened by the absence of Forde and his troops, demanded that their ships should be allowed to pass Calcutta without being searched and placed under the charge of an English pilot as was the custom, and that the trade in saltpetre, then kept exclusively in the hands of the English Company, should be thrown open. Receiving no satisfactory reply to their demands, the Dutch openly declared war by capturing some English ships in the river. Clive at once collected together a body of armed volunteers, hastily recalled Forde from the Northern Circars, while Admiral Cornish, with three men-of-war, sailed up the river, and destroyed six of the Dutch ships, the last of the squadron being captured at the mouth of the river. As soon as Colonel Forde reached Calcutta he marched out with 320 Europeans, 800 sepoys, and 50 European volunteers. At Biderra, near Chinsurah, he found himself opposed by a Dutch force of 700 Europeans and 800 Malays. Seeing the force assembled against him he wrote to Clive for advice. Clive, who was playing whist, sent back a hurried message in pencil, ” Dear Forde, fight them immediately, I will send you the order in Council to- morrow.” Forde fought on November 25, 1759, only 50 Dutch and 250 Malays escaped, and the struggle by the Dutch for supremacy in India was ended.
The French were now alone left to struggle for a short time longer against the growing power of the English,
CLIVE LEAVES BENGAL.
Through all these contests Clive had the sea-power of England to support him. With unerring insight he had turned from the south, where no advance into the heart of India was possible, and firmly established the British power in the rich, alluvial tracts of Bengal amid a tame and law-abiding populace, where the Company might in peace consolidate its strength, make surer its foothold, and slowly, at its own chosen time, advance further and further, each step being secured before the next was attempted, until finally their power had crept all over the land, up the Ganges to Benares, further on to the Himalayas, gaining wealth, power, and strength, to raise armies to subdue the south and west, plant the British standard by the Indus, sweep in the garnered wealth of Oudh, and then hand over the dominions and trade its servants had won and fostered to the safe-keeping of the Queen-Empress.
On the 25th of February, 1760, at the age of thirty- five, Give sailed for England, where he received from George III. an Irish Peerage as Lord Give, Baron Plassey, as a reward for the services he had rendered to his country, for, in the words of Earl Stanhope, ” Whatever gratitude Spain owes to her Cortes, or Portugal to her Albuquerque, this — and in its results more than this — is due from England to Give. Had he never been born, I do not believe that we should — at least in that generation — have conquered Hindoo - stan ; had he lived longer, I doubt if we should — at least in that generation — have lost North America.”
Give remained in England, and the Government of Bengal passed into the hands of Mr. Vansittart. The French were still fighting in the south. The sums Mir Jafar had agreed to pay after the battle of Plassey had not been fully paid, and the money was wanted. English writers on £5 a year, factors on £15 a year, junior and senior merchants on .£30 and £\o a year, a president on ^300 a year, his coun- sellors on from .£40 to .£100, were engaged in trade, all determined, more or less, to make a speedy fortune and return to England, while the army was growing, and the pay of the soldiers in arrears. Some method to meet the growing expenses had to be found. Accordingly Mr. Vansittart wrote to the Court of Proprietors that in consequence of ” the general confusion and disaffection of the country, and the very low state of the Company’s treasury, one or other of these resolutions was immediately necessary — either to drop our connexions with the country Government and withdraw our assistance : or to insist on more ample as well as more certain provision for the support of the Company’s expense.”
The Viceroy was old, said to be debauched and indolent, while his son-in-law, Mir Muhammed Kasim bid high for the post. In the dead of night, Mir Jafar was removed and Mir Kasim installed on condition that he should pay the arrears due to the Company, grant the revenues of Bardwan, Midnapur, and Chittagong, and 50 lakhs of rupees towards the expenses of the war in the south. The Governor, Mr. Vansittart, was to receive .£30,000, Mr. Holwell, £27,000, others sums of £25,000, £20,000, and £13,000. The revenues of the whole of Bengal were now in the hands of the servants of the Company. Having the right of free passage, without payment of tax or toll, for the inland produce, in which they traded, they commenced for a consideration to smuggle the goods of native traders ; they even forced the villagers to buy and sell at prices fixed by themselves.
The new Viceroy daily became more alarmed Unable to obtain redress, and unwilling to allow the power to pass from his hands without a struggle, he commenced to prepare for war, now inevitable, by
organising his troops under two soldiers of fortune, Reinhardt an Alsatian, and Markar an Armenian. When two ships from Calcutta appeared at Mungi’r carrying arms for the English troops at Patna, he detained the ships and placed the officers in charge under guard. Mr. Ellis, the English Governor, re- torted by seizing the city. The Viceroy’s troops under Reinhardt and Markar came to the rescue. Ellis and his followers were hemmed in, cap- tured and placed in imprisonment. War was at once proclaimed. Mir Kasim’s forces were defeated by Major John Adams at Katwa and Gheria, forty thousand of them being driven back with fearful slaughter from the fortress at the gorge of Undwa Nala. Mir Kasim, incensed at the success of the Company, gave orders that Mr. Ellis and the prisoners should be instantly executed. On the 5th of October, 1763, Walter Reinhardt, sur- named Sambre by his companions, and Samru by the natives, forced two companies of his sepoys to carry out the order, and Ellis, with two hundred unarmed men, women, and children, were foully massacred. Patna was soon afterwards cap- tured by Major Adams ; but Mir Kasim escaping, under the escort of Samru, sought protection in Allahabad with Shuja-ud-Daula, Nawab Wazir of Oudh, where the Emperor, Shah Alam, driven from Delhi by the Afghans, had also taken refuge. Between the three, an alliance offensive and de- fensive against the English was entered into, and with fifty thousand followers they advanced to Baksar near Patna. From here Mir Kasim was driven forth by his allies, weary of his cowardice and inability to raise the funds he had promised towards the expenses of the war. He died soon afterwards in abject poverty.
Hector Munro, having with prompt and unrelent- ing severity quelled the first Sepoy Mutiny in India by blowing from the guns twenty-four of his mutinous troops, advanced against the allied forces whom he defeated with terrible slaughter in the decisive battle of Baksar on the 23rd of October, 1764.
Benares immediately surrendered, and Allahabad capitulated to Sir Robert Fletcher, leaving the Nawab Wazir of Oudh, deserted by Samru, no alternative but to sue for peace on terms to be dictated by the English. The result of this decisive victory, second only to Plassey,was fully recognised by Clive, who wrote to Pitt, in 1766, “It is scarcely hyperbole to say, to- morrow the whole Mogul Empire is in our power.” Mir Jafar, again installed as viceroy, died soon after- wards, and left a legacy of 5 lakhs of rupees to Clive, who handed the amount over to the treasury at Calcutta to form a fund for the relief of officers and soldiers invalided or disabled during service, as well as for widows of officers and soldiers dying on service — a fund known for over a century as ” Lord Clive’s Fund,” which reverted to the heirs of Clive when India was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown.
CLIVE RESTORES ORDER.
On the death of the Viceroy, Mr. Vansittart and his Council, in direct contravention of a recent order from the Court of Directors prohibiting their servants from receiving any presents, installed the illegitimate son of Mir Kasim on receiving a sum of 10 lakhs of rupees to be divided among them as they should elect.
The Court of Directors in London was now thoroughly alarmed at these arbitrary proceedings of the Calcutta Council, as well as at the rapacity and private trade of their servants which threatened financial ruin to the Company’s own affairsThis determination was conveyed to the Council at Bengal in the following words : — ” The General Court of Proprietors having, on account of the critical situation of the Company’s affairs in Bengal, requested Lord Clive to take upon him the station of President, and the Command of the Company’s Military forces there, his Lordship has been appointed President and Governor accordingly.”
Clive landed at Calcutta on the 3rd of May, 1765, having full power to act with a Select Committee of four members independent of the Bengal Council. When one member of the old Council, Mr. Johnstone, ventured to ask some questions respecting the new power of the committee, Clive, as he himself writes, haughtily asked him ” if he would dare to dispute our authority ? Mr. Johnstone replied, that he never had the least intention of doing such a thing ; upon which there was an appearance of very long and pale countenances, and not one of the Council uttered another syllable.”
Within two days of Clive’s arrival every act of the Council, especially their indecent haste in installing a new Viceroy, and their reception of presents, had been censured by Clive, who sums up his judgment on their procedure by writing, “Alas! how is the English name sunk ! I could not avoid paying the tribute of a few tears to the departed and lost fame of the British Nation (irrecoverably so, I fear).”
Clive landed on Tuesday ; the following Monday the Select Committee directed that a covenant not to take bribes or presents for the future should be signed by all Members of Council, and by all the Company’s servants, who, as Clive writes, ” after many idle and evasive arguments, and being given to understand that they must either sign or be suspended the service, executed the covenants upon the spot.” Soon after Clive was able to write respecting the future of the Company’s affairs in India, and his words are as applicable to-day as they were then : ” I am persuaded that nothing can prove fatal, but a renewal of licentiousness among your servants here, or intestine divisions among yourselves at home.”
How far the general corruption and laxity had spread during his absence may be judged from one of his letters home, in which he declares, ” I fear the Military as well as Civil are so far gone in luxury and debauchery, that it will require the utmost exertion of our united Committee to save the Company from destruction.”
Noteworthy are his words as he viewed with alarm the position which he was sent out to face : ” If ideas of conquest were to be the rule of our conduct, I foresee that we should by necessity be led from acquisition to acquisition until we had the whole Empire up in arms against us.” He dwells carefully on the great danger that may arise if once the natives throw off their ” natural indolence,” combined to carry on a ” war against us in a much more soldierly manner than they ever thought of.”
Having placed the internal affairs of the Company on a firm basis, Clive proceeded to conclude peace with the Nawab Wazi’r of Oudh, for, at that period, he conceived it essential, as he wrote, ” to conciliate the affections of the country powers, to remove any jealousy they may entertain of our unbounded ambition, and to convince them that we aim not at conquest and dominion, but security in carrying on a free trade.”
The territories of the Nawab Wazi’r of Oudh were restored on his paying half a million sterling for the expenses of the war. Allahabad and Kora, yielding a revenue of 2,800,000 rupees yearly, were retained and given to the Emperor Shah Alam in exchange for the perpetual right, or Diwanship, over the entire revenues of Bengal, Behar, Orissa, and the Northern Circars, the Emperor receiving in exchange an annual tribute of ^260,000, and the new Viceroy an annual allowance of £600,000 wherewith to pay his dancing girls. The collection of the revenues in these districts was left in the hands of the native agents, for, as the Directors wrote, they were aware ” how unfit an Englishman is to conduct the collection of revenues and to follow the subtle native thought, all his art is to conceal the real value of his country, to perplex and elude the payment.” By this arrange- ment Bengal, Behar, and Orissa virtually became the property of the Company — a property likely, in the opinion of Clive, to yield a yearly revenue of two millions sterling. The acquisition, in fact, exceeded everything that could have been conceived by the wildest imagination of Dupleix and in the words of Clive, ” To go further is, in my opinion, a scheme so extravagantly ambitious, that no Governor and Council in their senses can accept it unless the whole system of the Company’s interests be first entirely new remodelled.”
As a barrier between the limits of the Company’s territories and the north of India, the puppet sovereign of Oudh was left in power, while the Emperor held the strong fortress of Allahabad, to keep in check all Maratha and Pathan invaders. Nothing remained for the Company but to consolidate their position, secure themselves in their own pos- sessions, conciliate the natives, train, discipline, and augment their army, hoard their resources, and be prepared for what the future might bring forth.
In order to carry out the policy of the Directors, Clive reorganised the entire system of the inland trade.
Clive remained in India one year and a half, during which time, in the words of Macaulay, he ” effected one of the most extensive, difficult and salutary reforms that ever was accomplished by any statesman.”
His health breaking down he determined to return home, notwithstanding that the Directors urged him to remain, for as they wrote : ” The general voice of the Proprietors, indeed, we may say, of every man, will be to join in our request, that your Lordship will continue another year in India,” their opinion being : ” Your own example has been the principal means of restraining the general rapaciousness and corrup- tion which had brought our affairs so near the brink of ruin.”
Clive, however, could not be induced to remain. He left India finally on the 29th of January, 1767.
By 1773 the Company were virtually bankrupt. An application to the Government for a loan of ;£ 1,000,000 to enable them to carry on their business led to an inquiry into the whole affairs of the Com- pany, and an impeachment of Give’s administration, particularly his dealings with Siraj-ud-Daula and Mir Jafar.
As a result it was ruled by the Commons that all the acquisitions made by military force in India, or acquired by treaty with foreign powers, did by right belong to the State, while, with regard to Clive, contenting themselves with passing a resolution that ” Robert, Lord Clive, did render great and meritorious services to his country ” — a resolution which did little to soothe the worn-out spirit of the victor of Plassey, who died by his own hand, after great physical suffering, at his house in Berkeley Square in 1774.