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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 1 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 12 out of 16

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shot, he said, because silence and tranquillity were propitious
to his genius, and he found it difficult to pursue his
meditations amidst the noise of fire-arms. He was thus under the
necessity of intrusting to others the execution of his great
warlike designs; and he bitterly complained that he was ill
served. He had indeed been assisted by one officer of eminent
merit, the celebrated Bussy. But Bussy had marched northward with
the Nizam, and was fully employed in looking after his own
interests, and those of France, at the court of that prince.
Among the officers who remained with Dupleix, there was not a
single man of capacity; and many of them were boys, at whose
ignorance and folly the common soldiers laughed.

The English triumphed everywhere. The besiegers of Trichinopoly
were themselves besieged and compelled to capitulate. Chunda
Sahib fell into the hands of the Mahrattas, and was put to death,
at the instigation probably of his competitor, Mahommed Ali. The
spirit of Dupleix, however, was unconquerable, and his resources
inexhaustible. From his employers in Europe he no longer received
help or countenance. They condemned his policy. They gave him no
pecuniary assistance. They sent him for troops only the sweepings
of the galleys. Yet still he persisted, intrigued, bribed,
promised, lavished his private fortune, strained his credit,
procured new diplomas from Delhi, raised up new enemies to the
government of Madras on every side, and found tools even among
the allies of the English Company. But all was in vain. Slowly,
but steadily, the power of Britain continued to increase, and
that of France to decline.

The health of Clive had never been good during his residence in
India; and his constitution was now so much impaired that he
determined to return to England. Before his departure he
undertook a service of considerable difficulty, and performed it
with his usual vigour and dexterity. The forts of Covelong and
Chingleput were occupied by French garrisons. It was determined
to send a force against them. But the only force available for
this purpose was of such a description that no officer but Clive
would risk his reputation by commanding it. It consisted of five
hundred newly levied sepoys and two hundred recruits who had just
landed from England, and who were the worst and lowest wretches
that the Company's crimps could pick up in the flash-houses of
London. Clive, ill and exhausted as he was, undertook to make an
army of this undisciplined rabble, and marched with them to
Covelong. A shot from the fort killed one of these extraordinary
soldiers; on which all the rest faced about and ran away, and it
was with the greatest difficulty that Clive rallied them. On
another occasion, the noise of a gun terrified the sentinels so
much that one of them was found, some hours later, at the bottom
of a well. Clive gradually accustomed them to danger, and, by
exposing himself constantly in the most perilous situations,
shamed them into courage. He at length succeeded in forming a
respectable force out of his unpromising materials. Covelong
fell. Clive learned that a strong detachment was marching to
relieve it from Chingleput. He took measures to prevent the enemy
from learning that they were too late, laid an ambuscade for them
on the road, killed a hundred of them with one fire, took three
hundred prisoners, pursued the fugitives to the gates of
Chingleput, laid siege instantly to that fastness, reputed one of
the strongest in India, made a breach, and was on the point of
storming, when the French commandant capitulated and retired with
his men.

Clive returned to Madras victorious, but in a state of health
which rendered it impossible for him to remain there long. He
married at this time a young lady of the name of Maskelyne,
sister of the eminent mathematician, who long held the post of
Astronomer Royal. She is described as handsome and accomplished;
and her husband's letters, it is said, contain proofs that he was
devotedly attached to her.

Almost immediately after the marriage, Clive embarked with his
bride for England. He returned a very different person from the
poor slighted boy who had been sent out ten years before to seek
his fortune. He was only twenty-seven; yet his country already
respected him as one of her first soldiers. There was then
general peace in Europe. The Carnatic was the only part of the
world where the English and French were in arms against each
other. The vast schemes of Dupleix had excited no small
uneasiness in the city of London; and the rapid turn of fortune,
which was chiefly owing to the courage and talents of Clive, had
been hailed with great delight. The young captain was known at
the India House by the honourable nickname of General Clive, and
was toasted by that appellation at the feasts of the Directors.
On his arrival in England, he found himself an object of general
interest and admiration. The East India Company thanked him for
his services in the warmest terms, and bestowed on him a sword
set with diamonds. With rare delicacy, he refused to receive this
token of gratitude, unless a similar compliment were paid to his
friend and commander, Lawrence.

It may easily be supposed that Clive was most cordially welcomed
home by his family, who were delighted by his success, though
they seem to have been hardly able to comprehend how their
naughty idle Bobby had become so great a man. His father had been
singularly hard of belief. Not until the news of the defence of
Arcot arrived in England was the old gentleman heard to growl out
that, after all, the booby had something in him. His expressions
of approbation became stronger and stronger as news arrived of
one brilliant exploit after another; and he was at length
immoderately fond and proud of his son.

Clive's relations had very substantial reasons for rejoicing at
his return. Considerable sums of prize money had fallen to his
share; and he had brought home a moderate fortune, part of which
he expended in extricating his father from pecuniary
difficulties, and in redeeming the family estate. The remainder
he appears to have dissipated in the course of about two years.
He lived splendidly, dressed gaily even for those times, kept a
carriage and saddle-horses, and, not content with these ways of
getting rid of his money, resorted to the most speedy and
effectual of all modes of evacuation, a contested election
followed by a petition.

At the time of the general election of 1754, the Government was
in a very singular state. There was scarcely any formal
opposition. The Jacobites had been cowed by the issue of the last
rebellion. The Tory party had fallen into utter contempt. It had
been deserted by all the men of talents who had belonged to it,
and had scarcely given a symptom of life during some years. The
small faction which had been held together by the influence and
promises of Prince Frederic, had been dispersed by his death.
Almost every public man of distinguished talents in the kingdom,
whatever his early connections might have been, was in office,
and called himself a Whig. But this extraordinary appearance of
concord was quite delusive. The administration itself was
distracted by bitter enmities and conflicting pretensions. The
chief object of its members was to depress and supplant each
other. The Prime Minister, Newcastle, weak, timid, jealous, and
perfidious, was at once detested and despised by some of the most
important members of his Government, and by none more than by
Henry Fox, the Secretary-at-War. This able, daring, and ambitious
man seized every opportunity of crossing the First Lord of the
Treasury, from whom he well knew that he had little to dread and
little to hope; for Newcastle was through life equally afraid of
breaking with men of parts and of promoting them.

Newcastle had set his heart on returning two members for St.
Michael, one of those wretched Cornish boroughs which were swept
away by the Reform Act of 1832. He was opposed by Lord Sandwich,
whose influence had long been paramount there: and Fox exerted
himself strenuously in Sandwich's behalf. Clive, who had been
introduced to Fox, and very kindly received by him, was brought
forward on the Sandwich interest, and was returned. But a
petition was presented against the return, and was backed by the
whole influence of the Duke of Newcastle.

The case was heard, according to the usage of that time, before a
committee of the whole House. Questions respecting elections were
then considered merely as party questions. Judicial impartiality
was not even affected. Sir Robert Walpole was in the habit of
saying openly that, in election battles, there ought to be no
quarter. On the present occasion the excitement was great. The
matter really at issue was, not whether Clive had been properly
or improperly returned, but whether Newcastle or Fox was to be
master of the new House of Commons, and consequently first
minister. The contest was long and obstinate, and success seemed
to lean sometimes to one side and sometimes to the other. Fox put
forth all his rare powers of debate, beat half the lawyers in the
House at their own weapons, and carried division after division
against the whole influence of the Treasury. The committee
decided in Clive's favour. But when the resolution was reported
to the House, things took a different course. The remnant of the
Tory Opposition, contemptible as it was, had yet sufficient
weight to turn the scale between the nicely balanced parties of
Newcastle and Fox. Newcastle the Tories could only despise. Fox
they hated, as the boldest and most subtle politician and the
ablest debater among the Whigs, as the steady friend of Walpole,
as the devoted adherent of the Duke of Cumberland. After wavering
till the last moment, they determined to vote in a body with the
Prime Minister's friends. The consequence was that the House, by
a small majority, rescinded the decision of the committee, and
Clive was unseated.

Ejected from Parliament, and straitened in his means, he
naturally began to look again towards India. The Company and the
Government were eager to avail themselves of his services. A
treaty favourable to England had indeed been concluded in the
Carnatic. Dupleix had been superseded, and had returned with the
wreck of his immense fortune to Europe, where calumny and
chicanery soon hunted him to his grave. But many signs indicated
that a war between France and Great Britain was at hand; and it
was therefore thought desirable to send an able commander to the
Company's settlements in India. The Directors appointed Clive
governor of Fort St. David. The King gave him the commission of a
lieutenant-colonel in the British army, and in 1755 he again
sailed for Asia.

The first service on which he was employed after his return to
the East was the reduction of the stronghold of Gheriah. This
fortress, built on a craggy promontory, and almost surrounded by
the ocean, was the den of a pirate named Angria, whose barks had
long been the terror of the Arabian Gulf. Admiral Watson, who
commanded the English squadron in the Eastern seas, burned
Angria's fleet, while Clive attacked the fastness by land. The
place soon fell, and a booty of a hundred and fifty thousand
pounds sterling was divided among the conquerors.

After this exploit, Clive proceeded to his government of Fort St.
David. Before he had been there two months, he received
intelligence which called forth all the energy of his bold and
active mind.

Of the provinces which had been subject to the house of
Tamerlane, the wealthiest was Bengal. No part of India possessed
such natural advantages both for agriculture and for commerce.
The Ganges, rushing through a hundred channels to the sea, has
formed a vast plain of rich mould which, even under the tropical
sky, rivals the verdure of an English April. The rice-fields
yield an increase such as is elsewhere unknown. Spices, sugar,
vegetable oils, are produced with marvellous exuberance. The
rivers afford an inexhaustible supply of fish. The desolate
islands along the sea-coast, overgrown by noxious vegetation, and
swarming with deer and tigers, supply the cultivated districts
with abundance of salt. The great stream which fertilises the
soil is, at the same time, the chief highway of Eastern commerce.
On its banks, and on those of its tributary waters, are the
wealthiest marts, the most splendid capitals, and the most sacred
shrines of India. The tyranny of man had for ages struggled in
vain against the overflowing bounty of nature. In spite of the
Mussulman despot and of the Mahratta freebooter, Bengal was known
through the East as the garden of Eden, as the rich kingdom. Its
population multiplied exceedingly. Distant provinces were
nourished from the overflowing of its granaries - and the noble
ladies of London and Paris were clothed in the delicate produce
of its looms, The race by whom this rich tract was peopled,
enervated by a soft climate and accustomed to peaceful
employments, bore the same relation to other Asiatics which the
Asiatics generally bear to the bold and energetic children of
Europe. The Castilians have a proverb, that in Valencia the earth
is water and the men women; and the description is at least
equally applicable to the vast plain of the Lower Ganges.
Whatever the Bengalee does he does languidly. His favourite
pursuits are sedentary. He shrinks from bodily exertion; and,
though voluble in dispute, and singularly pertinacious in the war
of chicane, he seldom engages in a personal conflict, and
scarcely ever enlists as a soldier. We doubt whether there be a
hundred genuine Bengalees in the whole army of the East India
Company. There never, perhaps, existed a people so thoroughly
fitted by nature and by habit for a foreign yoke.

The great commercial companies of Europe had long possessed
factories in Bengal. The French were settled, as they still are,
at Chandernagore on the Hoogley. Higher up the stream the Dutch
held Chinsurah. Nearer to the sea, the English had built Fort
William. A church and ample warehouses rose in the vicinity. A
row of spacious houses, belonging to the chief factors of the
East India Company, lined the banks of the river; and in the
neighbourhood had sprung up a large and busy native town, where
some Hindoo merchants of great opulence had fixed their abode.
But the tract now covered by the palaces of Chowringhee contained
only a few miserable huts thatched with straw. A jungle,
abandoned to waterfowl and alligators, covered the site of the
present Citadel, and the Course, which is now daily crowded at
sunset with the gayest equipages of Calcutta. For the ground on
which the settlement stood, the English, like other great
landholders, paid rent to the Government; and they were, like
other great landholders, permitted to exercise a certain
jurisdiction within their domain.

The great province of Bengal, together with Orissa and Bahar, had
long been governed by a viceroy, whom the English called Aliverdy
Khan, and who, like the other viceroys of the Mogul, had become
virtually independent. He died in 1756, and the sovereignty
descended to his grandson, a youth under twenty years of age, who
bore the name of Surajah Dowlah. Oriental despots are perhaps the
worst class of human beings; and this unhappy boy was one of the
worst specimens of his class. His understanding was naturally
feeble, and his temper naturally unamiable. His education had
been such as would have enervated even a vigorous intellect, and
perverted even a generous disposition. He was unreasonable,
because nobody ever dared to reason with him, and selfish,
because he had never been made to feel himself dependent on the
goodwill of others. Early debauchery had unnerved his body and
his mind. He indulged immoderately in the use of ardent spirits,
which inflamed his weak brain almost to madness. His chosen
companions were flatterers sprung from the dregs of the people,
and recommended by nothing but buffoonery and, servility. It is
said that he had arrived at the last stage of human depravity,
when cruelty becomes pleasing for its own sake, when the sight of
pain as pain, where no advantage is to be gained, no offence
punished, no danger averted, is an agreeable excitement. It had
early been his amusement to torture beasts and birds; and, when
he grew up, he enjoyed with still keener relish the misery of his

From a child Surajah Dowlah had hated the English. It was his
whim to do so; and his whims were never opposed. He had also
formed a very exaggerated notion of the wealth which might be
obtained by plundering them; and his feeble and uncultivated mind
was incapable of perceiving that the riches of Calcutta, had they
been even greater than he imagined, would not compensate him for
what he must lose, if the European trade, of which Bengal was a
chief seat, should be driven by his violence to some other
quarter. Pretexts for a quarrel were readily found. The English,
in expectation of a war with France, had begun to fortify their
settlement without special permission from the Nabob. A rich
native, whom he longed to plunder, had taken refuge at Calcutta,
and had not been delivered up. On such grounds as these Surajah
Dowlah marched with a great army against Fort William.

The servants of the Company at Madras had been forced by Dupleix
to become statesmen and soldiers. Those in Bengal were still mere
traders, and were terrified and bewildered by the approaching
danger. The governor, who had heard much of Surajah Dowlah's
cruelty, was frightened out of his wits, jumped into a boat, and
took refuge in the nearest ship. The military commandant thought
that he could not do better than follow so good an example. The
fort was taken after a feeble resistance; and great numbers of
the English fell into the hands of the conquerors. The Nabob
seated himself with regal pomp in the principal hall of the
factory, and ordered Mr. Holwell, the first in rank among the
prisoners, to be brought before him. His Highness talked about
the insolence of the English, and grumbled at the smallness of
the treasure which he had found, but promised to spare their
lives, and retired to rest.

Then was committed that great crime, memorable for its singular
atrocity, memorable for the tremendous retribution by which it
was followed. The English captives were left to the mercy of the
guards, and the guards determined to secure them for the night in
the prison of the garrison, a chamber known by the fearful name
of the Black Hole. Even for a single European malefactor, that
dungeon would, in such a climate, have been too close and narrow.
The space was only twenty feet square. The air-holes were small
and obstructed. It was the summer solstice, the season when the
fierce heat of Bengal can scarcely be rendered tolerable to
natives of England by lofty halls and by the constant waving of
fans. The number of the prisoners was one hundred and forty-six.
When they were ordered to enter the cell, they imagined that the
soldiers were joking; and, being in high spirits on account of
the promise of the Nabob to spare their lives, they laughed and
jested at the absurdity of the notion. They soon discovered their
mistake. They expostulated ; they entreated; but in vain. The
guards threatened to cut down all who hesitated. The captives
were driven into the cell at the point of the sword, and the door
was instantly shut and locked upon them.

Nothing in history or fiction, not even the story which Ugolino
told in the sea of everlasting ice, after he had wiped his bloody
lips on the scalp of his murderer, approaches the horrors which
were recounted by the few survivors of that night. They cried for
mercy. They strove to burst the door. Holwell who, even in that
extremity, retained some presence of mind, offered large bribes
to the gaolers. But the answer was that nothing could be done
without the Nabob's orders, that the Nabob was asleep, and that
he would be angry if anybody woke him. Then the prisoners went
mad with despair. They trampled each other down, fought for the
places at the windows, fought for the pittance of water with
which the cruel mercy of the murderers mocked their agonies,
raved, prayed, blasphemed, implored the guards to fire among
them. The gaolers in the meantime held lights to the bars,
and shouted with laughter at the frantic struggles of their
victims. At length the tumult died away in low gaspings and
moanings. The day broke. The Nabob had slept off his debauch,
and permitted the door to be opened. But it was some time before
the soldiers could make a lane for the survivors, by piling up
on each side the heaps of corpses on which the burning climate
had already begun to do its loathsome work. When at length a
passage was made, twenty-three ghastly figures, such as their
own mothers would not have known, staggered one by one out of
the charnel-house. A pit was instantly dug. The dead bodies,
a hundred and twenty-three in number, were flung into it
promiscuously and covered up.

But these things--which, after the lapse of more than eighty
years, cannot be told or read without horror--awakened neither
remorse nor pity in the bosom of the savage Nabob. He inflicted
no punishment on the murderers. He showed no tenderness to the
survivors. Some of them, indeed, from whom nothing was to be got,
were suffered to depart; but those from whom it was thought that
anything could be extorted were treated with execrable cruelty.
Holwell, unable to walk, was carried before the tyrant, who
reproached him, threatened him, and sent him up the country in
irons, together with some other gentlemen who were suspected of
knowing more than they chose to tell about the treasures of the
Company. These persons, still bowed down by the sufferings of
that great agony, were lodged in miserable sheds, and fed only
with grain and water, till at length the intercessions of the
female relations of the Nabob procured their release. One
Englishwoman had survived that night. She was placed in the harem
of the Prince at Moorshedabad.

Surajah Dowlah, in the meantime, sent letters to his nominal
sovereign at Delhi, describing the late conquest in the most
pompous language. He placed a garrison in Fort William, forbade
Englishmen to dwell in the neighbourhood, and directed that, in
memory of his great actions, Calcutta should thenceforward be
called Alinagore, that is to say, the Port of God.

In August the news of the fall of Calcutta reached Madras, and
excited the fiercest and bitterest resentment. The cry of the
whole settlement was for vengeance. Within forty-eight hours
after the arrival of the intelligence it was determined that an
expedition should be sent to the Hoogley, and that Clive should
be at the head of the land forces. The naval armament was under
the command of Admiral Watson. Nine hundred English infantry,
fine troops and full of spirit, and fifteen hundred sepoys,
composed the army which sailed to punish a Prince who had more
subjects than Lewis the Fifteenth or the Empress Maria Theresa.
In October the expedition sailed; but it had to make its way
against adverse winds and did not reach Bengal till December.

The Nabob was revelling in fancied security at Moorshedabad. He
was so profoundly ignorant of the state of foreign countries that
he often used to say that there were not ten thousand men in all
Europe; and it had never occurred to him as possible that the
English would dare to invade his dominions. But, though
undisturbed by any fear of their military power, he began to miss
them greatly. His revenues fell off; and his ministers succeeded
in making him understand that a ruler may sometimes find it more
profitable to protect traders in the open enjoyment of their
gains than to put them to the torture for the purpose of
discovering hidden chests of gold and jewels. He was already
disposed to permit the Company to resume its mercantile
operations in his country, when he received the news that an
English armament was in the Hoogley. He instantly ordered all his
troops to assemble at Moorshedabad, and marched towards Calcutta.

Clive had commenced operations with his usual vigour. He took
Budgebudge, routed the garrison of Fort William, recovered
Calcutta, stormed and sacked Hoogley. The Nabob, already disposed
to make some concessions to the English, was confirmed in his
pacific disposition by these proofs of their power and spirit. He
accordingly made overtures to the chiefs of the invading
armament, and offered to restore the factory, and to give
compensation to those whom he had despoiled.

Clive's profession was war; and he felt that there was something
discreditable in an accommodation with Surajah Dowlah. But his
power was limited. A committee, chiefly composed of servants of
the Company who had fled from Calcutta, had the principal
direction of affairs; and these persons were eager to be restored
to their posts and compensated for their losses. The government
of Madras, apprised that war had commenced in Europe, and
apprehensive of an attack from the French, became impatient for
the return of the armament. The promises of the Nabob were large,
the chances of a contest doubtful; and Clive consented to treat,
though he expressed his regret that things should not be
concluded in so glorious a manner as he could have wished.

With this negotiation commences a new chapter in the life of
Clive. Hitherto he had been merely a soldier carrying into
effect, with eminent ability and valour, the plans of others.
Henceforth he is to be chiefly regarded as a statesman; and his
military movements are to be considered as subordinate to his
political designs. That in his new capacity he displayed great
ability, and obtained great success, is unquestionable. But it is
also unquestionable that the transactions in which he now began
to take a part have left a stain on his moral character.

We can by no means agree with Sir John Malcolm, who is
obstinately resolved to see nothing but honour and integrity in
the conduct of his hero. But we can as little agree with Mr.
Mill, who has gone so far as to say that Clive was a man "to whom
deception, when it suited his purpose, never cost a pang." Clive
seems to us to have been constitutionally the very opposite of a
knave, bold even to temerity, sincere even to indiscretion,
hearty in friendship, open in enmity. Neither in his private
life, nor in those parts of his public life in which he had to do
with his countrymen, do we find any signs of a propensity to
cunning. On the contrary, in all the disputes in which he was
engaged as an Englishman against Englishmen, from his boxing-
matches at school to those stormy altercations at the India House
and in Parliament amidst which his later years were passed, his
very faults were those of a high and magnanimous spirit. The
truth seems to have been that he considered Oriental politics as
a game in which nothing was unfair. He knew that the standard of
morality among the natives of India differed widely from that
established in England. He knew that he had to deal with men
destitute of what in Europe is called honour, with men who would
give any promise without hesitation, and break any promise
without shame, with men who would unscrupulously employ
corruption, perjury, forgery, to compass their ends. His letters
show that the great difference between Asiatic and European
morality was constantly in his thoughts. He seems to have
imagined, most erroneously in our opinion, that he could effect
nothing against such adversaries, if he was content to be bound
by ties from which they were free, if he went on telling truth,
and hearing none, if he fulfilled, to his own hurt, all his
engagements with confederates who never kept an engagement that
was not to their advantage. Accordingly this man, in the other
parts of his life an honourable English gentleman and a soldier,
was no sooner matched against an Indian intriguer, than he became
himself an Indian intriguer, and descended, without scruple, to
falsehood, to hypocritical caresses, to the substitution of
documents, and to the counterfeiting of hands.

The negotiations between the English and the Nabob were carried
on chiefly by two agents, Mr. Watts, a servant of the Company,
and a Bengalee of the name of Omichund. This Omichund had been
one of the wealthiest native merchants resident at Calcutta, and
had sustained great losses in consequence of the Nabob's
expedition against that place. In the course of his commercial
transactions, he had seen much of the English, and was peculiarly
qualified to serve as a medium of communication between them and
a native court. He possessed great influence with his own race,
and had in large measure the Hindoo talents, quick observation,
tact, dexterity, perseverance, and the Hindoo vices, servility,
greediness, and treachery.

The Nabob behaved with all the faithlessness of an Indian
statesman, and with all the levity of a boy whose mind had been
enfeebled by power and self-indulgence. He promised, retracted,
hesitated, evaded. At one time he advanced with his army in a
threatening manner towards Calcutta; but when he saw the resolute
front which the English presented, he fell back in alarm, and
consented to make peace with them on their own terms. The treaty
was no sooner concluded than he formed new designs against them.
He intrigued with the French authorities at Chandernagore. He
invited Bussy to march from the Deccan to the Hoogley, and to
drive the English out of Bengal. All this was well known to Clive
and Watson. They determined accordingly to strike a decisive
blow, and to attack Chandernagore, before the force there could
be strengthened by new arrivals, either from the south of India,
or from Europe. Watson directed the expedition by water, Clive by
land. The success of the combined movements was rapid and
complete. The fort, the garrison, the artillery, the military
stores, all fell into the hands of the English. Near five hundred
European troops were among the prisoners.

The Nabob had feared and hated the English, even while he was
still able to oppose to them their French rivals. The French were
now vanquished; and he began to regard the English with still
greater fear and still greater hatred. His weak and unprincipled
mind oscillated between servility and insolence. One day he sent
a large sum to Calcutta, as part of the compensation due for the
wrongs which he had committed, The next day he sent a present of
jewels to Bussy, exhorting that distinguished officer to hasten
to protect Bengal "against Clive, the daring in war, on whom,"
says his Highness, "may all bad fortune attend." He ordered his
army to march against the English. He countermanded his orders.
He tore Clive's letters. He then sent answers in the most florid
language of compliment. He ordered Watts out of his presence, and
threatened to impale him. He again sent for Watts, and begged
pardon for the insult. In the meantime, his wretched
maladministration, his folly, his dissolute manners, and his love
of the lowest company, had disgusted all classes of his subjects,
soldiers, traders, civil functionaries, the proud and
ostentatious Mahommedans, the timid, supple, and parsimonious
Hindoos. A formidable confederacy was formed against him, in
which were included Roydullub, the minister of finance, Meer
Jaffier, the principal commander of the troops, and Jugget Seit,
the richest banker in India. The plot was confided to the English
agents, and a communication was opened between the malcontents at
Moorshedabad and the committee at Calcutta.

In the committee there was much hesitation; but Clive's voice was
given in favour of the conspirators, and his vigour and firmness
bore down all opposition. It was determined that the English
should lend their powerful assistance to depose Surajah Dowlah,
and to place Meer Jaffier on the throne of Bengal. In return,
Meer Jaffier promised ample compensation to the Company and its
servants, and a liberal donative to the army, the navy, and the
committee. The odious vices of Surajah Dowlah, the wrongs which
the English had suffered at his hands, the dangers to which our
trade must have been exposed, had he continued to reign, appear to
us fully to justify the resolution of deposing him. But nothing
can justify the dissimulation which Clive stooped to practise. He
wrote to Surajah Dowlah in terms so affectionate that they for a
time lulled that weak prince into perfect security. The same
courier who carried this "soothing letter," as Clive calls it, to
the Nabob, carried to Mr. Watts a letter in the following terms:
"Tell Meer Jaffier to fear nothing. I will join him with five
thousand men who never turned their backs. Assure him I will
march nigh and day to his assistance, and stand by him as long as
I have a man left."

It was impossible that a plot which had so many ramifications
should long remain entirely concealed. Enough reached the ear of
the Nabob to arouse his suspicions. But he was soon quieted by
the fictions and artifices which the inventive genius of Omichund
produced with miraculous readiness. All was going well; the plot
was nearly ripe; when Clive learned that Omichund was likely to
play false. The artful Bengalee had been promised a liberal
compensation for all that he had lost at Calcutta. But this would
not satisfy him. His services had been great. He held the thread
of the whole intrigue. By one word breathed in the ear of Surajah
Dowlah, he could undo all that he had done. The lives of Watts,
of Meer Jaffier of all the conspirators, were at his mercy; and
he determined to take advantage of his situation and to make his
own terms. He demanded three hundred thousand pounds sterling as
the price of his secrecy and of his assistance. The committee,
incensed by the treachery and appalled by the danger, knew not
what course to take. But Clive was more than Omichund's match in
Omichund's own arts. The man, he said, was a villain. Any
artifice which would defeat such knavery was justifiable. The
best course would be to promise what was asked. Omichund would
soon be at their mercy; and then they might punish him by
withholding from him, not only the bribe which he now demanded,
but also the compensation which all the other sufferers of
Calcutta were to receive.

His advice was taken. But how was the wary and sagacious Hindoo
to be deceived? He had demanded that an article touching his
claims should be inserted in the treaty between Meer Jaffier and
the English, and he would not be satisfied unless he saw it with
his own eyes. Clive had an expedient ready. Two treaties were
drawn up, one on white paper, the other on red, the former real,
the latter fictitious. In the former Omichund's name was not
mentioned; the latter, which was to be shown to him, contained a
stipulation in his favour.

But another difficulty arose. Admiral Watson had scruples about
signing the red treaty. Omichund's vigilance and acuteness were
such that the absence of so important a name would probably
awaken his suspicions. But Clive was not a man to do anything by
halves. We almost blush to write it He forged Admiral Watson's

All was now ready for action. Mr. Watts fled secretly from
Moorshedabad. Clive put his troops in motion, and wrote to the
Nabob in a tone very different from that of his previous letters.
He set forth all the wrongs which the British had suffered,
offered to submit the points in dispute to the arbitration of
Meer Jaffier, and concluded by announcing that, as the rains were
about to set in, he and his men would do themselves the honour of
waiting on his Highness for an answer.

Surajah Dowlah instantly assembled his whole force, and marched
to encounter the English. It had been agreed that Meer Jaffier
should separate himself from the Nabob, and carry over his
division to Clive. But, as the decisive moment approached, the
fears of the conspirator overpowered his ambition. Clive had
advanced to Cossimbuzar; the Nabob lay with a mighty power a few
miles off at Plassey; and still Meer Jaffier delayed to fulfil
his engagements, and returned evasive answers to the earnest
remonstrances of the English general.

Clive was in a painfully anxious situation. He could place no
confidence in the sincerity or in the courage of his confederate;
and, whatever confidence he might place in his own military
talents, and in the valour and discipline of his troops, it was
no light thing to engage an army twenty times numerous as his
own. Before him lay a river over which it was easy to advance,
but over which, if things went ill, not one of his little band
would ever return. On this occasion, for the first and for the
last time, his dauntless spirit, during a few hours, shrank from
the fearful responsibility of making a decision He called a
council of war. The majority pronounced against fighting; and
Clive declared his concurrence with the majority. Long afterwards,
he said that he had never called but one council of war, and
that, if he had taken the advice of that council, the British
would never have been masters of Bengal. But scarcely had the
meeting broken up when he was himself again. He retired alone
under the shade of some trees, and passed near an hour there in
thought. He came back determined to put everything to the
hazard, and gave orders that all should be in readiness for
passing the river on the morrow.

The river was passed; and, at the close of a toilsome day's march,
the army, long after sunset, took up its quarters in grove of
mango-trees near Plassey, within a mile of the enemy. Clive was
unable to sleep; he heard, through the whole night the sound of
drums and cymbals from the vast camp of the Nabob. It is not
strange that even his stout heart should no and then have sunk,
when he reflected against what odds, and for what a prize, he was
in a few hours to contend.

Nor was the rest of Surajah Dowlah more peaceful. His mind, at
once weak and stormy, was distracted by wild and horrible
apprehensions. Appalled by the greatness and nearness of the
crisis, distrusting his captains, dreading every one who
approached him, dreading to be left alone, he sat gloomily in his
tent, haunted, a Greek poet would have said, by the furies of
those who had cursed him with their last breath in the Black

The day broke, the day which was to decide the fate of India. At
sunrise the army of the Nabob, pouring through many openings of
the camp, began to move towards the grove where the English lay.
Forty thousand infantry, armed with firelocks, pikes, swords,
bows and arrows, covered the plain. They were accompanied by
fifty pieces of ordnance of the largest size, each tugged by a
long team of white oxen, and each pushed on from behind by an
elephant. Some smaller guns, under the direction of a few French
auxiliaries, were perhaps more formidable. The cavalry were
fifteen thousand, drawn, not from the effeminate population of
Bengal, but from the bolder race which inhabits the northern
provinces ; and the practised eye of Clive could perceive that
both the men and the horses were more powerful than those of the
Carnatic. The force which he had to oppose to this great
multitude consisted of only three thousand men. But of these
nearly a thousand were English; and all were led by English
officers, and trained in the English discipline. Conspicuous in
the ranks of the little army were the men of the Thirty-Ninth
Regiment, which still bears on its colours, amidst many
honourable additions won under Wellington in Spain and Gascony,
the name of Plassey, and the proud motto, Primus in Indis.

The battle commenced with a cannonade in which the artillery of
the Nabob did scarcely any execution, while the few fieldpieces
of the English produced great effect. Several of the most
distinguished officers in Surajah Dowlah's service fell. Disorder
began to spread through his ranks. His own terror increased every
moment. One of the conspirators urged on him the expediency of
retreating. The insidious advice, agreeing as it did with what
his own terrors suggested, was readily received. He ordered his
army to fall back, and this order decided his fate. Clive
snatched the moment, and ordered his troops to advance. The
confused and dispirited multitude gave way before the onset of
disciplined valour. No mob attacked by regular soldiers was ever
more completely routed. The little band of Frenchmen, who alone
ventured to confront the English, were swept down the stream of
fugitives. In an hour the forces of Surajah Dowlah were
dispersed, never to reassemble. Only five hundred of the
vanquished were slain. But their camp, their guns, their baggage,
innumerable waggons, innumerable cattle, remained in the power of
the conquerors. With the loss of twenty-two soldiers killed and
fifty wounded, Clive had scattered an army of near sixty thousand
men, and subdued an empire larger and more populous than Great

Meer Jaffier had given no assistance to the English during the
action. But, as soon as he saw that the fate of the day was
decided, he drew off his division of the army, and, when the
battle was over, sent his congratulations to his ally. The next
morning he repaired to the English quarters, not a little uneasy
as to the reception which awaited him there. He gave evident
signs of alarm when a guard was drawn out to receive him with the
honours due to his rank. But his apprehensions were speedily
removed, Clive came forward to meet him, embraced him, saluted
him as Nabob of the three great provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and
Orissa, listened graciously to his apologies, and advised him to
march without delay to Moorshedabad.

Surajah Dowlah had fled from the field of battle with all the
speed with which a fleet camel could carry him, and arrived at
Moorshedabad in little more than twenty-four hours. There he
called his councillors round him. The wisest advised him to put
himself into the hands of the English, from whom he had nothing
worse to fear than deposition and confinement. But he attributed
this suggestion to treachery. Others urged him to try the chance
of war again. He approved the advice, and issued orders
accordingly. But he wanted spirit to adhere even during one day
to a manly resolution. He learned that Meer Jaffier had arrived,
and his terrors became insupportable. Disguised in a mean dress,
with a casket of jewels in his hand, he let himself down at night
from a window of his palace, and accompanied by only two
attendants, embarked on the river for Patna.

In a few days Clive arrived at Moorshedabad, escorted by two
hundred English soldiers and three hundred sepoys. For his
residence had been assigned a palace, which was surrounded by a
garden so spacious that all the troops who accompanied him could
conveniently encamp within it. The ceremony of the installation
of Meer Jaffier was instantly performed. Clive led the new Nabob
to the seat of honour, placed him on it, presented to him, after
the immemorial fashion of the East, an offering of gold, and
then, turning to the natives who filled the hall, congratulated
them on the good fortune which had freed them from a tyrant. He
was compelled on this occasion to use the services of an
interpreter; for it is remarkable that, long as he resided in
India, intimately acquainted as he was with Indian politics and
with the Indian character, and adored as he was by his Indian
soldiery, he never learned to express himself with facility in
any Indian language. He is said indeed to have been sometimes
under the necessity of employing, in his intercourse with natives
of India, the smattering of Portuguese which he had acquired,
when a lad, in Brazil.

The new sovereign was now called upon to fulfil the engagements
into which he had entered with his allies. A conference was held
at the house of Jugget Seit, the great banker, for the purpose of
making the necessary arrangements. Omichund came thither, fully
believing himself to stand high in the favour of Clive, who, with
dissimulation surpassing even the dissimulation of Bengal, had up
to that day treated him with undiminished kindness. The white
treaty was produced and read. Clive then turned to Mr. Scrafton,
one of the servants of the Company, and said in English, "It is
now time to undeceive Omichund." "Omichund," said Mr. Scrafton in
Hindostanee, "the red treaty is a trick, you are to have
nothing." Omichund fell back insensible into the arms of his
attendants. He revived; but his mind was irreparably ruined.
Clive, who, though little troubled by scruples of conscience in
his dealings with Indian politicians, was not inhuman, seems to
have been touched. He saw Omichund a few days later, spoke to him
kindly, advised him to make a pilgrimage to one of the great
temples of India, in the hope that change of scene might restore
his health, and was even disposed, notwithstanding all that had
passed, again to employ him in the public service. But from the
moment of that sudden shock, the unhappy man sank gradually into
idiocy. He who had formerly been distinguished by the strength of
his understanding and the simplicity of his habits, now
squandered the remains of his fortune on childish trinkets, and
loved to exhibit himself dressed in rich garments, and hung with
precious stones. In this abject state he languished a few months,
and then died.

We should not think it necessary to offer any remarks for the
purpose of directing the judgment of our readers, with respect to
this transaction, had not Sir John Malcolm undertaken to defend
it in all its parts. He regrets, indeed, that it was necessary to
employ means so liable to abuse as forgery; but he will not admit
that any blame attaches to those who deceived the deceiver. He
thinks that the English were not bound to keep faith with one who
kept no faith with them and that, if they had fulfilled their
engagements with the wily Bengalee, so signal an example of
successful treason would have produced a crowd of imitators. Now,
we will not discus this point on any rigid principles of
morality. Indeed, it is quite unnecessary to do so for, looking
at the question as a question of expediency in the lowest sense
of the word, and using no arguments but such as Machiavelli might
have employed in his conferences with Borgia, we are convinced
that Clive was altogether in the wrong, and that he committed,
not merely a crime, but a blunder. That honesty is the best
policy is a maxim which we firmly believe to be generally
correct, even with respect to the temporal interest of
individuals; but with respect to societies, the rule is subject
to still fewer exceptions, and that for this reason, that the
life of societies is longer than the life of individuals. It is
possible to mention men who have owed great worldly prosperity to
breaches of private faith; but we doubt whether it be possible to
mention a state which has on the whole been a gainer by a breach
of public faith. The entire history of British India is an
illustration of the great truth, that it is not prudent to oppose
perfidy to perfidy, and that the most efficient weapon with which
men can encounter falsehood is truth. During a long course of
years, the English rulers of India, surrounded by allies and
enemies whom no engagement could bind, have generally acted with
sincerity and uprightness; and the event has proved that
sincerity and uprightness are wisdom. English valour and English
intelligence have done less to extend and to preserve our
Oriental empire than English veracity. All that we could have
gained by imitating the doublings, the evasions, the fictions,
the perjuries which have been employed against us, is as nothing,
when compared with what we have gained by being the one power in
India on whose word reliance can be placed. No oath which
superstition can devise, no hostage however precious, inspires a
hundredth part of the confidence which is produced by the "yea,
yea," and "nay, nay," of a British envoy. No fastness, however
strong by art or nature, gives to its inmates a security like
that enjoyed by the chief who, passing through the territories of
powerful and deadly enemies, is armed with the British guarantee.
The mightiest princes of the East can scarcely, by the offer of
enormous usury, draw forth any portion of the wealth which is
concealed under the hearths of their subjects. The British
Government offers little more than four per cent. and avarice
hastens to bring forth tens of millions of rupees from its most
secret repositories. A hostile monarch may promise mountains of
gold to our sepoys on condition that they will desert the
standard of the Company The Company promises only a moderate
pension after a long service. But every sepoy knows that the
promise of the Company will be kept; he knows that if he lives a
hundred years his rice and salt are as secure as the salary of
the Governor-General; and he knows that there is not another
state in India which would not, in spite of the most solemn vows,
leave him to die of hunger in a ditch as soon as he had ceased to
be useful. The greatest advantage which government can possess is
to be the one trustworthy government in the midst of
governments which nobody can trust This advantage we enjoy in
Asia. Had we acted during the last two generations on the
principles which Sir John Malcolm appears to have considered as
sound, had we as often as we had to deal with people like
Omichund, retaliated by lying and forging, and breaking faith,
after their fashion, it is our firm belief that no courage or
capacity could have upheld our empire.

Sir John Malcolm admits that Clive's breach of faith could he
justified only by the strongest necessity. As we think that
breach of faith not only unnecessary, but most inexpedient, we
need hardly say that we altogether condemn it.

Omichund was not the only victim of the revolution. Surajah Dowlah
was taken a few days after his flight, and was brought before
Meer Jaffier. There he flung himself on the ground in convulsions
of fear, and with tears and loud cries implored the mercy which
he had never shown. Meer Jaffier hesitated; but his son Meeran, a
youth of seventeen, who in feebleness of brain and savageness of
nature greatly resemble the wretched captive, was implacable.
Surajah Dowlah was led into a secret chamber, to which in a short
time the minister of death were sent. In this act the English bore
no part and Meer Jaffier understood so much of their feelings
that h thought it necessary to apologise to them for having
avenge them on their most malignant enemy.

The shower of wealth now fell copiously on the Company and its
servants. A sum of eight hundred thousand pound sterling, in
coined silver, was sent down the river from Moorshedabad to Fort
William. The fleet which conveyed this treasure consisted of more
than a hundred boats, and performed its triumphal voyage with
flags flying and music playing. Calcutta, which a few months
before had been desolate, was now more prosperous than ever.
Trade revived; and the signs of affluence appeared in every
English house. As to Clive, there was no limit to his
acquisitions but his own moderation. The treasury of Bengal was
thrown open to him. There were piled up, after the usage of
Indian princes, immense masses of coin, among which might not
seldom he detected the florins and byzants with which, before any
European ship had turned the Cape of Good Hope, the Venetians
purchased the stuffs and spices of the East. Clive walked between
heaps of gold and silver, crowned with rubies and diamonds, and
was at liberty to help himself. He accepted between two and
three hundred thousand pounds.

The pecuniary transactions between Meer Jaffier and Clive were
sixteen years later condemned by the public voice, and severely
criticised in Parliament. They are vehemently defended by Sir
John Malcolm. The accusers of the victorious general represented
his gains as the wages of corruption, or as plunder extorted at
the point of the sword from a helpless ally. The biographer, on
the other hand, considers these great acquisitions as free gifts,
honourable alike to the donor and to the receiver, and compares
them to the rewards bestowed by foreign powers on Marlborough, on
Nelson, and on Wellington. It had always, he says, been customary
in the East to give and receive presents; and there was, as yet,
no Act of Parliament positively prohibiting English functionaries
in India from profiting by this Asiatic usage. This reasoning, we
own, does not quite satisfy us. We do not suspect Clive of
selling the interests of his employers or his country; but we
cannot acquit him of having done what, if not in itself evil, was
yet of evil example. Nothing is more clear than that a general
ought to be the servant of his own government, and of no other.
It follows that whatever rewards he receives for his services
ought to be given either by his own government, or with the full
knowledge and approbation of his own government. This rule ought
to be strictly maintained even with respect to the merest bauble,
with respect to a cross, a medal, or a yard of coloured riband.
But how can any government be well served, if those who command
its forces are at liberty, without its permission, without its
privity, to accept princely fortunes from its allies? It is idle
to say that there was then no Act of Parliament prohibiting the
practice of taking presents from Asiatic sovereigns. It is not on
the Act which was passed at a later period for the purpose of
preventing any such taking of presents, but on grounds which were
valid before that Act was passed, on grounds of common law and
common sense, that we arraign the conduct of Clive. There is no
Act that we know of, prohibiting the Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs from being in the pay of continental powers, but
it is not the less true that a Secretary who should receive a
secret pension from France would grossly violate his duty, and
would deserve severe punishment. Sir John Malcolm compares the
conduct of Clive with that of the Duke of Wellington. Suppose,--
and we beg pardon for putting such a supposition even for the
sake of argument,--that the Duke of Wellington had, after the
campaign of 1815, and while he commanded the army of occupation
in France, privately accepted two hundred thousand pounds from
Lewis the Eighteenth, as a mark of gratitude for the great
services which his Grace had rendered to the House of Bourbon;
what would be thought of such a transaction? Yet the statute-book
no more forbids the taking of presents in Europe now than it
forbade the taking of presents in Asia then.

At the same time, it must be admitted that, in Clive's case,
there were many extenuating circumstances. He considered himself
as the general, not of the Crown, but of the Company. The Company
had, by implication at least, authorised its agents to enrich
themselves by means of the liberality of the native princes, and
by other means still more objectionable. It was hardly to be
expected that the servant should entertain strict notions of his
duty than were entertained by his masters. Though Clive did not
distinctly acquaint his employers with what had taken place and
request their sanction, he did not, on the other hand, by studied
concealment, show that he was conscious of having done wrong. On
the contrary, he avowed with the greatest openness that the
Nabob's bounty had raised him to affluence. Lastly, though we
think that he ought not in such a way to have taken anything, we
must admit that he deserves praise for having taken so little. He
accepted twenty lacs of rupees. It would have cost him only a
word to make the twenty forty. It was a very easy exercise of
virtue to declaim in England against Clive's rapacity; but not
one in a hundred of his accusers would have shown so much self-
command in the treasury of Moorshedabad.

Meer Jaffier could be upheld on the throne only by the hand which
had placed him on it. He was not, indeed, a mere boy; nor had he
been so unfortunate as to be born in the purple. He was not
therefore quite so imbecile or quite so depraved as his
predecessor had been. But he had none of the talents or virtues
which his post required; and his son and heir, Meeran, was
another Surajah Dowlah. The recent revolution had unsettled the
minds of men. Many chiefs were in open insurrection against the
new Nabob. The viceroy of the rich and powerful province of Oude,
who, like the other viceroys of the Mogul was now in truth an
independent sovereign, menaced Bengal with invasion. Nothing but
the talents and authority of Clive could support the tottering
government. While things were in this state, a ship arrived with
despatches which had been written at the India House before the
news of the battle of Plassey had reached London. The Directors
had determined to place the English settlements in Bengal under a
government constituted in the most cumbrous and absurd manner;
and to make the matter worse, no place in the arrangement was
assigned to Clive. The persons who were selected to form this new
government, greatly to their honour, took on themselves the
responsibility of disobeying these preposterous orders, and
invited Clive to exercise the supreme authority. He consented;
and it soon appeared that the servants of the Company had only
anticipated the wishes of their employers. The Directors, on
receiving news of Clive's brilliant success, instantly appointed
him governor of their possessions in Bengal, with the highest
marks of gratitude and esteem. His power was now boundless, and
far surpassed even that which Dupleix had attained in the south
of India. Meer Jaffier regarded him with slavish awe. On one
occasion, the Nabob spoke with severity to a native chief of high
rank, whose followers had been engaged in a brawl with some of
the Company's sepoys. "Are you yet to learn," he said, "who that
Colonel Clive is, and in what station God has placed him?" The
chief, who, as a famous jester and an old friend of Meer Jaffier,
could venture to take liberties, answered, "I affront the
Colonel! I, who never get up in the morning without making three
low bows to his jackass!" This was hardly an exaggeration.
Europeans and natives were alike at Clive's feet. The English
regarded him as the only man who could force Meer Jaffier to keep
his engagements with them. Meer Jaffier regarded him as the only
man who could protect the new dynasty against turbulent subjects
and encroaching neighbours.

It is but justice to say that Clive used his power ably and
vigorously for the advantage of his country. He sent forth an
expedition against the tract lying to the north of the Carnatic.
In this tract the French still had the ascendency; and it was
important to dislodge them. The conduct of the enterprise was
intrusted to an officer of the name of Forde, who was then little
known, but in whom the keen eye of the governor had detected
military talents of a high order. The success of the expedition
was rapid and splendid.

While a considerable part of the army of Bengal was thus engaged
at a distance, a new and formidable danger menaced the western
frontier. The Great Mogul was a prisoner at Delhi in the hands of
a subject. His eldest son, named Shah Alum, destined to be,
during many years, the sport of adverse fortune, and to he a tool
in the hands, first of the Mahrattas, and then of the English,
had fled from the palace of his father. His birth was still
revered in India. Some powerful princes, the Nabob of Oude in
particular, were inclined to favour him. Shah Alum found it easy
to draw to his standard great numbers of the military adventurers
with whom every part of the country swarmed. An army of forty
thousand men, of various races and religions, Mahrattas,
Rohillas, Jauts, and Afghans, were speedily assembled round him;
and he formed the design of overthrowing the upstart whom the
English had elevated to a throne, and of establishing his own
authority throughout Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar.

Meer Jaffier's terror was extreme; and the only expedient which
occurred to him was to purchase, by the payment of a large sum of
money, an accommodation with Shah Alum. This expedient had been
repeatedly employed by those who, before him, had ruled the rich
and unwarlike provinces near the mouth of the Ganges. But Clive
treated the suggestion with a scorn worthy of his strong sense
and dauntless courage. "If you do this," he wrote, "you will have
the Nabob of Oude, the Mahrattas, and many more, come from all
parts of the confines of your country, who will bully you out of
money till you have none left in your treasury. I beg your
Excellency will rely on the fidelity of the English, and of those
troops which are attached to you." He wrote in a similar strain
to the governor of Patna, a brave native soldier whom he highly
esteemed. "Come to no terms ; defend your city to the last. Rest
assured that the English are staunch and firm friends, and that
they never desert a cause in which they have once taken a part."

He kept his word. Shah Alum had invested Patna, and was on the
point of proceeding to storm, when he learned that the Colonel
was advancing by forced marches. The whole army which was
approaching consisted of only four hundred and fifty Europeans
and two thousand five hundred sepoys. But Clive and his
Englishmen were now objects of dread over all the East. As soon
as his advance guard appeared, the besiegers fled before him. A
few French adventurers who were about the person of the prince
advised him to try the chance of battle; but in vain. In a few
days this great army, which had been regarded with so much
uneasiness by the court of Moorshedabad, melted away before the
mere terror of the British name.

The conqueror returned in triumph to Fort William. The joy of
Meer Jaffier was as unbounded as his fears had been, and led him
to bestow on his preserver a princely token of gratitude. The
quit-rent which the East India Company were bound to pay to the
Nabob for the extensive lands held by them to the south of
Calcutta amounted to near thirty thousand pounds sterling a year.
The whole of this splendid estate, sufficient to support with
dignity the highest rank of the British peerage, was now
conferred on Clive for life.

This present we think Clive justified in accepting. It was a
present which, from its very nature, could be no secret. In fact,
the Company itself was his tenant, and, by its acquiescence,
signified its approbation of Meer Jaffier's grant.

But the gratitude of Meer Jaffier did not last long. He had for
some time felt that the powerful ally who had set him up, might
pull him down, and had been looking round for support against the
formidable strength by which he had himself been hitherto
supported. He knew that it would be impossible to find among the
natives of India any force which would look the Colonel's little
army in the face. The French power in Bengal was extinct. But the
fame of the Dutch had anciently been great in the Eastern seas;
and it was not yet distinctly known in Asia how much the power of
Holland had declined in Europe. Secret communications passed
between the court of Moorshedabad and the Dutch factory at
Chinsurah; and urgent letters were sent from Chinsurah, exhorting
the government of Batavia to fit out an expedition which might
balance the power of the English in Bengal. The authorities of
Batavia, eager to extend the influence of their country, and
still more eager to obtain for themselves a share of the wealth
which had recently raised so many English adventurers to
opulence, equipped a powerful armament. Seven large ships from
Java arrived unexpectedly in the Hoogley. The military force on
board amounted to fifteen hundred men, of whom about one half
were Europeans. The enterprise was well timed. Clive had sent
such large detachments to oppose the French in the Carnatic that
his army was now inferior in number to that of the Dutch. He knew
that Meer Jaffier secretly favoured the invaders. He knew that he
took on himself a serious responsibility if he attacked the
forces of a friendly power; that the English ministers could not
wish to see a war with Holland added to that in which they were
already engaged with France; that they might disavow his acts;
that they might punish him. He had recently remitted a great part
of his fortune to Europe, through the Dutch East India Company;
and he had therefore a strong interest in avoiding any quarrel.
But he was satisfied that, if he suffered the Batavian armament
to pass up the river and to join the garrison of Chinsurah, Meer
Jaffier would throw himself into the arms of these new allies,
and that the English ascendency in Bengal would be exposed to
most serious danger. He took his resolution with characteristic
boldness, and was most ably seconded by his officers,
particularly by Colonel Forde, to whom the most important part of
the operations was intrusted. The Dutch attempted to force a
passage. The English encountered them both by land and water. On
both elements the enemy had a great superiority of force. On both
they were signally defeated. Their ships were taken. Their troops
were put to a total rout. Almost all the European soldiers, who
constituted the main strength of the invading army, were killed
or taken. The conquerors sat down before Chinsurah; and the
chiefs of that settlement, now thoroughly humbled, consented to
the terms which Clive dictated. They engaged to build no
fortifications, and to raise no troops beyond a small force
necessary for the police of their factories; and it was
distinctly provided that any violation of these covenants should
be punished with instant expulsion from Bengal.

Three months after this great victory, Clive sailed for England.
At home, honours and rewards awaited him, not indeed equal to his
claims or to his ambition, but still such as, when his age, his
rank in the army, and his original place in society are
considered, must be pronounced rare and splendid. He was raised
to the Irish peerage, and encouraged to expect an English title.
George the Third, who had just ascended the throne, received him
with great distinction. The ministers paid him marked attention;
and Pitt, whose influence in the House of Commons and in the
country was unbounded, was eager to mark his regard for one whose
exploits had contributed so much to the lustre of that memorable
period. The great orator had already in Parliament described
Clive as a heaven-born general, as a man who, bred to the labour
of the desk, had displayed a military genius which might excite
the admiration of the King of Prussia. There were then no
reporters in the gallery; but these words, emphatically spoken by
the first statesman of the age, had passed from mouth to mouth,
had been transmitted to Clive in Bengal, and had greatly
delighted and flattered him. Indeed, since the death of Wolfe,
Clive was the only English general of whom his countrymen had
much reason to be proud. The Duke of Cumberland had been
generally unfortunate; and his single victory, having been gained
over his countrymen and used with merciless severity, had been
more fatal to his popularity than his many defeats. Conway,
versed in the learning of his profession, and personally
courageous, wanted vigour and capacity. Granby, honest, generous,
and brave as a lion, had neither science nor genius. Sackville,
inferior in knowledge and abilities to none of his
contemporaries, had incurred, unjustly as we believe, the
imputation most fatal to the character of a soldier. It was under
the command of a foreign general that the British had triumphed
at Minden and Warburg. The people therefore, as was natural,
greeted with pride and delight a captain of their own, whose
native courage and self-taught skill had placed him on a level
with the great tacticians of Germany.

The wealth of Clive was such as enabled him to vie with the first
grandees of England. There remains proof that he had remitted
more than a hundred and eighty thousand pounds through the Dutch
East India Company, and more than forty thousand pounds through
the English Company. The amount which he had sent home through
private houses was also considerable. He had invested great sums
in jewels, then a very common mode of remittance from India. His
purchases of diamonds, at Madras alone, amounted to twenty-five
thousand pounds. Besides a great mass of ready money, he had his
Indian estate, valued by himself at twenty-seven thousand a year.
His whole annual income, in the opinion of Sir John Malcolm, who
is desirous to state it as low as possible, exceeded forty
thousand pounds; and incomes of forty thousand pounds at the time
of the accession of George the Third were at least as rare as
incomes of a hundred thousand pounds now. We may safely affirm
that no Englishman who started with nothing has ever, in any line
of life, created such a fortune at the early age of thirty-four.

It would be unjust not to add that Clive made a creditable use of
his riches. As soon as the battle of Plassey had laid the
foundation of his fortune, he sent ten thousand pounds to his
sisters, bestowed as much more on other poor friends and
relations, ordered his agent to pay eight hundred a year to his
parents, and to insist that they should keep a carriage, and
settled five hundred a year on his old commander Lawrence, whose
means were very slender. The whole sum which Clive expended in
this manner may be calculated at fifty thousand pounds.

He now set himself to cultivate Parliamentary interest. His
purchases of land seem to have been made in a great measure with
that view, and, after the general election of 1761, he found
himself in the House of Commons, at the head of a body of
dependants whose support must have been important to any
administration. In English politics, however, he did not take a
prominent part. His first attachments, as we have seen, were to
Mr. Fox; at a later period he was attracted by the genius and
success of Mr. Pitt; but finally he connected himself in the
closest manner with George Grenville. Early in the session Of
1764, when the illegal and impolitic persecution of that
worthless demagogue Wilkes had strongly excited the public mind,
the town was amused by an anecdote, which we have seen in some
unpublished memoirs of Horace Walpole. Old Mr. Richard Clive,
who, since his son's elevation, had been introduced into society
for which his former habits had not well fitted him, presented
himself at the levee. The King asked him where Lord Clive was.
"He will be in town very soon," said the old gentleman, loud
enough to be heard by the whole circle, "and then your Majesty
will have another vote."

But in truth all Clive's views were directed towards the country
in which he had so eminently distinguished himself as a soldier
and a statesman; and it was by considerations relating to India
that his conduct as a public man in England was regulated. The
power of the Company, though an anomaly, is in our time, we are
firmly persuaded, a beneficial anomaly. In the time of Clive, it
was not merely an anomaly, but a nuisance. There was no Board of
Control. The Directors were for the most part mere traders,
ignorant of general politics, ignorant of the peculiarities of
the empire which had strangely become subject to them. The Court
of Proprietors, wherever it chose to interfere, was able to have
its way. That Court was more numerous, as well as more powerful,
than at present; for then every share of five hundred pounds
conferred a vote. The meetings were large, stormy, even riotous,
the debates indecently virulent. All the turbulence of a
Westminster election, all the trickery and corruption of a
Grampound election, disgraced the proceedings of this assembly on
questions of the most solemn importance. Fictitious votes were
manufactured on a gigantic scale. Clive himself laid out a
hundred thousand pounds in the purchase of stock, which he then
divided among nominal proprietors on whom he could depend, and
whom he brought down in his train to every discussion and every
ballot. Others did the same, though not to quite so enormous an

The interest taken by the public of England in Indian questions
was then far greater than at present, and the reason is obvious.
At present a writer enters the service young; he climbs slowly;
he is fortunate if, at forty-five, he can return to his country
with an annuity of a thousand a year, and with savings amounting
to thirty thousand pounds. A great quantity of wealth is made by
English functionaries in India; but no single functionary makes a
very large fortune, and what is made is slowly, hardly, and
honestly earned. Only four or five high political offices are
reserved for public men from England. The residencies, the
secretaryships, the seats in the boards of revenue and in the
Sudder courts are all filled by men who have given the best years
of life to the service of the Company; nor can any talents
however splendid or any connections however powerful obtain those
lucrative posts for any person who has not entered by the regular
door, and mounted by the regular gradations. Seventy years ago,
less money was brought home from the East than in our time. But
it was divided among a very much smaller number of persons, and
immense sums were often accumulated in a few months. Any
Englishman, whatever his age might be, might hope to be one of
the lucky emigrants. If he made a good speech in Leadenhall
Street, or published a clever pamphlet in defence of the
chairman, he might be sent out in the Company's service, and
might return in three or four years as rich as Pigot or as Clive.
Thus the India House was a lottery-office, which invited
everybody to take a chance, and held out ducal fortunes as the
prizes destined for the lucky few. As soon as it was known that
there was a part of the world where a lieutenant-colonel had one
morning received as a present an estate as large as that of the
Earl of Bath or the Marquess of Rockingham, and where it seemed
that such a trifle as ten or twenty thousand pounds was to be had
by any British functionary for the asking, society began to
exhibit all the symptoms of the South Sea year, a feverish
excitement, an ungovernable impatience to be rich, a contempt for
slow, sure, and moderate gains.

At the head of the preponderating party in the India House, had
long stood a powerful, able, and ambitious director of the name
of Sulivan. He had conceived a strong jealousy of Clive, and
remembered with bitterness the audacity with which the late
governor of Bengal had repeatedly set at nought the authority of
the distant Directors of the Company. An apparent reconciliation
took place after Clive's arrival; but enmity remained deeply
rooted in the hearts of both. The whole body of Directors was
then chosen annually. At the election of 1763, Clive attempted to
break down the power of the dominant faction. The contest was
carried on with a violence which he describes as tremendous.
Sulivan was victorious, and hastened to take his revenge. The
grant of rent which Clive had received from Meer Jaffier was, in
the opinion of the best English lawyers, valid. It had been made
by exactly the same authority from which the Company had received
their chief possessions in Bengal, and the Company had long
acquiesced in it. The Directors, however, most unjustly
determined to confiscate it, and Clive was forced to file a bill
in chancery against them.

But a great and sudden turn in affairs was at hand. Every ship
from Bengal had for some time brought alarming tidings. The
internal misgovernment of the province had reached such a point
that it could go no further. What, indeed, was to be expected
from a body of public servants exposed to temptation such that,
as Clive once said, flesh and blood could not bear it, armed with
irresistible power, and responsible only to the corrupt,
turbulent, distracted, ill-informed Company, situated at such a
distance that the average interval between the sending of a
despatch and the receipt of an answer was above a year and a
half? Accordingly, during the five years which followed the
departure of Clive from Bengal, the misgovernment of the English
was carried to a point such as seems hardly compatible with the
very existence of society. The Roman proconsul, who, in a year or
two, squeezed out of a province the means of rearing marble
palaces and baths on the shores of Campania, of drinking from
amber, of feasting on singing birds, of exhibiting armies of
gladiators and flocks of camelopards; the Spanish viceroy, who,
leaving behind him the curses of Mexico or Lima, entered Madrid
with a long train of gilded coaches, and of sumpter-horses
trapped and shod with silver, were now outdone. Cruelty, indeed,
properly so called, was not among the vices of the servants of
the Company. But cruelty itself could hardly have produced
greater evils than sprang from their unprincipled eagerness to be
rich. They pulled down their creature, Meer Jaffier. They set up
in his place another Nabob, named Meer Cossim. But Meer Cossim
had parts and a will; and, though sufficiently inclined to
oppress his subjects himself, he could not bear to see them
ground to the dust by oppressions which yielded him no profit,
nay, which destroyed his revenue in the very source. The English
accordingly pulled down Meer Cossim, and set up Meer Jaffier
again; and Meer Cossim, after revenging himself by a massacre
surpassing in atrocity that of the Black Hole, fled to the
dominions of the Nabob of Oude. At every one of these
revolutions, the new prince divided among his foreign masters
whatever could be scraped together in the treasury of his fallen
predecessor. The immense population of his dominions was given up
as a prey to those who had made him a sovereign, and who could
unmake him. The servants of the Company obtained, not for their
employers, but for themselves, a monopoly of almost the whole
internal trade. They forced the natives to buy dear and to sell
cheap. They insulted with impunity the tribunals, the police, and
the fiscal authorities of the country. They covered with their
protection a set of native dependants who ranged through the
provinces, spreading desolation and terror wherever they
appeared. Every servant of a British factor was armed with all
the power of his master; and his master was armed with all the
power of the Company. Enormous fortunes were thus rapidly
accumulated at Calcutta, while thirty millions of human beings
were reduced to the extremity of wretchedness. They had been
accustomed to live under tyranny, but never under tyranny like
this. They found the little finger of the Company thicker than
the loins of Surajah Dowlah. Under their old masters they had at
least one resource: when the evil became insupportable, the
people rose and pulled down the government. But the English
government was not to be so shaken off. That government,
oppressive as the most oppressive form of barbarian despotism,
was strong with all the strength of civilisation. It resembled
the government of evil Genii, rather than the government of human
tyrants. Even despair could not inspire the soft Bengalee with
courage to confront men of English breed, the hereditary nobility
of mankind, whose skill and valour had so often triumphed in
spite of tenfold odds. The unhappy race never attempted
resistance. Sometimes they submitted in patient misery. Sometimes
they fled from the white man, as their fathers had been used to
fly from the Mahratta; and the palanquin of the English traveller
was often carried through silent villages and towns, which the
report of his approach had made desolate.

The foreign lords of Bengal were naturally objects of hatred to
all the neighbouring powers; and to all the haughty race
presented a dauntless front. The English armies, everywhere
outnumbered, were everywhere victorious. A succession of
commanders, formed in the school of Clive, still maintained the
fame of their country. "It must be acknowledged," says the
Mussulman historian of those times, "that this nation's presence
of mind, firmness of temper, and undaunted bravery, are past all
question. They join the most resolute courage to the most
cautious prudence; nor have they their equals in the art of
ranging themselves in battle array and fighting in order. If to
so many military qualifications they knew how to join the arts of
government, if they exerted as much ingenuity and solicitude in
relieving the people of God, as they do in whatever concerns
their military affairs, no nation in the world would be
preferable to them, or worthier of command. But the people under
their dominion groan everywhere, and are reduced to poverty and
distress. Oh God! come to the assistance of thine afflicted
servants, and deliver them from the oppressions which they

It was impossible, however, that even the military establishment
should long continue exempt from the vices which pervaded every
other part of the government. Rapacity, luxury, and the spirit of
insubordination spread from the civil service to the officers of
the army, and from the officers to the soldiers. The evil
continued to grow till every mess-room became the seat of
conspiracy and cabal, and till the sepoys could be kept in order
only by wholesale executions.

At length the state of things in Bengal began to excite
uneasiness at home. A succession of revolutions; a disorganised
administration; the natives pillaged, yet the Company not
enriched; every fleet bringing back fortunate adventurers who
were able to purchase manors and to build stately dwellings, yet
bringing back also alarming accounts of the financial prospects
of the government; war on the frontiers; disaffection in the
army; the national character disgraced by excesses resembling
those of Verres and Pizarro; such was the spectacle which
dismayed those who were conversant with Indian affairs. The
general cry was that Clive, and Clive alone, could save the
empire which he had founded.

This feeling manifested itself in the strongest manner at a very
full General Court of Proprietors. Men of all parties, forgetting
their feuds and trembling for their dividends, exclaimed that
Clive was the man whom the crisis required, that the oppressive
proceedings which had been adopted respecting his estate ought to
be dropped, and that he ought to be entreated to return to India.

Clive rose. As to his estate, he said, he would make such
propositions to the Directors, as would, he trusted, lead to an
amicable settlement. But there was a still greater difficulty. It
was proper to tell them that he never would undertake the
government of Bengal while his enemy Sulivan was chairman of the
Company. The tumult was violent. Sulivan could scarcely obtain a
hearing. An overwhelming majority of the assembly was on Clive's
side. Sulivan wished to try the result of a ballot. But,
according to the bye-laws of the Company, there can be no ballot
except on a requisition signed by nine proprietors; and, though
hundreds were present, nine persons could not be found to set
their hands to such a requisition.

Clive was in consequence nominated Governor and Commander-in-
chief of the British possessions in Bengal. But he adhered to his
declaration, and refused to enter on his office till the event of
the next election of Directors should be known. The contest was
obstinate; but Clive triumphed. Sulivan, lately absolute master
of the India House, was within a vote of losing his own seat; and
both the chairman and the deputy-chairman were friends of the new

Such were the circumstances under which Lord Clive sailed for the
third and last time to India. In May 1765, he reached Calcutta;
and he found the whole machine of government even more fearfully
disorganised than he had anticipated. Meer Jaffier, who had some
time before lost his eldest son Meeran, had died while Clive was
on his voyage out. The English functionaries at Calcutta had
already received from home strict orders not to accept presents
from the native princes. But, eager for gain, and unaccustomed to
respect the commands of their distant, ignorant, and negligent
masters, they again set up the throne of Bengal to sale. About
one hundred and forty thousand pounds sterling was distributed
among nine of the most powerful servants of the Company; and, in
consideration of this bribe, an infant son of the deceased Nabob
was placed on the seat of his father. The news of the ignominious
bargain met Clive on his arrival. In a private letter, written
immediately after his landing, to an intimate friend, he poured
out his feelings in language, which, proceeding from a man so
daring, so resolute, and so little given to theatrical display of
sentiment, seems to us singularly touching. "Alas!" he says, "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. However, I do declare, by that great
Being who is the searcher of all hearts, and to whom we must be
accountable if there be a hereafter, that I am come out with a
mind superior to all corruption, and that I am determined to
destroy these great and growing evils, or perish in the attempt."

The Council met, and Clive stated to them his full determination
to make a thorough reform, and to use for that purpose the whole
of the ample authority, civil and military, which had been
confided to him. Johnstone, one of the boldest and worst men in
the assembly, made some show of opposition. Clive interrupted
him, and haughtily demanded whether he meant to question the
power of the new government. Johnstone was cowed, and disclaimed
any such intention. All the faces round the board grew long and
pale; and not another syllable of dissent was uttered.

Clive redeemed his pledge. He remained in India about a year and
a half; and in that short time effected one of the most
extensive, difficult, and salutary reforms that ever was
accomplished by any statesman. This was the part of his life on
which he afterwards looked back with most pride. He had it in his
power to triple his already splendid fortune; to connive at
abuses while pretending to remove them; to conciliate the
goodwill of all the English in Bengal, by giving up to their
rapacity a helpless and timid race, who knew not where lay the
island which sent forth their oppressors, and whose complaints
had little chance of being heard across fifteen thousand miles of
ocean. He knew that if he applied himself in earnest to the work
of reformation, he should raise every bad passion in arms against
him. He knew how unscrupulous, how implacable, would be the
hatred of those ravenous adventurers who, having counted on
accumulating in a few months fortunes sufficient to support
peerages, should find all their hopes frustrated. But he had
chosen the good part; and he called up all the force of his mind
for a battle far harder than that of Plassey. At first
success seemed hopeless; but soon all obstacles began to bend
before that iron courage and that vehement will. The receiving of
presents from the natives was rigidly prohibited. The private
trade of the servants of the Company was put down. The whole
settlement seemed to be set, as one man, against these measures.
But the inexorable governor declared that, if he could not find
support at Fort William, he would procure it elsewhere, and sent
for some civil servants from Madras to assist him in carrying on
the administration. The most factious of his opponents he turned
out of their offices. The rest submitted to what was inevitable;
and in a very short time all resistance was quelled.

But Clive was far too wise a man not to see that the recent
abuses were partly to be ascribed to a cause which could not fail
to produce similar abuses, as soon as the pressure of his strong
hand was withdrawn. The Company had followed a mistaken policy
with respect to the remuneration of its servants. The salaries
were too low to afford even those indulgences which are necessary
to the health and comfort of Europeans in a tropical climate. To
lay by a rupee from such scanty pay was impossible. It could not
be supposed that men of even average abilities would consent to
pass the best years of life in exile, under a burning sun, for no
other consideration than these stinted wages. It had accordingly
been understood, from a very early period, that the Company's
agents were at liberty to enrich themselves by their private
trade. This practice had been seriously injurious to the
commercial interests of the corporation. That very intelligent
observer, Sir Thomas Roe, in the reign of James the First,
strongly urged the Directors to apply a remedy to the abuse.
"Absolutely prohibit the private trade," said he; "for your
business will be better done. I know this is harsh. Men profess
they come not for bare wages. But you will take away this plea if
you give great wages to their content; and then you know what you
part from."

In spite of this excellent advice, the Company adhered the old
system, paid low salaries, and connived at the indirect gains of
the agents. The pay of a member of Council was only three hundred
pounds a year. Yet it was notorious that such a functionary could
not live in India for less than ten times that sum; and it could
not be, expected that he would be content to live even handsomely
in India without laying up something against the time of his
return to England. This system, before the conquest of Bengal,
might affect the amount of the dividends payable to the
proprietors, but could do little harm in any other way. But the
Company was now a ruling body. Its servants might still be called
factors, junior merchants, senior merchants. But they were in
truth proconsuls, propraetors, procurators, of extensive,
regions. They had immense power. Their regular pay was
universally admitted to be insufficient. They were, by the
ancient usage of the service, and by the implied permission of
their employers, warranted in enriching themselves by indirect
means; and this had been the origin of the frightful oppression
and corruption which had desolated Bengal. Clive saw clearly that
it was absurd to give men power, and to require them to live in
penury. He justly concluded that no reform could be effectual
which should not be coupled with a plan for liberally
remunerating the civil servants of the Company. The Directors, he
knew, were not disposed to sanction any increase of the salaries
out of their own treasury. The only course which remained open to
the governor was one which exposed him to much misrepresentation,
but which we think him fully justified in adopting. He
appropriated to the support of the service the monopoly of salt,
which has formed, down to our own time, a principal head of
Indian revenue; and he divided the proceeds according to a scale
which seems to have been not unreasonably fixed. He was in
consequence accused by his enemies, and has been accused by
historians, of disobeying his instructions, of violating his
promises, of authorising that very abuse which it was his special
mission to destroy, namely, the trade of the Company's servants.
But every discerning and impartial judge will admit, that there
was really nothing in common between the system which he set up
and that which he was sent to destroy. The monopoly of salt had
been a source of revenue to the Government of India before Clive
was born. It continued to be so long after his death. The civil
servants were clearly entitled to a maintenance out of the
revenue; and all that Clive did was to charge a particular
portion of the revenue with their maintenance. He thus, while he
put an end to the practices by which gigantic fortunes had been
rapidly accumulated, gave to every British functionary employed
in the East the means of slowly, but surely, acquiring a
competence. Yet, such is the injustice of mankind, that none of
those acts which are the real stains of his life has drawn on him
so much obloquy as this measure, which was in truth a reform
necessary to the success of all his other reforms.

He had quelled the opposition of the civil servants: that of the
army was more formidable. Some of the retrenchments which had
been ordered by the Directors affected the interests of the
military service; and a storm arose, such as even Caesar would
not willingly have faced. It was no light thing to encounter the
resistance of those who held the power of the sword, in a country
governed only by the sword. Two hundred English officers engaged
in a conspiracy against the government, and determined to resign
their commissions on the same day, not doubting that Clive would
grant any terms, rather than see the army, on which alone the
British empire in the East rested, left without commanders. They
little knew the unconquerable spirit with which they had to deal.
Clive had still a few officers round his person on whom he could
rely. He sent to Fort St George for a fresh supply. He gave
commissions even to mercantile agents who were disposed to
support him at this crisis; and he sent orders that every officer
who resigned should be instantly brought up to Calcutta. The
conspirators found that they had miscalculated. The governor was
inexorable. The troops were steady. The sepoys, over whom Clive
had always possessed extraordinary influence, stood by him with
unshaken fidelity. The leaders in the plot were arrested, tried,
and cashiered. The rest, humbled and dispirited, begged to be
permitted to withdraw their resignations. Many of them declared
their repentance even with tears. The younger offenders Clive
treated with lenity. To the ringleaders he was inflexibly severe;
but his severity was pure from all taint of private malevolence.
While he sternly upheld the just authority of his office, he
passed by personal insults and injuries with magnanimous disdain.
One of the conspirators was accused of having planned the
assassination of the governor; but Clive would not listen to the
charge. "The officers," he said, "are Englishmen, not assassins."

While he reformed the civil service and established his authority
over the army, he was equally successful in his foreign policy.
His landing on Indian ground was the signal for immediate peace.
The Nabob of Oude, with a large army, lay at that time on the
frontier of Bahar. He had been joined by many Afghans and
Mahrattas, and there was no small reason to expect a general
coalition of all the native powers against the English. But the
name of Clive quelled in an instant all opposition. The enemy
implored peace in the humblest language, and submitted to such
terms as the new governor chose to dictate.

At the same time, the Government of Bengal was placed on a new
footing. The power of the English in that province had hitherto
been altogether undefined. It was unknown to the ancient
constitution of the empire, and it had been ascertained by no
compact. It resembled the power which, in the last decrepitude of
the Western Empire, was exercised over Italy by the great chiefs
of foreign mercenaries, the Ricimers and the Odoacers, who put up
and pulled down at their pleasure a succession of insignificant
princes, dignified with the names of Caesar and Augustus. But as
in Italy, so in India, the warlike strangers at length found it
expedient to give to a domination which had been established by
arms the sanction of law and ancient prescription. Theodoric
thought it politic to obtain from the distant Court of Byzantium
a commission appointing him ruler of Italy; and Clive, in the
same manner, applied to the Court of Delhi for a formal grant of
the powers of which he already possessed the reality. The Mogul
was absolutely helpless; and, though he murmured, had reason to
be well pleased that the English were disposed to give solid
rupees, which he never could have extorted from them, in exchange
for a few Persian characters which cost him nothing. A bargain
was speedily struck; and the titular sovereign of Hindostan
issued a warrant, empowering the Company to collect and
administer the revenues of Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar.

There was still a Nabob, who stood to the British authorities in
the same relation in which the last drivelling Chilperics and
Childerics of the Merovingian line stood to their able and
vigorous Mayors of the Palace, to Charles Martel, and to Pepin.
At one time Clive had almost made up his mind to discard this
phantom altogether; but he afterwards thought that it might be
convenient still to use the name of the Nabob, particularly in
dealings with other European nations. The French, the Dutch, and
the Danes, would, he conceived, submit far more readily to the
authority of the native Prince, whom they had always been
accustomed to respect, than to that of a rival trading
corporation. This policy may, at that time, have been judicious.
But the pretence was soon found to be too flimsy to impose on
anybody; and it was altogether laid aside. The heir of Meer
Jaffier still resides at Moorshedabad, the ancient capital of his
house, still bears the title of Nabob, is still accosted by the
English as "Your Highness," and is still suffered to retain a
portion of the regal state which surrounded his ancestors. A
pension of a hundred and sixty thousand pounds a year is annually
paid to him by the government. His carriage is surrounded by
guards, and preceded by attendants with silver maces. His person
and his dwelling are exempted from the ordinary authority of the
ministers of justice. But he has not the smallest share of
political power, and is, in fact, only a noble and wealthy subject
of the Company.

It would have been easy for Clive, during his second administration
in Bengal, to accumulate riches such as no subject in Europe
possessed. He might indeed, without subjecting the rich
inhabitants of the province to any pressure beyond that to which
their mildest rulers had accustomed them, have received presents
to the amount of three hundred thousand pounds a year. The
neighbouring princes would gladly have paid any price for his
favour. But he appears to have strictly adhered to the rules
which he had laid down for the guidance of others. The Rajah of
Benares offered him diamonds of great value. The Nabob of Oude
pressed him to accept a large sum of money and a casket of costly
jewels. Clive courteously, but peremptorily refused; and it
should be observed that he made no merit of his refusal, and that
the facts did not come to light till after his death. He kept an
exact account of his salary, of his share of the profits accruing
from the trade in salt, and of those presents which, according to
the fashion of the East, it would be churlish to refuse. Out of
the sum arising from these resources, he defrayed the expenses of
his situation. The surplus he divided among a few attached
friends who had accompanied him to India. He always boasted, and
as far as we can judge, he boasted with truth, that this last
administration diminished instead of increasing his fortune.

One large sum indeed he accepted. Meer Jaffier had left him by
will above sixty thousand pounds sterling in specie and jewels:
and the rules which had been recently laid down extended only to
presents from the living, and did not affect legacies from the
dead. Clive took the money, but not for himself. He made the
whole over to the Company, in trust for officers and soldiers
invalided in their service. The fund which still bears his name
owes its origin to this princely donation.

After a stay of eighteen months, the state of his health made it
necessary for him to return to Europe. At the close of January
1767, he quitted for the last time the country, on whose
destinies he had exercised so mighty an influence.

His second return from Bengal was not, like his first, greeted by
the acclamations of his countrymen. Numerous causes were already
at work which embittered the remaining years of his life, and
hurried him to an untimely grave. His old enemies at the India
House were still powerful and active; and they had been
reinforced by a large band of allies whose violence far exceeded
their own. The whole crew of pilferers and oppressors from whom
he had rescued Bengal persecuted him with the implacable rancour
which belongs to such abject natures. Many of them even invested
their property in India stock, merely that they might be better
able to annoy the man whose firmness had set bounds to their
rapacity. Lying newspapers were set up for no purpose but to
abuse him; and the temper of the public mind was then such, that
these arts, which under ordinary circumstances would have been
ineffectual against truth and merit produced an extraordinary

The great events which had taken place in India had called into
existence a new class of Englishmen, to whom their countrymen
gave the name of Nabobs. These persons had generally sprung from
families neither ancient nor opulent; they had generally been
sent at an early age to the East; and they had there acquired
large fortunes, which they had brought back to their native land.
It was natural that, not having had much opportunity of mixing
with the best society, they should exhibit some of the
awkwardness and some of the pomposity of upstarts. It was natural
that, during their sojourn in Asia, they should have acquired
some tastes and habits surprising, if not disgusting, to persons
who never had quitted Europe. It was natural that, having enjoyed
great consideration in the East, they should not be disposed to
sink into obscurity at hom; and as they had money, and had not
birth or high connection, it was natural that they should display
a little obtrusively the single advantage which they possessed.
Wherever they settled there was a kind of feud between them and
the old nobility and gentry, similar to that which raged in
France between the farmer-general and the marquess. This enmity
to the aristocracy long continued to distinguish the servants of
the Company. More than twenty years after the time of which we
are now speaking, Burke pronounced that among the Jacobins might
he reckoned "the East Indians almost to a man, who cannot bear to
find that their present importance does not bear a proportion to
their wealth."

The Nabobs soon became a most unpopular class of men. Some of
them had in the East displayed eminent talents, and rendered
great services to the state; but at home their talents were not
shown to advantage, and their services were little known. That
they had sprung from obscurity, that they had acquired great
wealth, that they exhibited it insolently, that they spent it
extravagantly, that they raised the price of everything in their
neighbourhood, from fresh eggs to rotten boroughs, that their
liveries outshone those of dukes, that their coaches were finer
than that of the Lord Mayor, that the examples of their large and
ill-governed households corrupted half the servants in the
country, that some of them, with all their magnificence, could
not catch the tone of good society, but, in spite of the stud and
the crowd of menials, of the plate and the Dresden china, of the
venison and the Burgundy, were still low men; these were things
which excited, both in the class from which they had sprung and
in the class into which they attempted to force themselves, the
bitter aversion which is the effect of mingled envy and contempt.
But when it was also rumoured that the fortune which had enabled
its possessor to eclipse the Lord Lieutenant on the race-ground,
or to carry the county against the head of a house as old as
Domesday Book, had been accumulated by violating public faith, by
deposing legitimate princes, by reducing whole provinces to
beggary, all the higher and better as well as all the low and
evil parts of human nature were stirred against the wretch who
had obtained by guilt and dishonour the riches which he now
lavished with arrogant and inelegant profusion. The unfortunate
Nabob seemed to be made up of those foibles against which comedy
has pointed the most merciless ridicule, and of those crimes
which have thrown the deepest gloom over tragedy, of Turcaret and
Nero, of Monsieur Jourdain and Richard the Third. A tempest of
execration and derision, such as can be compared only to that
outbreak of public feeling against the Puritans which took place
at the time of the Restoration, burst on the servants of the
Company. The humane man was horror-struck at the way in which
they had got their money, the thrifty man at the way in which
they spent it. The Dilettante sneered at their want of taste. The
Maccaroni black-balled them as vulgar fellows. Writers the most
unlike in sentiment and style, Methodists and libertines,
philosophers and buffoons, were for once on the same side. It is
hardly too much to say that, during a space of about thirty
years, the whole lighter literature of England was coloured by
the feelings which we have described. Foote brought on the stage
an Anglo-Indian chief, dissolute, ungenerous, and tyrannical,
ashamed of the humble friends of his youth, hating the
aristocracy, yet childishly eager to be numbered among them,
squandering his wealth on pandars and flatterers, tricking out
his chairmen with the most costly hot-house flowers, and
astounding the ignorant with jargon about rupees, lacs, and
jaghires. Mackenzie, with more delicate humour, depicted a
plain country family raised by the Indian acquisitions of
one of its members to sudden opulence, and exciting derision
by an awkward mimicry of the manners of the great. Cowper,
in that lofty expostulation which glows with the very spirit
of the Hebrew poets, placed the oppression of India foremost
in the list of those national crimes for which God had
punished England with years of disastrous war, with discomfiture
in her own seas, and with the loss of her transatlantic empire.
If any of our readers will take the trouble to search in the
dusty recesses of circulating libraries for some novel published
sixty years ago, the chance is that the villain or sub-villain of
the story will prove to be a savage old Nabob, with an immense
fortune, a tawny complexion, a bad liver, and a worse heart.

Such, as far as we can now judge, was the feeling of the country
respecting Nabobs in general. And Clive was eminently the Nabob,
the ablest, the most celebrated, the highest in rank, the highest
in fortune, of all the fraternity. His wealth was exhibited in a
manner which could not fail to excite odium. He lived with great
magnificence in Berkeley Square. He reared one palace in
Shropshire and another at Claremont. His parliamentary influence
might vie with that of the greatest families. But in all this
splendour and power envy found something to sneer at. On some of
his relations wealth and dignity seem to have sat as awkwardly as
on Mackenzie's Margery Mushroom. Nor was he himself, with all his
great qualities, free from those weaknesses which the satirists
of that age represented as characteristic of his whole class. In
the field, indeed, his habits were remarkably simple. He was
constantly on horseback, was never seen but in his uniform, never
wore silk, never entered a palanquin, and was content with the
plainest fare. But when he was no longer at the head of an army,
he laid aside this Spartan temperance for the ostentatious luxury
of a Sybarite. Though his person was ungraceful, and though his
harsh features were redeemed from vulgar ugliness only by their
stern, dauntless, and commanding expression, he was fond of rich
and gay clothing, and replenished his wardrobe with absurd
profusion. Sir John Malcolm gives us a letter worthy of Sir
Matthew Mite, in which Clive orders "two hundred shirts, the best
and finest that can be got for love or money." A few follies of
this description, grossly exaggerated by report, produced an
unfavourable impression on the public mind. But this was not the
worst. Black stories, of which the greater part were pure
inventions, were circulated touching his conduct in the East. He
had to bear the whole odium, not only of those bad acts to which
he had once or twice stooped, but of all the bad acts of all the
English in India, of bad acts committed when he was absent, nay,
of bad acts which he had manfully opposed and severely punished.
The very abuses against which he had waged an honest, resolute,
and successful war were laid to his account. He was, in fact,
regarded as the personification of all the vices and weaknesses
which the public, with or without reason, ascribed to the English
adventurers in Asia. We have ourselves heard old men, who knew
nothing of his history, but who still retained the prejudices
conceived in their youth, talk of him as an incarnate fiend.
Johnson always held this language. Brown, whom Clive employed to
lay out his pleasure grounds, was amazed to see in the house of
his noble employer a chest which had once been filled with gold
from the treasury of Moorshedabad, and could not understand how
the conscience of the criminal could suffer him to sleep with
such an object so near to his bedchamber. The peasantry of Surrey
looked with mysterious horror on the stately house which was
rising at Claremont, and whispered that the great wicked lord had
ordered the walls to be made so thick in order to keep out the
devil, who would one day carry him away bodily. Among the gaping
clowns who drank in this frightful story was a worthless ugly lad
of the name of Hunt, since widely known as William Huntington,
S.S.; and the superstition which was strangely mingled with the
knavery of that remarkable impostor seems to have derived no
small nutriment from the tales which he heard of the life and
character of Clive.

In the meantime, the impulse which Clive had given to the
administration of Bengal was constantly becoming fainter and
fainter. His policy was to a great extent abandoned; the abuses
which he had suppressed began to revive; and at length the evils
which a bad government had engendered were aggravated by one of
those fearful visitations which the best government cannot avert.
In the summer of 1770, the rains failed; the earth was parched
up; the tanks were empty; the rivers shrank within their beds;
and a famine, such as is known only in countries where every
household depends for support on its own little patch of
cultivation, filled the whole valley of the Ganges with misery
and death. Tender and delicate women, whose veils had never been
lifted before the public gaze, came forth from the inner chambers
in which Eastern jealousy had kept watch over their beauty, threw
themselves on the earth before the passers-by, and, with loud
wailings, implored a handful of rice for their children. The
Hoogley every day rolled down thousands of corpses close to the
porticoes and gardens of the English conquerors. The very streets
of Calcutta were blocked up by the dying and the dead. The lean
and feeble survivors had not energy enough to bear the bodies of
their kindred to the funeral pile or to the holy river, or even
to scare away the jackals and vultures, who fed on human remains
in the face of day. The extent of the mortality was never
ascertained; but it was popularly reckoned by millions. This
melancholy intelligence added to the excitement which already
prevailed in England on Indian subjects. The proprietors of East
India stock were uneasy about their dividends. All men of common
humanity were touched by the calamities of our unhappy subjects;
and indignation soon began to mingle itself with pity. It was
rumoured that the Company's servants had created the famine by
engrossing all the rice of the country;, that they had sold grain
for eight, ten, twelve times the price at which they had bought
it; that one English functionary who, the year before, was not
worth a hundred guineas, had, during that season of misery,
remitted sixty thousand pounds to London. These charges we
believe to have been unfounded. That servants of the Company had
ventured, since Clive's departure, to deal in rice, is probable.
That, if they dealt in rice, they must have gained by the
scarcity, is certain. But there is no reason for thinking that
they either produced or aggravated an evil which physical causes
sufficiently explain. The outcry which was raised against them on
this occasion was, we suspect, as absurd as the imputations
which, in times of dearth at home, were once thrown by statesmen
and judges, and are still thrown by two or three old women, on
the corn factors. It was, however, so loud and so general that it
appears to have imposed even on an intellect raised so high above
vulgar prejudices as that of Adam Smith. What was still more
extraordinary, these unhappy events greatly increased the
unpopularity of Lord Clive. He had been some years in England
when the famine took place. None of his acts had the smallest
tendency to produce such a calamity. If the servants of the
Company had traded in rice, they had done so in direct
contravention of the rule which he had laid down, and, while in
power, had resolutely enforced. But, in the eyes of his
countrymen, he was, as we have said, the Nabob, the Anglo-Indian
character personified; and, while be was building and planting in
Surrey, he was held responsible for all the effects of a dry
season in Bengal.

Parliament had hitherto bestowed very little attention on our
Eastern possessions. Since the death of George the Second, a
rapid succession of weak administrations, each of which was in
turn flattered and betrayed by the Court, had held the semblance
of power. Intrigues in the palace, riots in the capital, and
insurrectionary movements in the American colonies, had left the
advisers of the Crown little leisure to study Indian politics.
When they did interfere, their interference was feeble and
irresolute. Lord Chatham, indeed, during the short period of his
ascendency in the councils of George the Third, had meditated a
bold attack on the Company. But his plans were rendered abortive
by the strange malady which about that time began to overcloud
his splendid genius.

At length, in 1772, it was generally felt that Parliament could
no longer neglect the affairs of India. The Government was
stronger than any which had held power since the breach between
Mr. Pitt and the great Whig connection in 1761. No pressing
question of domestic or European policy required the attention of
public men. There was a short and delusive lull between two
tempests. The excitement produced by the Middlesex election was
over; the discontents of America did not yet threaten civil war;
the financial difficulties of the Company brought on a crisis;
the Ministers were forced to take up the subject; and the whole
storm, which had long been gathering, now broke at once on the
head of Clive.

His situation was indeed singularly unfortunate. He was hated
throughout the country, hated at the India House, hated, above
all, by those wealthy and powerful servants of the Company, whose
rapacity and tyranny he had withstood. He had to bear the double
odium of his bad and of his good actions, of every Indian abuse
and of every Indian reform. The state of the political world was
such that he could count on the support of no powerful
connection. The party to which he had belonged, that of George
Grenville, had been hostile to the Government, and yet had never
cordially united with the other sections of the Opposition, with
the little band which still followed the fortunes of Lord
Chatham, or with the large and respectable body of which Lord
Rockingham was the acknowledged leader. George Grenville was now
dead: his followers were scattered; and Clive, unconnected with
any of the powerful factions which divided the Parliament, could
reckon only on the votes of those members who were returned by

His enemies, particularly those who were the enemies of his
virtues, were unscrupulous, ferocious, implacable. Their
malevolence aimed at nothing less than the utter ruin of his fame
and fortune. They wished to see him expelled from Parliament, to
see his spurs chopped off, to see his estate confiscated; and it
may be doubted whether even such a result as this would have
quenched their thirst for revenge.

Clive's parliamentary tactics resembled his military tactics.
Deserted, surrounded, outnumbered, and with everything at stake,
he did not even deign to stand on the defensive, but pushed
boldly forward to the attack. At an early stage of the
discussions on Indian affairs he rose, and in a long and
elaborate speech vindicated himself from a large part of the
accusations which had been brought against him. He is said to
have produced a great impression on his audience. Lord Chatham,
who, now the ghost of his former self, loved to haunt the scene
of his glory, was that night under the gallery of the House of
Commons, and declared that he had never heard a finer speech. It
was subsequently printed under Clive's direction, and, when the
fullest allowance has been made for the assistance which he may
have obtained from literary friends, proves him to have
possessed, not merely strong sense and a manly spirit, but

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