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408
[UNDER THE COMPANY
INDIA

with the British within two months after his accession. In pursuit of one of his own family who had escaped from his vengeance, he marched upon Calcutta with a large army. Many of the British fled down the river in their ships. The remainder surrendered after a feeble resistance, and were thrown as prisoners into the “black hole” or military jail of Fort William, a room 18 ft. by 14 ft. 10 in. in size, with only two small windows barred with iron. It was the month of June, in which the tropical heat of Calcutta is most oppressive. When the door of the prison was opened in the morning, only twenty-three persons out of one hundred and forty-six were found alive.

The news of this disaster fortunately found Clive returned to Madras, where also was a squadron of king’s ships under Admiral Watson. Clive and Watson promptly sailed to the mouth of the Ganges with all the troops that Battle of Plassey. could be got together. Calcutta was recovered with little fighting, and the nawab consented to a peace which restored to the company all their privileges, and gave them compensation for their losses of property. It is possible that matters might have ended here if a fresh cause of hostilities had not suddenly arisen. War had just been declared between the British and French in Europe, and Clive, following the traditions of his early warfare in the Carnatic, attacked and captured Chandernagore. Suraj-ud-Dowlah, exasperated by this breach of neutrality within his own dominions, took the side of the French. But Clive, again acting upon the policy he had learned from Dupleix, had provided himself with a rival candidate to the throne. Undaunted, he marched out to the battlefield of Plassey (Palasi), at the head of about 900 Europeans and 2000 sepoys, with 8 pieces of artillery. The Mahommedan army is said to have consisted of 35,000 foot, 15,000 horse and 50 pieces of cannon. But there was a traitor in the Mahommedan camp in the person of Mir Jafar, who had married a sister of the late nawab, Ali Vardi Khan. The battle was short but decisive. After a few rounds of artillery fire, Suraj-ud-Dowlah fled, and the road to Murshidabad was left open.

The battle of Plassey was fought on the 23rd of June 1757, an anniversary afterwards remembered when the mutiny was at its height in 1857. History has agreed to adopt this date as the beginning of the British empire in the East; but the immediate results of the victory were comparatively small, and several more hard-won fights were fought before even the Bengalis would admit the superiority of the British arms. For the moment, however, all opposition was at an end. Clive, again following in the steps of Dupleix, placed his nominee, Mir Jafar, upon the masnad at Murshidabad, being careful to obtain a patent of investiture from the Mogul court. Enormous sums were exacted from Mir Jafar as the price of his elevation. The company claimed 10,000,000 rupees as compensation for losses; for the British, the Armenian and the Indian inhabitants of Calcutta there were demanded the sums of 5,000,000, 2,000,000 and 1,000,000 rupees; for the squadron 2,500,000 rupees, and an equal sum for the army. The members of the council received the following amounts: Mr Drake, the governor, and Colonel Clive 280,000 rupees each; and Mr Becher, Mr Watts and Major Kilpatrick 240,000 rupees each. The whole amounted to £2,340,000. The British, deluded by their avarice, still cherished extravagant ideas of Indian wealth; nor would they listen to the unwelcome truth. But it was found that there were no funds in the treasury to satisfy their inordinate demands, and they were obliged to be contented with one-half the stipulated sums, which, after many difficulties, were paid in specie and in jewels, with the exception of 584,905 rupees. The shares of the council were, however, paid in full. At the same time the nawab made a grant to the company of the zamindari rights over an extensive tract of country round Calcutta, now known as the district of the Twenty-four Parganas. The area of this tract was about 882 sq. m., and it paid a revenue or quit rent of about £23,000. The gross rental at first payable to the company was £53,000, but within a period of ten years it had risen to £146,000. Originally the company possessed only the zamindari rights, i.e. revenue jurisdiction. The superior lordship, or right to receive the quit rent, remained with the nawab; but in 1759 this also was parted with by the nawab in favour of Clive, who thus became the landlord of his own masters, the company. At that time also Clive was enrolled among the nobility of the Mogul empire, with the rank of commander of 6000 foot and 5000 horse. Clive’s jagir, as it was called, subsequently became a matter of inquiry in England, and on his death it passed to the company, thus merging the zamindari in the proprietary rights.

In 1758 Clive was appointed by the court of directors to be governor of all the company’s settlements in Bengal. From two quarters troubles threatened, which perhaps Clive alone was capable of overcoming. On the west the shahzada or imperial prince, known afterwards as the emperor Shah Alam, with a mixed army of Afghans and Mahrattas, and supported by the nawab wazir of Oudh, was advancing his own claims to the province of Bengal. In the south the influence of the French under Lally and Bussy was overshadowing the British at Madras. But the name of Clive exercised a decisive effect in both directions. Mir Jafar was anxious to buy off the shahzada, who had already invested Patna. But Clive in person marched to the rescue, with an army of only 450 Europeans and 2500 sepoys, and the Mogul army dispersed without striking a blow. In the same year Clive despatched a force southwards under Colonel Forde, which captured Masulipatam from the French, and permanently established British influence throughout the Northern Circars, and at the court of Hyderabad. He next attacked the Dutch, the sole European nation that might yet be a formidable rival to the English. He defeated them by both land and water; and from that time their settlement at Chinsura existed only on sufferance.

From 1760 to 1765, while Clive was at home, the history of the British in Bengal contains little that is creditable. Clive had left behind him no system of government, but merely the tradition that unlimited sums of money Massacre of Patna. might be extracted from the natives by the mere terror of the British name. In 1761 it was found expedient and profitable to dethrone Mir Jafar, the nawab of Murshidabad, and substitute his son-in-law, Mir Kasim, in his place. On that occasion, besides private donations, the British received a grant of the three districts of Burdwan, Midnapur and Chittagong, estimated to yield a net revenue of half a million sterling. But Mir Kasim proved to possess a will of his own, and to cherish dreams of independence. He retired from Murshidabad to Monghyr, a strong position on the Ganges, which commanded the only means of communication with Upper India. There he proceeded to organize an army, drilled and equipped after European models, and to carry on intrigues with the nawab wazir of Oudh. The company’s servants claimed the privilege of carrying on private trade throughout Bengal, free from inland dues and all other imposts. The assertion of this claim caused frequent affrays between the customs’ officers of the nawab and those traders who, whether falsely or not, represented that they were acting on behalf of the servants of the company. The nawab alleged that his civil authority was everywhere being set at nought. The majority of the council at Calcutta would not listen to his statements. The governor, Mr Vansittart, and Warren Hastings, then a junior member of council, attempted to effect some compromise. But the controversy had become too hot. The nawab’s officers fired upon a British boat, and forthwith all Bengal was in a blaze. A force of 2000 sepoys was cut to pieces at Patna, and about 200 Englishmen in various parts of the province fell into the hands of the Mahommedans, and were subsequently massacred. But as soon as regular warfare commenced Mir Kasim met with no more successes. His trained regiments were defeated in two pitched battles by Major Adams, at Gheria and at Udha-nala, and he himself took refuge with the nawab wazir of Oudh, who refused to deliver him up. This led to a prolongation of the war. Shah Alam, who had now succeeded his father as emperor, and Shuja-ud-Daula, the nawab wazir of Oudh, united their forces, and threatened Patna, which the British had recovered. A more