OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 6

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 <6> 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

In return for this favour, Clive obtained one of infinitely more importance. It was the transfer of the sole right of dominion throughout the provinces of Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar. All that vast territory was thus made the legal and valid property of the East India Company. The conveyance was ratified by Dewannee, or public deed, which was delivered by the Great Mogul to Clive in presence of his court, the throne on which he was elevated during this most important ceremony being an English dining-table, covered with a showy cloth. And of this prince - who was entirely their own puppet - the English still continued to style themselves the vassals, to strike his coins at their mint, and to bear his titles on their public seal! Clive saw the immense importance of maintaining the aspect of subjects to the highest native authority, and to avoid alarming the minds of the native forces by an open assumption of proprietorship. By this single treaty, at the same time that he had freed the company from all dependence on the heirs of Meer Jaffier, he derived the company's title to those states from the supreme native power in India; and he could boast of having secured to his countrymen an annual revenue of two millions of money. In writing home, he met the natural fears of the company at the sudden assumption of such vast regions, by saying - " With regard to the magnitude of our possessions, do not be staggered. Assure yourself that the company must be what they are, or be annihilated." Just before, he had written in the like strain - " We have at last arrived at that critical period which I have long foreseen; I mean that period which renders it necessary for us to determine whether we can or shall take the whole to ourselves. Jaffier Ali Khan is dead. His natural son is a minor; but I know not whether he is yet declared successor. Sujah Dowlah is beat from his dominions. We are in possession of them, and it is scarcely hyperbole to say - 1 To-morrow the whole mogul empire is in our power.' The inhabitants of the country, we know by long experience, are neither disciplined, commanded, nor paid like ours. Can it, then, be doubtful that a large army of Europeans will effectually preserve us sovereigns? "

Having thus arranged with the natives, Clive came to the far more arduous business of compelling the Europeans to conform to the orders of the company, that no more presents should be received. In his letters home he recommended that to put an end to the examples of corruption in high places, it was necessary that the governor of Bengal should have a larger salary; that he and others of the higher officers should be prohibited from being concerned in trade; that the chief seat of government should be at Calcutta; and the govern or-general should have the authority, in cases of emergency, to decide, independent of the council. These were all sound views, but to carry them out required the highest exercise of his authority. He exacted a written pledge from the civil servants of the company, that they would receive no more presents from the native princes. To this there was considerable objection, and some resigned; but he carried this through, nominally at least. To sweeten the prohibition of civil servants engaging in trade, he gave them a share in the enormous emoluments of the salt monopoly - two hundred per cent, being laid on the introduction of salt, one of the most indispensable requisites of life to the natives, from the adjoining state of Madras into that of Bengal.

With the military he had a far more violent contest. After the battle of Plassey, Meer Jaffier had conferred on the officers of the army what was called double batta, meaning an additional allowance of pay. Clive had always told the officers that it was not likely that the Company would continue this; and, now that the territories of Jaffier were become virtually their own, he announced that this must be discontinued. The governor and council issued the orders for this abolition of the double batta; he received in reply nothing but remonstrances. The officers, according to Burke's phrase, in his speech of December 1st, 1783, "could not behold, without a virtuous emulation, the moderate gains of the civil service" Clive was peremptory, and found his orders openly set at defiance by nearly two hundred officers, headed by no less a person than his second in command, Sir Robert Fletcher. These gentlemen had privately entered into a bond of five hundred pounds to resign on the enforcement of the order, and not to resume their commissions unless the double batta was restored. To support such as might be cashiered, a subscription was entered into, to which the angry civilians of Calcutta are said to have added sixteen thousand pounds.

The conspirators flattered themselves that, in a country like India, held wholly by the sword, Clive could not dispense with their services for a single day. They were mistaken. On receiving the news of this military strike, Clive immediately set off for the camp at Monghir. He was informed that two of the officers vowed that if he came to enforce the order, they would shoot or stab him. Undaunted by any such threats, although in failing health, and amid drenching rains, he pursued his journey, and, on arriving, summoned the officers of the army, and, treating the threats of assassination as those of murderers and not of Englishmen, he reasoned with them on the unpatriotic nature of their conduct. His words produced the desired effect on many; the privates showed no disposition to support their officers in their demand, and the sepoys all shouted with enthusiasm for Sabut Jung, their ideal of a hero. The younger officers, who had been menaced with death if they did not support the conspiracy, now begged to recall their resignation, and Clive allowed it. He ordered Sir Robert Fletcher and all who stood out into arrest, and sent them down the Ganges to take their trial at Calcutta. Many are said to have departed with tears in their eyes.

Clive wrote to the council enjoining the most unyielding firmness; to imprison the officers in the new fort, if they showed any insolence or contumacy; and if the civilians attempted to fete them, to dismiss instantly all such from the service. By this spirited conduct Clive crushed this formidable resistance, and averted the shame which he avowed not all the waters of the Ganges could wash out, that of a successful mutiny.

Whilst showing this firmness towards others, Clive found it necessary to maintain it in himself. In face of the orders of the company which he had been enforcing, that the British officials should receive no more presents, the rajah of Benares offered him two diamonds of large size, and the nabob vizier, Sujah Dowlah, on the conclusion of his treaty, a rich casket of jewels and a large sum of money. Clive declared that he could thus have added half a million to his fortune; and our historians have been loud in his praises for his abstinence on this occasion. Lord Mahon observes: - "All this time the conduct of Clive was giving a lofty example of disregard of lucre. He did not spare his personal resources, and was able, some years after, to boast in the house of commons that this his second Indian command had left him poorer than it found him.'

But how was it possible for Clive to act otherwise? At the very time that he was enforcing in the sternest manner the orders of the company, that this practice should cease, was he himself to set the most public example - breaking the rule for his own private benefit? The deed could only have covered him with overwhelming infamy, and have destroyed his reputation and his influence together. Clive had already secured a princely fortune, and he was too ambitious not to sacrifice now a large sum for the preservation of his fame. There were other and plentiful sources of emolument, however, much less prominent to the public gaze; and these Clive did not neglect. Much eloquence has been expended by Macaulay, in a celebrated article in the Edinburgh Review, to show that the salt monopoly was an old impost, and that Clive did nothing but what was quite admissible in putting a certain portion of the maintenance of the civil servants of the company on the salt duty, as he only enabled them to make steady but slower fortunes than by private trade and the system of presents. But Macaulay should have shown - which he could not - that this enriching men out of the salt monopoly put an end to the practice of presents, or sums extorted as presents. The archives of the India House dissipate all this mere sophistry.

Clive himself entered largely into private trade, and into the vast monopoly of salt, to the most serious oppression of the people, and the detriment of their health, to which, with their rice diet, this article is so essentially necessary; and he did this on the avowed ground of enabling some gentlemen, whom he had brought out, to make their fortunes! His committee sanctioned the private trade in salt, betel- nut, and tobacco, out of which nearly all the abuses and miseries he complained of had grown: only confining it to the superior servants of the company. And he himself, when the orders of the directors were laid before him in council, carelessly turned them aside, saying, "The directors, when they wrote them, could not know what changes had taken place in India." No! they did not know that he and his council were now partners in the salt trade, and realising a profit, including interest, of fifty per cent.! Perhaps Clive thought he had done a great service when he attempted to lessen the number of harpies by cutting off the trade of the juniors, and thus turning the tide of gain more completely into his own pockets, and those of his fellows of the council.

Giving Clive ail the credit possible for endeavouring to check the system of trading by the civil servants of the company, it is impossible to exempt him from the charge of trading himself, and thus paralysing his own regulations. Nor is there any reason to believe that the orders against trading or receiving presents were extended very widely or deeply. Both Hastings and Vansittart describe the frightful persistence of these practices all over the country. Verelst, in his "View of Bengal," describes black merchants at this period as purchasing the names of young writers in the company's service, and, under this sanction, as guilty of extortion towards the natives in the provinces. He says, many a young writer made one thousand five hundred pounds and two thousands pounds a-year by this selling of his name. Hastings, then a subordinate officer, says: - "The evil is not confined to our dependents alone, but is practised all over the country by people assuming the habit of our sepoys, or calling themselves our gomastahs" In going up the country, he says, the very sight of sepoys " caused most of the petty towns and serais to be deserted at our approach, and the shops shut up, from the apprehension of the same treatment from us! "

Such was the state of the country as witnessed by Hastings; such it was when Clive arrived. And Clive, who so forcibly described it to the directors - what did he do? He aggravated it; enriched himself enormously by the very system, and so left it. Such it continued till Mr. Hastings - the Mr. Hastings who so feelingly wrote his views to the president, Vansittart - came into supreme power; and what did the wise and benevolent Mr. Hastings? He became the Aaron's rod of gift-takers, the prince of exactors, and the most relentless oppressor of the natives that ever visited India, or, perhaps, any other country! It is in vain for our essayists and historians to endeavour to convert such men as Clive and Hastings into models of moderation and humanity. If they simply would be content to say that they were great and successful men, as far as their talents went, and that this country owes them much for the territory they won, and the power they established in India, every one must admit it. But the less said of the means by which they achieved this the better, for the whole annals of India, as drawn from the archives of Leadenhall-street, and as stamped on the pages of all eminent writers who had lived in the country, is a revolting chronicle of the foulest rapacity, the most unchristian oppressions. "We may admit that Clive wonderfully restored order by this short sojourn in India, made some invaluable treaties, and, compared with some who came after him, showed great wisdom and moderation; but his health could no longer endure the climate, and, in January, 1766, after a residence of only nine months, he left again for England, Mr. Verelst, a man of mere ordinary ability, occupying his post till a successor should be sent out. He concluded his farewell speech in council with the words - " I leave the country in peace; I leave the civil and military departments under discipline and subordination; it is incumbent on you to keep them so." He arrived in England in July, and was received by the court of directors with acclamations; he had, indeed, in a few months, made them the avowed masters of a great empire. He was received also by the king and queen with the most cordial marks of esteem. Though he would accept no presents from the nabob of Oude for himself, he had accepted most valuable ones for their majesties: a diamond of immense value, and a sword set with diamonds for the king; a splendid pearl necklace, and other ornaments for the queen, &c. Having delivered these, Clive sought, with his family, the waters of Bath, to disperse, if possible, that nervous malady which haunted him with strange horrors of imagination, and under the influence of which he eventually put an end to his life. Before that event, however, we shall see him called upon to defend himself against charges in his administration of the countries which he won for this kingdom.

Whilst Clive had been reducing our enemies in Bengal and Oude, a more powerful antagonist than any one whom we had yet encountered in India was every day growing more formidable in Mysore, and combining several of the petty chiefs of the different states of Madras as his allies against us. He was now far more considerable than when lie had appeared against us as the ally of the French general, Lally, in the neighbourhood of Pondicherry. Hyder Ali was a self-made man. He was originally the grandson of a wandering fakir, or Mohammedan monk; became fond of wild field sports, then the captain of banditti, then at the head of an army composed of freebooters; continually growing in the number of his followers, and in the wealth procured by plunder, he at length became commander-in-chief of the rajah of Mysore. Soon rising in his ambition, he seized the rajah, his master, pensioned him off with three lacs of rupees, and declared himself the real rajah. In 1761 he was become firmly established on the throne of Mysore, but this distinction did not satisfy him. He determined to be the founder of Mysore as a great kingdom, and attacking by turns the rajahs of Sera, Belapoor, Gooty, Harponelli, Chitteldroog, and other districts, he reduced them under his dominion. He next, on pretence of supporting the claims of an adventurer in the district of Bednore, seized on the region for himself, with immense wealth in it, and afterwards overran Srenda, on the north of Bednore, and extended his power to near the banks of the Kistna. There he was met and repulsed by Madhoo Row, the peishwa of the Mahrattas, who crossed the Kistna, defeated him repeatedly, seized some of his newly-acquired territory, and levied on him thirty-two lacs of rupees.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 <6> 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 6

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About