Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/116

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Clive
Clive
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resented the injuries done to him raised his reputation for courage, and no doubt protected him from further insult and outrage.'

Shortly after the failure of the siege of Pondicherry the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, which provided for the restoration of Madras to the English, put a stop for a time to further hostilities between the English and French in India. Clive returned for a brief space to his civil employment, but before many months had elapsed circumstances occurred which induced him again to exchange the pen for the sword. An invitation addressed to the English authorities at Fort St. David by a member of the reigning family in the Mahratta principality of Tanjore to aid him in recovering the throne of which he had been dispossessed, coupled with an offer to cede to the company the town and fort of Devikota, led to the despatch of a small force to the aid of the dispossessed raja, which, failing to achieve its object, was followed by a larger force under the command of Major Lawrence, in which Clive served with the rank of lieutenant. Clive on this occasion requested and obtained the command of a storming party told off to storm an embankment which had been thrown up to defend the breach made in the walls of the fort. He again behaved with the same daring which he had displayed at Pondicherry, and had a very narrow escape ; for the sepoys, who formed the greater part of the storming party, having failed to advance, a small platoon of thirty British soldiers which accompanied Clive was suddenly attacked by a body of Tanjore horse and almost wholly destroyed. The fortune of the day was subsequently retrieved by Major Lawrence, who, advancing with the whole of his force, took the fort. Mill, in narrating this incident, accuses Clive of rashness 'in allowing himself at the head of the platoon to be separated from the sepoys.' Orme's version of the affair gives it a different complexion. He writes : 'About fifty yards in front of the entrenchment ran a deep and miry rivulet . . . The Europeans marching at the head of the sepoys crossed the rivulet with difficulty, and four of them were killed by the fire from the fort before they reached the opposite bank. As soon as the sepoys had passed likewise, Lieutenant Clive advanced briskly with the Europeans, intending to attack the entrenchment in flank,' at an end Where the work had not been completed. 'The sepoys who had passed the rivulet, instead of following closely, as they had been ordered, remained at the bank waiting until they were joined by greater numbers.' If Orme's statement of the facts is correct, the charge of rashness would seem in this case to be unfounded. Incidents very similar have frequently occurred in war. At the same time it is right to bear in mind that if Clive and the same may be said of other commanders in more recent times had not carried daring to, and sometimes beyond, the verge of rashness, the conquest of India would never have been achieved. Had British Indian strategy been always governed by ordinary rules, neither Assaye nor Plassey would have been fought, nor would the strong position of the Afghans on the Peiwar Kotal have been taken by General Roberts with his small force of three thousand men in the last Afghan war. After the affair of Devikota, Clive again returned to civil employment, and, on the recommendation of Major Lawrence, was appointed commissary for supplying the European troops with provisions. About this time he had an attack of fever of a nervous kind, 'which so much affected his spirits that the constant presence of an attendant became necessary.' He was sent for change of air in the cold season to Bengal, where the cooler temperature in a great measure restored him to health. Two years later he was present in a civil capacity at what Sir John Malcolm calls the disgraceful affair of Valkonda, where, owing to the irresolution of the English officers, a body of the company's troops sent to oppose a native chief on his way to attack Trichinopoly, then in possession of an ally of the government of Fort St. David, was compelled to retire and seek shelter under the walls of Trichinopoly. Clive, however, speedily resumed military employment. Very shortly after the last affair he was sent with Mr. (afterwards Lord) Pigot, then a member of council at Fort St. David, in charge of some recruits and stores to Trichinopoly. On their return, with an escort of only twelve sepoys, they were attacked by a body of polygars, and obliged to ride for their lives. Soon afterwards, Clive, having been promoted to the rank of captain, was sent for the third time to Trichinopoly in charge of another small reinforcement, and was then so much impressed by the situation of the garrison there, and the hopelessness of relieving it, except by creating a diversion in another quarter, that on his return to Fort St. David he suggested the expedition against Arcot, which may be said to have established his reputation as a military commander, and to have been the first decisive step towards the establishment of British power in India.

The military operations in which Clive was now engaged were not, like those which preceded them, caused by hostilities between the English and French nations. In Europe the two countries were for the time at peace.