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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 13

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The war with the Mahrattas and the announcement of the speedy arrival of a French armament on the coast of Coromandel, induced the company's old enemy, Hyder Ali, to think it a good opportunity to recover some of his territory from the company. Yet he did not do this without having, in his eyes, just cause. The fort and territory of Mahe, though inhabited by the French, were tributary to Hyder. He invaded these, the English attacked Hyder. In fact, the manner in which the territories of Hyder Ali were obtained, furnishes one of the most striking examples of the fate of those Indians who did not covet the fatal friendship of the English. Hyder, as we have seen, was a soldier of fortune. He had risen from a low estate by his own energies. The English considered him an ambitious, able, and, therefore, very dangerous person in India. He considered them the same. He was an adventurer; they, too, were adventurers. He had acquired a great dominion by means that! would not bear the strictest scrutiny; so had they; but there was this difference between them: Hyder acted according to the custom and maxims in which he had been educated, and which were practised by the princes around him. He had neither the advantages of Christian knowledge and principle, nor pretended to them. The English in India, on the contrary, came as merchants; they were continually instructed by their masters at home not to commit military aggressions. They were bound by the laws of their country not to do it. They professed to be in possession of a far higher system of religion and morals than Hyder and his people had. They pretended to be the disciples of the Prince of Peace. Their magnanimous creed they declared to be, " to do to others as they would wish to be done by." j But neither Hyder nor any other Indian ever saw the least evidence of any such superiority of morals or of faith in their conduct. They were as ambitious, and far more greedy of money, than the heathens that they pretended to despise for their heathenism. They ought to have set a better example, but they did not. There never was a people that grasped more convulsively at dominion, or were less scrupulous in the means of obtaining it. They declared Hyder to be cruel and perfidious; he knew them to be both. This was the ground on which they stood. There were reasons why the English in India should avoid interfering with Hyder; there were none why he should avoid encroaching on them, for he did not profess any such grand principles of action as they did. If they were what they pretended to be, they ought to preach peace and union amongst the Indian princes; but union was, of all things in the world, the very one which they most dreaded; for they were not what they pretended to be, but sought, in the divisions of natives, to establish their own power. Had Hyder attacked them in their own trading districts, there could have been no reason why they should not chastise him for it. But it does not appear that he ever did attack them at all, till they fell upon him, and that with the avowed intention to annihilate his power as dangerous.

No, say they, but he attacked the territories of our ally, the subahdar of the Deccan, which we were bound to defend. And here it is that we touch again upon that subtle policy by which it became impossible, when they had once got a footing in the country, that, having the will and the power, they should not eventually have the dominion. While professing to avoid conquest, as we have seen, they went on continually making conquests. But it was always on the plea of aiding their allies. They entered knowingly into alliances on condition of defending with arms their allies, and thus, when they committed aggressions, it was for these allies. In the end, the allies were themselves swallowed up, with all the additional territories thus gained. It was a system of fattening allies as we fatten oxen, till they were more worthy of being devoured. They cast their subtle threads of policy, like the radiating filaments of the spider's web, till the remotest extremity of India could not be touched without startling them from their concealed centre into open day, ready to run upon the unlucky offender. It was utterly impossible, on such a system, but that offences must come, and woe to them by whom they did come!

The English were unquestionably the aggressors in the hostilities with Hyder. They entered into a treaty with Nizam Ali, the subahdar of the Deccan, offensive and defensive; and the very first deed which he called on them to do was to seize the fort of Bangalore, which belonged to Hyder. They had, as we have shown, actually marched in 1767 into his territories, when Hyder found means to draw the nizam from his alliance, and, in conjunction with him, fell upon them, and compelled them to fly to Trincomalee. By this unprovoked and voluntary act they found themselves at once involved in a war with a fierce and active enemy, who pursued them to the very walls of Madras, scoured their country with their cavalry, and compelled them to a dishonourable peace in 1769, by which they bound themselves to assist him, too, in his defensive wars!

To enter voluntarily into such conditions with such a man, betrayed no great delicacy of moral feeling as to what wars they engaged in, or no great honesty in their intentions as regarded the treaty itself. They must soon either fight with some of Hyder's numerous enemies, or break faith with him. Accordingly, the very next year the Mahrattas invaded his territories. He called earnestly on his English allies for aid, and aid they did not give. Hyder had now the justest reason for calling them perfidious, and for holding them in distrust. Yet, though deeply exasperated by this treachery, he would, in 1778, most willingly have renewed his alliance with them; and the presidency of Madras acknowledged their belief that, had not the treaty of 1769 been evaded, Hyder would never have sought other alliance than themselves (Mill, ii. 480). There were the strongest reasons why they should have cultivated an amicable relation with him, both to withdraw him from the French, and on account of his own great power and resources. But they totally neglected him, or insulted him with words of mere courtesy; and now their attack on his tributary fort and territory of Mahe made Hyder declare them "the most faithless and usurping of mankind."

Hyder saw that the present opportunity was most favourable for taking a signal vengeance on the English. They were embarrassed by their war with the Mahrattas. He, on his part, had intelligence of a French squadron to support his views. For years he had concerted with the French a grand plan for the destruction of the British power; and even whilst he had remained apparently quiet, he was preparing with all his energies for its accomplishment. He had squeezed his treasurers and collectors to the utmost for the accumulation of money, and mustered an army of nearly ninety thousand men, including twenty-eight thousand cavalry and two thousand artillery and rocket- men, besides four hundred engineers, chiefly French. He had a complete staff of Frenchmen, who directed the operations on the most military principles, and he had above one hundred pieces of cannon of different calibre. After having given orders that the mysterious religious rite called Jebbum should be performed in all the temples - for both he and the Tippoo, though Mussulmans, always favoured the Hindoo form of worship, as influencing their soldiers - Hyder suddenly poured down from his hills with this host into the plains of Madras. To the last moment the authorities there appear to have been wholly unconscious of their danger. Sir Thomas Rumbold, who had spent three years as governor of Madras in scraping together money, and oppressing the allies in the Carnatic, the Deccan, and the Northern Circars, was recalled. He had done his best to irritate Hyder, whilst he had managed for himself to remit home in three years three times the full amount of his salary. His place was now occupied by Mr. Whitehill, a man utterly incapable of governing or defending the province. Besides this, the army in the presidency did not exceed six thousand men, and these were principally sepoys. This force, too, was spread over a vast region; part at Pondicherry, part at Arcot, part in Madras, but everywhere scattered into cantonments widely distant from each other, and in forts capable of very little defence. As for the forces of their ally, the nabob of Arcot, they ran at the first issue of Hyder's army through the ghauts. On came the army of Hyder like a wild hurricane. Porto Novo on the coast, and Conjerveram near Trichinopolis, were taken; and Hyder advanced, laying all waste with fire and sword, till he could be seen - a dreadful apparition - with his host from Mount St. Thomas, his progress marked by the flames and smoke of burning villages.

The inhabitants, men, women, and children, fled in terror from their splendid villas, around the city, into the fort of St. George. A fast-sailing vessel was dispatched to Calcutta, to implore the governor-general to send them speedy aid of men and money. The forces were called together from different quarters, and Sir Hector Munro at the head of one body, and colonel Baillie at the head of another, were ordered to combine, and intercept Hyder. First one place of rendezvous, and then another was named, and, before the junction could take place, Baillie had managed to allow himself to be surrounded, near Conjerveram, by the whole host of Hyder, and, after a brave defence, was compelled to surrender, one half of his troops being cut to pieces. The insults and cruelties of the troops of Hyder to their captives were something demoniac.

Munro had sent to demand troops from the nabob of Arcot, for whom the English were always fighting, and received a message of compliments, but no soldiers. On the defeat of Baillie, he made a hasty retreat to Mount St. Thomas. Meantime, the call for aid had reached Calcutta, and Hastings instantly responded to it with all his indomitable energy. Had Hastings been a tolerably honest man, he would have been one of the greatest men who ever ruled the destinies of India. He thought no labour, anxiety, or sacrifice too great, for the maintenance of the British ascendancy there; and he was as little restrained by conscience as by fear in his endeavours to that end. He called together the council, and demanded that peace should be made at once with the Mahrattas; that every soldier should be shipped off at once to Madras; that fifteen lacs of rupees should be sent without a moment's delay to the council there; that the incompetent governor, Whitehill, should be removed; and Sir Eyre Coote sent to perform this necessary office, and take the command of the troops. Francis, who had not yet embarked, raised, as usual, his voice in opposition. He contended against sending any of the troops, and only half the money. So bravely can men write against others, so ruinously for their country would they manage themselves. If " Junius," for such we believe Francis to have been, could have ruled now, Madras had been lost. But Hastings' proposals were all carried. The troops, under Sir Eyre Coote, were hurried off, and messengers dispatched in flying haste to raise money at Moorshedabad, Patna, Benares, Lucknow - everywhere, where the authority of Hastings could extort it. At the same time, other officers were sent to negotiate with the Mahrattas for peace.

Coote landed at Madras at the beginning of November. A council was immediately called, Whitehill was removed from the government of the presidency, and the member of council next in seniority appointed. Hyder, by this time, had reduced Arcot, Wandewash, Chingleput, and Vellore, and would soon have annihilated our whole dominion in the Carnatic and the Northern Circars. Coote had brought with him only five hundred British troops and six hundred Lascars. The whole force with which he could encounter Hyder amounted only to one thousand seven hundred Europeans and five thousand native troops; but he was promised a considerable reinforcement of native infantry, and a few native cavalry, who, under major Pearse, were marching over land from Calcutta, a distance of one thousand one hundred miles. Coote, whose name as the conqueror of the French at Wandewash and Pondicherry struck terror into Hyder, soon resumed his triumphs on his old ground; drove the enemy from Wandewash, and compelled them to raise a number of these sieges. Hearing then of the arrival of the Irenen armament off Pondicherry, he marched thither, and posted himself on the Red Hills. The French fleet, consisting of seven ships of the line and four frigates, were anchored off the place. The French inhabitants had seized the British resident, thrown him into prison, and occupied the town in arms. Coote disarmed them, released the resident, and then marched against Hyder. But the French squadron having sailed away for the Isle of France, from apprehension of the approach of a British fleet, Hyder rapidly retreated, and, entering the territory of Tanjore, laid it waste, while his son, Tippoo, laid siege again to Wandewash. Coote failing to take the fortified pagoda of Chillambram, Hyder was again encouraged to advance, and on the 6th of July Coote managed to bring him to action near Porto Novo, and completely routed him and his huge host, though he had himself only about eight thousand men. Hyder, who watched the battle from a hill, seated cross- legged on a stool, saw the route with inconceivable astonishment. He raved, tore his" clothes, cursed his attendants when they approached him, and refused to move from the spot, till a privileged servant thrust his slippers forcibly upon his feet, exclaiming, " We will beat them to-morrow; in the meantime, mount your horse! " Hyder gave way, but bitterly rued following the advice of the French, exclaiming, "The defeat of many Baillies will not destroy these English. I can ruin their forces by land, but I cannot dry up the sea!" He retired quite crestfallen to Arcot, and ordered Tippoo to raise the siege of Wandewash.

Notwithstanding that Hyder had esxablished his camp soon after in a strong position near the village of Pollilore, he was attacked on the 27th of August by Eyre Coote. On this occasion Sir Hector Munro warned Coote of the disadvantages of ground under which he was going to engage, and the inevitable sacrifice of life. Coote replied angrily, " You talk to me, sir, when you should be doing your duty!" a speech which wounded Munro so deeply as to lead eventually to his quitting India. His warning, however, was just. Coote did not succeed in driving Hyder from his post without severe loss. But again, on the 27th of September, another battle was fought between them in the pass of Sholinghur, near Bellore, in which Coote defeated Hyder with terrible loss. This battle relieved the English garrison in Bellore, and after taking Chittore, Palipete, and other places, the rainy season put an end to operations, but the Carnatic was saved.

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