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534
CLIVE, LORD

hopeless as a ruler. His relations alike to his master, the merely titular emperor of Delhi, and to the people left the province open to the strongest. After “the Black Hole,” the battle of Calcutta, and the treachery at Chandernagore in spite of the treaty which followed that battle, the East India Company could treat the nawab only as an enemy. Clive, it is true, might have disregarded all native intrigue, marched on Murshidabad, and at once held the delta of the Ganges in the Company’s name. But the time was not ripe for this, and the consequences, with so small a force, might have been fatal. The idea of acting directly as rulers, or save under native charters and names, was not developed by events for half a century. The political morality of the time in Europe, as well as the comparative weakness of the Company in India, led Clive not only to meet the dishonesty of his native associate by equal dishonesty, but to justify his conduct by the declaration, years after, in parliament, that he would do the same again. It became necessary to employ the richest Bengali trader, Omichund, as an agent between Jafar Ali and the British officials. Master of the secret of the confederacy against Suraj-ud-Dowlah, the Bengali threatened to betray it unless he was guaranteed, in the treaty itself, £300,000. To dupe the villain, who was really paid by both sides, a second, or fictitious treaty, was shown him with a clause to this effect. This Admiral Watson refused to sign; “but,” Clive deponed to the House of Commons, “to the best of his remembrance, he gave the gentleman who carried it leave to sign his name upon it; his lordship never made any secret of it; he thinks it warrantable in such a case, and would do it again a hundred times; he had no interested motive in doing it, and did it with a design of disappointing the expectations of a rapacious man.” Such is Clive’s own defence of the one act which, in a long career of abounding temptations, was of questionable honesty.

The whole hot season of 1757 was spent in these negotiations, till the middle of June, when Clive began his march from Chandernagore, the British in boats, and the sepoys along the right bank of the Hugli. That river above Calcutta is, during the rainy season, fed by the overflow of the Ganges to the north through three streams, which in the hot months are nearly dry. On the left bank of the Bhagirathi, the most westerly of these, 100 m. above Chandernagore, stands Murshidabad, the capital of the Mogul viceroys of Bengal, and then so vast that Clive compared it to the London of his day. Some miles farther down is the field of Plassey, then an extensive grove of mango trees, of which enough yet remains, in spite of the changing course of the stream, to enable the visitor to realize the scene. On the 21st of June Clive arrived on the bank opposite Plassey, in the midst of that outburst of rain which ushers in the south-west monsoon of India. His whole army amounted to 1100 Europeans and 2100 native troops, with 9 field-pieces. The nawab had drawn up 18,000 horse, 50,000 foot and 53 pieces of heavy ordnance, served by French artillerymen. For once in his career Clive hesitated, and called a council of sixteen officers to decide, as he put it, “whether in our present situation, without assistance, and on our own bottom, it would be prudent to attack the nawab, or whether we should wait till joined by some country power?” Clive himself headed the nine who voted for delay; Major (afterwards Sir) Eyre Coote led the seven who counselled immediate attack. But, either because his daring asserted itself, or because, also, of a letter that he received from Jafar Ali, as has been said, Clive was the first to change his mind and to communicate with Major Eyre Coote. One tradition, followed by Macaulay, represents him as spending an hour in thought under the shade of some trees, while he resolved the issues of what was to prove one of the decisive battles of the world. Another, turned into verse by Sir Alfred Lyall, pictures his resolution as the result of a dream. However that may be, he did well as a soldier to trust to the dash and even rashness that had gained Arcot and triumphed at Calcutta, and as a statesman, since retreat, or even delay, would have put back the civilization of India for years. When, after the heavy rain, the sun rose brightly on the 22nd, the 3200 men and the 9 guns crossed the river and took possession of the grove and its tanks of water, while Clive established his headquarters in a hunting lodge, On the 23rd the engagement took place and lasted the whole day. Except the 40 Frenchmen and the guns which they worked, the enemy did little to reply to the British cannonade which, with the 39th Regiment, scattered the host, inflicting on it a loss of 500 men. Clive restrained the ardour of Major Kilpatrick, for he trusted to Jafar Ali’s abstinence, if not desertion to his ranks, and knew the importance of sparing his own small force. He lost hardly a white soldier; in all 22 sepoys were killed and 50 wounded. His own account, written a month after the battle to the secret committee of the court of directors, is not less unaffected than that in which he had announced the defeat of the nawab at Calcutta. Suraj-ud-Dowlah fled from the field on a camel, secured what wealth he could, and came to an untimely end. Clive entered Murshidabad, and established Jafar Ali in the position which his descendants have ever since enjoyed, as pensioners, but have not infrequently abused. When taken through the treasury, amid a million and a half sterling’s worth of rupees, gold and silver plate, jewels and rich goods, and besought to ask what he would, Clive was content with £160,000, while half a million was distributed among the army and navy, both in addition to gifts of £24,000 to each member of the Company’s committee, and besides the public compensation stipulated for in the treaty. It was to this occasion that he referred in his defence before the House of Commons, when he declared that he marvelled at his moderation. He sought rather to increase the shares of the fleet and the troops at his own expense, as he had done at Gheria, and did more than once afterwards, with prize of war. What he did take from the grateful nawab for himself was less than the circumstances justified from an Oriental point of view, was far less than was pressed upon him, not only by Jafar Ali, but by the hundreds of native nobles whose gifts Clive steadily refused, and was openly acknowledged from the first. He followed a usage fully recognized by the Company, although the fruitful source of future evils which he himself was again sent out to correct. The Company itself acquired a revenue of £100,000 a year, and a contribution towards its losses and military expenditure of a million and a half sterling. Such was Jafar Ali’s gratitude to Clive that he afterwards presented him with the quit-rent of the Company’s lands in and around Calcutta, amounting to an annuity of £27,000 for life, and left him by will the sum of £70,000, which Clive devoted to the army.

While busy with the civil administration, the conqueror of Plassey continued to follow up his military success. He sent Major Coote in pursuit of the French almost as far as Benares. He despatched Colonel Forde to Vizagapatam and the northern districts of Madras, where that officer gained the battle of Condore, pronounced by Broome “one of the most brilliant actions on military record.” He came into direct contact, for the first time, with the Great Mogul himself, an event which resulted in the most important consequences during the third period of his career. Shah Alam, when shahzada, or heir-apparent, quarrelled with his father Alam Gir II., the emperor, and united with the viceroys of Oudh and Allahabad for the conquest of Bengal. He advanced as far as Patna, which he besieged with 40,000 men. Jafar Ali, in terror, sent his son to its relief, and implored the aid of Clive. Major Caillaud defeated the prince’s army and dispersed it. Finally, at this period, Clive repelled the aggression of the Dutch, and avenged the massacre of Amboyna, on that occasion when he wrote his famous letter, “Dear Forde, fight them immediately; I will send you the order of council to-morrow.” Meanwhile he never ceased to improve the organization and drill of the sepoy army, after a European model, and enlisted into it many Mahommedans of fine physique from upper India. He refortified Calcutta. In 1760, after four years of labour so incessant and results so glorious, his health gave way and he returned to England. “It appeared,” wrote a contemporary on the spot, “as if the soul was departing from the government of Bengal.” He had been formally made governor of Bengal by the court of directors at a time when his nominal superiors in Madras sought to recall him to their help there. But he had discerned the importance of the province