even during his first visit to its rich delta, mighty rivers and teeming population. It should be noticed, also, that he had the kingly gift of selecting the ablest subordinates, for even thus early he had discovered the ability of young Warren Hastings, destined to be his great successor, and, a year after Plassey, made him resident at the nawab’s court.
In 1760, at thirty-five years of age, Clive returned to England with a fortune of at least £300,000 and the quit-rent of £27,000 a year, after caring for the comfort of his parents and sisters, and giving Major Lawrence, his old commanding officer, who had early encouraged his military genius, £500 a year. The money had been honourably and publicly acquired, with the approval of the Company. The amount might have been four times what it was had Clive been either greedy after wealth or ungenerous to the colleagues and the troops whom he led to victory. In the five years of his conquests and administration in Bengal, the young man had crowded together a succession of exploits which led Lord Macaulay, in what that historian termed his “flashy” essay on the subject, to compare him to Napoleon Bonaparte. But there was this difference in Clive’s favour, due not more to the circumstances of the time than to the object of his policy—he gave peace, security, prosperity and such liberty as the case allowed of to a people now reckoned at nearly three hundred millions, who had for centuries been the prey of oppression, while Napoleon’s career of conquest was inspired only by personal ambition, and the absolutism he established vanished with his fall. During the three years that Clive remained in England he sought a political position, chiefly that he might influence the course of events in India, which he had left full of promise. He had been well received at court, had been made Baron Clive of Plassey, in the peerage of Ireland, had bought estates, and had got not only himself, but his friends returned to the House of Commons after the fashion of the time. Then it was that he set himself to reform the home system of the East India Company, and began a bitter warfare with Mr Sulivan, chairman of the court of directors, whom in the end he defeated. In this he was aided by the news of reverses in Bengal. Vansittart, his successor, having no great influence over Jafar Ali Khan, had put Kasim Ali Khan, the son-in-law, in his place in consideration of certain payments to the English officials. After a brief tenure Kasim Ali had fled, had ordered Walter Reinhardt (known to the Mahommedans as Sumru), a Swiss mercenary of his, to butcher the garrison of 150 English at Patna, and had disappeared under the protection of his brother viceroy of Oudh. The whole Company’s service, civil and military, had become demoralized by gifts, and by the monopoly of the inland as well as export trade, to such an extent that the natives were pauperized, and the Company was plundered of the revenues which Clive had acquired for them. The court of proprietors, accordingly, who elected the directors, forced them, in spite of Sulivan, to hurry out Lord Clive to Bengal with the double powers of governor and commander-in-chief.
What he had done for Madras, what he had accomplished for Bengal proper, and what he had effected in reforming the Company itself, he was now to complete in less than two years, in this the third period of his career, by putting his country politically in the place of the emperor of Delhi, and preventing for ever the possibility of the corruption to which the British in India had been driven by an evil system. On the 3rd of May 1765 he landed at Calcutta to learn that Jafar Ali Khan had died, leaving him personally £70,000, and had been succeeded by his son, though not before the government had been further demoralized by taking £100,000 as a gift from the new nawab; while Kasim Ali had induced not only the viceroy of Oudh, but the emperor of Delhi himself, to invade Behar. After the first mutiny in the Bengal army, which was suppressed by blowing the sepoy ringleader from a gun, Major Munro, “the Napier of those times,” scattered the united armies on the hard-fought field of Buxar. The emperor, Shah Alam, detached himself from the league, while the Oudh viceroy threw himself on the mercy of the British. Clive had now an opportunity of repeating in Hindustan, or Upper India, what he had accomplished for the good of Bengal. He might have secured what are now called the United Provinces, and have rendered unnecessary the campaigns of Wellesley and Lake. But he had other work in the consolidation of rich Bengal itself, making it a base from which the mighty fabric of British India could afterwards steadily and proportionally grow. Hence he returned to the Oudh viceroy all his territory save the provinces of Allahabad and Kora, which he made over to the weak emperor. But from that emperor he secured the most important document in the whole of British history in India up to that time, which appears in the records as “firmaund from the King Shah Aalum, granting the dewany of Bengal, Behar and Orissa to the Company, 1765.” The date was the 12th of August, the place Benares, the throne an English dining-table covered with embroidered cloth and surmounted by a chair in Clive’s tent. It is all pictured by a Mahommedan contemporary, who indignantly exclaims that so great a “transaction was done and finished in less time than would have been taken up in the sale of a jackass.” By this deed the Company became the real sovereign rulers of thirty millions of people, yielding a revenue of four millions sterling. All this had been accomplished by Clive in the few brief years since he had avenged “the Black Hole” of Calcutta. This would be a small matter, or might even be a cause of reproach, were it not that the Company’s undisputed sovereignty proved, after a sore period of transition, the salvation of these millions. The lieutenant-governorship of Bengal since Clive’s time has grown so large and prosperous that in 1905 it was found advisable to divide it into two separate provinces. But Clive, though thus moderate and even generous to an extent which called forth the astonishment of the natives, had all a statesman’s foresight. On the same date he obtained not only an imperial charter for the Company’s possession in the Carnatic also, thus completing the work he began at Arcot, but a third firman for the highest of all the lieutenancies of the empire, that of the Deccan itself. This fact is mentioned in a letter from the secret committee of the court of directors to the Madras government, dated the 27th of April 1768. Still so disproportionate did the British force seem, not only to the number and strength of the princes and people of India, but to the claims and ambition of French, Dutch and Danish rivals, that Clive’s last advice to the directors, as he finally left India in 1767, was this: “We are sensible that, since the acquisition of the dewany, the power formerly belonging to the soubah of those provinces is totally, in fact, vested in the East India Company. Nothing remains to him but the name and shadow of authority. This name, however, this shadow, it is indispensably necessary we should seem to venerate.” On a wider arena, even that of the Great Mogul himself, the shadow was kept up till it obliterated itself in the massacre of English people in the Delhi palace in 1857; and Queen Victoria was proclaimed, first, direct ruler on the 1st of November 1858, and then empress of India on the 1st of January 1877.
Having thus founded the empire of British India, Clive’s painful duty was to create a pure and strong administration, such as alone would justify its possession by foreigners. The civil service was de-orientalized by raising the miserable salaries which had tempted its members to be corrupt, by forbidding the acceptance of gifts from natives, and by exacting covenants under which participation in the inland trade was stopped. Not less important were his military reforms. With his usual tact and nerve he put down a mutiny of the English officers, who chose to resent the veto against receiving presents and the reduction of batta at a time when two Mahratta armies were marching on Bengal. His reorganization of the army, on the lines of that which he had begun after Plassey, and which was neglected during his second visit to England, has since attracted the admiration of the ablest Indian officers. He divided the whole into three brigades, so as to make each a complete force, in itself equal to any single native army that could be brought against it. He had not enough British artillerymen, however, and would not make the mistake of his successors, who trained natives to work the guns, which were turned against the British