Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/125

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Clive
Clive
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temperament peculiarly susceptible of nervous depression, and from a physique by no means strong; or the shortness of the time in which his work was done. Perhaps the most extraordinary part of the story is the very few years which it took to lay the foundations of the British Indian empire. Clive received his first military commission in 1747, and his first course of service in India was brought to a close in February 1753. In that brief period, amounting to less than six years, during which he twice reverted to civil employment, Clive by his defence of Arcot, and by the other operations in which he was engaged in the south of India, at the age of twenty-seven, established his reputation as a military commander. His second visit to India, which included Plassey and the establishment of British military ascendency in Bengal, lasted only from 27 Nov. 1755 to 25 Feb. 1760, or little more than four years. His third and last visit, in which he laid the foundations of regular government in Bengal, was cut short by ill-health in twenty-two months. Clive's real work in India thus occupied, all told, a little less than twelve years. Regarding Clive's character, in spite of all that has been written upon it, a considerable amount of misconception exists even now. The common estimate of him still is that he was a brave and able, but violent and unscrupulous man. The prejudice against him, which embittered the latter years of his life, although in a great degree unfounded, has not yet entirely passed away. In a modern poem, entitled 'Clive's Dream before Plassey,' Clive is thus apostrophised:

Violent and bad, thou art Jehovah's servant still,
And e'en to thee a dream may be an angel of
his will.

(Ex Eremo, poems chiefly written in India, by H. G. Keene, London, 1855.)

Macaulay's statement that 'Clive, like most men who are born with strong passions and tried by strong temptations, committed great faults,' but that 'our island has scarcely ever produced a man more truly great either in arms or in council,' is not only more generous but more true. The transactions upon which Clive has been chiefly attacked are the fraud upon Omichand and the pecuniary transactions with Mír Jaffier. For the fraud upon Omichand it is impossible to offer any defence. It was not only morally a crime, but, regarded merely from the point of view of political expediency, it was a blunder of a kind which, if it had been copied in after times, would have deprived our government in India of one of the main sources of its power—the implicit confidence of the natives in British faith. But for the acceptance of the sum of money, large as it was, which Mír Jaffier presented to Clive after Plassey, and of the jághír which he subsequently conferred upon him, there is something to be said, if not in justification, at all events in extenuation. Macaulay, indeed, justifies Clive's acceptance of the jághír, making what is perhaps a questionable distinction between the one grant and the other, on the ground that the jághír was a present, in regard to which there could be no secrecy. The East India Company became under its terms Clive's tenants, and by their acquiescence in the first instance virtually sanctioned Clive's acceptance of the grant. Macaulay, however, admits that both grants were accepted without any attempt at secrecy, and it would seem that to both the primâ facie objection that a general ought not to accept rewards from a foreign ruler without the express permission of his own government must be held to apply. On the other hand, as Macaulay shows, in extenuation of the course taken by Clive, it must be remembered, and the fact is entitled to great weight, that the East India Company at that time tacitly sanctioned the acceptance by their servants of presents from the native powers, paying them miserable salaries, but allowing them to enrich themselves by trade and presents. That Clive would have scorned for the sake of personal gain, under any circumstances, to take a course which he knew to be inconsistent with the interests of his country, is proved by his conduct in making war on his own responsibility upon the Dutch at a time when a great part of his fortune was in the hands of the Dutch East India Company. And, whatever errors he committed in the two transactions above referred to, those errors were nobly redeemed by the energetic onslaught which he made during his second government of Bengal upon the system of oppression, extortion, and corruption which then prevailed. In the relations of private life Clive's character appears to have been irreproachable. He was a generous and dutiful son, a kind brother, an affectionate husband, and a firm friend.

In 1775, the year after Clive's death, the first volume was published of a work entitled 'The Life of Robert, Lord Clive, Baron Plassey,' by Charles Caraccioli, which was subsequently extended to four volumes. It is from first to last a virulent attack upon Clive both in his public and in his private life. It denies his capacity, whether in civil or in military affairs, and attributes his success partly to good luck and partly to the timidity of the natives of India [see Caraccioli, Charles].