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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 7

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Hyder returned to Seringapatam, which he had made his capital, and had strongly fortified, and he thence conducted an expedition against Malabar, which he conquered, and put the chiefs to death to make his hold of it the more secure. It was whilst thus engaged that the news reached him of new and formidable combinations against him. His victorious neighbours, the Mahrattas, had joined the English and the nizam of the Deccan, and were preparing an invasion of his kingdom. This coalition was scarcely to have been expected, for the nizam, who had murdered his brother reigning subahdar, Salibut Jung, and seized his throne, had till recently been hostile to the English. Ho had invaded the Carnatic, and made war on our ally, Mohammed Ali, with great ferocity; but colonel Campbell marching against him, and severely chastising him, he had made peace with the English, and confirmed to them the possession of the Northern Circars, on condition that they paid him a small tribute, and held a certain force ready to assist him when needed. This being agreed upon, it required little farther to induce the English to join the nizam and the Mahrattas in an endeavour to check the career of Hyder Ali, of whose subtle and bold genius the English as yet were ignorant.

But Hyder soon showed them a sample of his diplomatic adroitness. There are writers who have adorned him with all the attributes of a hero of romance. The truth is that he was a clever, unprincipled adventurer, cruel and ferocious, and never lacking a wily word or scheme to accomplish his ends. A good example of his finesse occurred in his treatment of a brahmin, Khonde Row, who had been greatly in his confidence, but who took up arms against him. When he was besieged by him, he was entreated by the ladies to give him favourable terms of surrender. " I will not only spare his life," replied Hyder, "but I will cherish him like a parroquet." As parroquets are greatly petted in the East, this was enough; Row surrendered himself, and was shut up for life in an iron cage!

Colonel Smith having agreed to invade Mysore with the nizam and the Mahrattas in the spring of 1767, the Mathrattas advanced first into the high table lands of that country with their cavalry; colonel Smith followed with his own little army, consisting of about one thousand five hundred Europeans and nine thousand sepoys, and accompanied by the large, disorderly host of the nizam. But Smith was soon struck with dismay by the intelligence that Hyder had succeeded in winning over the peishwa of the Mahrattas by the payment of thirty-five lacs of rupees, and that for this sum the Mahratta chief had engaged to break with the English and quit the country. This was speedily followed by the more alarming discovery that the nizam, too, was in treaty with Hyder to desert the English, and unite with him and the Mahrattas in driving the English from every district on the Coromandel coast. Smith instantly separated from the nizam, and hastened to secure the passes into the Carnatic, the first object of Hyder's attack. He obtained some reinforcements from Mohammed Ali, but he speedily found himself not merely deserted, but combined against. The Mahrattas and the nizam were coming against him in league with Hyder Ali, and colonel Smith endeavoured to retreat to Cbangama, but, before he could reach that place, this huge united force was upon him. He turned and stood his ground, eventually beating off his numerous assailants, but with the loss of his stores of rice for his sepoys, which the Mahratta cavalry made themselves masters of.

To avoid famine, and being surrounded by overwhelming hosts, Smith made a rapid march, day and night, for Trincomalee, a well-fortified and provisioned town on a hill. The enemy pursued at his heels, laying waste the whole country as they came. No sooner did colonel Smith reach Trincomalee and refresh his army, than he again sallied forth and endeavoured to put a stop to the ravaging of the country. Being almost destitute of cavalry, he found it difficult to do this, as the Mahrattas, with their cavalry, could sweep over the whole district. To cause him greater embarrassment, and cut off any reinforcements, Hyder dispatched his son, Tippoo Sahib, with five thousand horse to beat up the neighbourhood of Madras. Tippoo executed this command with so much secrecy and expedition, that he was very nearly seizing the president and councillors, with the richest merchants of Madras, in their country houses round the town. There was a rush of the inhabitants to secure themselves in the fortress, and Tippoo plundered and ransacked the town, the black town, the magazines, and warehouses, collecting a princely booty. He burnt and laid all waste, and then retreated as fast as he came. This was a terrible blow, and reduced the English and their dependents at Madras to great misery. But colonel Smith did not leave the outrage long unavenged. He drew out his little army of about ten thousand against the combined host, said to amount to nearly seventy thousand men. The nizam professed desperate courage on entering into the battle, but he very soon turned and fled at full speed, his troops following him as fast. The only instance of courage in his army was said to have been one of his ladies, who called out from her howdah, u This elephant has not been taught to turn in this manner; he only follows the standard." Nor would sue allow the elephant to be turned till she saw the standard in full flight. The troops of Hyder and the Mahrattas fought bravely, but they were utterly routed.

The nizam was quite satisfied with war. He drew off his forces from Hyder and the peishwa, and left them to take care of themselves. They again took the field with a strong force; but colonel Smith met them in the month of December, near Amboor, a town in the Carnatic, about one hundred and eight miles from Madras, and gave them a more decisive defeat than at Trincomalee. This decided the nizam, who had waited the event before making up his mind. He made peace on condition that the English recognised his title as subahdar or nizam, and agreed to assist him in emergency with two battalions of sepoys and six cannon. He, on his part, confirmed the company's title to the Northern Circars, and to grant the dewannee of Balaghaut, a country in possession of Hyder, to the English on payment of certain tribute. He also lowered the tribute for the Circars.

This confederacy being broken up, and the Mahrattas having withdrawn, the presidency of Madras thought it a good opportunity to punish Hyder Ali, and reduce his power. These traders were little aware of the real vigour of character of Hyder. They might have had him for a friend, but they despised him as an adventurer, and too late discovered their mistake. He was no common enemy. Ever full of resources, and restrained by no principle but that of his own interest, he had raised himself from nothing to be the head of a great kingdom, and commander of a hundred thousand troops. He would willingly be the ally of the English; he must have their support, or that of the Mahrattas. The English rejected his overtures; threw him into the arms of the Mahrattas, and he and his son, Tippoo, became the mortal and implacable enemies of the English race and name. By the aid of the Mahrattas and the French he was enabled to maintain himself against them, and to inflict on them the most serious injuries.

The Madras council now determined to carry the war into the very heart of Hyder's kingdom of Mysore; but, instead of allowing colonel Smith, who had shown himself so capable of conducting an Indian campaign, to act upon his own plans, they adopted the fatal one of prescribing the course of action for him. Nothing but disaster could result from this absurd system; and it speedily came. Colonel Smith proposed to invade first the frontier and fertile districts of Mysore; but these tradesmen directors ordered him to push forward into the barren region near Bangalore, where he assured them he should not be able to provide for his army. To weaken his operations, colonel Wood was commanded to take part of his troops and operate on the frontiers. This was bad enough, but they did worse. They adopted the Dutch plan, which had so hampered and irritated Marlborough, till he broke through it, and sent two field deputies to act in concert with them at the presidency, and thus reduce the nominal commander to a mere machine. The result was, what it must be under such circumstances. Colonel Smith refused to follow the orders of the field deputies the whole of the officers and the army shared his spirit, and nothing succeeded.

To co-operate with this movement, the Bombay presidency sent an expedition to attack Hyder's recent conquests on the coast of Malabar. The fleet reduced his seaport of Man- galore, took Onore and other places. Hyder, leaving a force to cope with colonel Smith, made a rapid transit to Man- galore, appeared before it in May, when least expected; and the English were glad to re-embark as fast as possible, leaving two hundred sick and wounded in Hyder's hands. Meantime, Smith reached Bangalore, and Wood had ravaged the frontier districts; but Hyder hastened back to Bangalore, and there made overtures of peace, which the field deputies rejected. But Smith, under the thraldom of the deputies, could not take the strong city of Bengalore, and the presidency recalled him, and sent colonel Wood in his place. If Smith could not act under the absurd directions of the traders on their sofas in Madras, and the paralysing incubus of the field deputies, Wood was not likely to do it. He was speedily compelled by Hyder to fall back, was surprised, beaten, and lost all his baggage. The presidency superseded Wood by major Fitzgerald, and arrested Wood and sent him. to Madras. But Fitzgerald succeeded no better; Hyder drove him out of all his territories, and then fell again on the Carnatic, laid waste the provinces of Madura and Tinnevelly, and penetrated into Pondicherry, where he was warmly welcomed by the French officers, who gave him the advice, to avoid all pitched battles with the English, but to scour their territories with flying detachments of cavalry; to come by surprise on districts where they had no horse to cope with and pursue him, and to burn, destroy, and plunder everywhere, and especially the Carnatic, or the country whence they drew their supplies. This was counsel exactly after Hyder's head and genius. The French sent able officers to assist him, and he executed this plan of operations with such success that the council of Madras were glad to replace colonel Smith and to recall their deputies. Smith could not restore the army to an effective condition all at once, but he exerted himself strenuously to that end, and soon produced so much effect that Hyder began to wish for peace. But he was too sagacious to make any move for this purpose till he could do it to great advantage. Therefore, after once more consulting his French friends at Pondicherry, he, by an artful feint, drew the English army, in the spring of 1769, a hundred and forty miles to the south of Madras. Then, by a rapid march, he suddenly appeared, with a body of five thousand horse, on the heights of St. Thomas, overlooking Madras. The whole of the city and vicinity, except the port of St. George itself, lay at his feet and at his mercy. The town, the black-town, the warehouses, the country villas, and villages all round, were open to his plunder and burning, as they had been to the fury of his son Tippoo before. The terrified council, in all haste, offered most advantageous terms of peace, which it was the very object of Hyder to accept, and that, too, before colonel Smith could arrive, and intercept his retreat. Hyder gladly consented to the terms, which were those of mutual restitution, and of alliance and mutual defence. The last, a condition which, with Hyder's disposition to aggrandisement, was sure to bring the English into fresh trouble.

This was immediately made evident. The treaty was concluded on the 4th of April, 1769, and the first news was that Hyder had quarrelled with the Mahrattas, and called on the presidency of Madras to furnish the stipulated aid. But the presidency replied that he had himself sought this war, and therefore it was not a defensive but an offensive war. The peishwa of the Mahrattas invaded Mysore, and drove Hyder to the very walls of Seringapatam, dreadfully laying waste his territory. Hyder then sent piteous appeals to his allies, the English, offering large sums of money; but they still remained deaf. At another time, they were solicited by the Mahratta chief to make an alliance with him, but they determined to remain neutral, and left Hyder and the peishwa to fight out their quarrels. In 1771 the Mahrattas invaded the Carnatic, but were soon driven out; and in 1772 the Mahrattas and Hyder made peace through the mediation of the nabob of the Carnatic, or of Arcot, as he was more frequently called. Hyder had lost a considerable portion of Mysore, and had to pay besides fifteen lacs of rupees, with the promise of fifteen more. The refusal of the English to assist him did not fail to render him more deeply hostile than ever to them.

During this period - from 1769 to 1772 - Warren Hastings had been second in the council at Madras; but in the latter year he was promoted to the head of the council in Bengal. During this period, too, the English had been brought into hostilities with the rajah of Tanjore. The history of these proceedings is amongst the very blackest of the innumerable black proceedings of the East India Company. The rajah of Tanjore was in alliance with the company. In 1762 they had guaranteed to him the security of his throne; but now their great ally, Mohammed Ali, the nabob of the Carnatic, called for help to the English against the rajah. He asserted that the rajah of Tanjore had seized some territory which belonged to him, or was claimed by him. The conduct of honourable men who bore the name of Christians would have been to offer themselves as mediators, and so settle the business; but not by such means was the whole of India to be won from the native princes. The rajah of the Carnatic offered to purchase the territory of Tanjore from the English for a large sum. Let it be remembered that the territory was none of theirs; that they had no more right to it than John Smith has to the estate of his neighbour, John Brown. On the contrary, they had guaranteed the defence of these territories to the rajah of Tanjore by express treaty. No matter, they closed the bargain with the rajah of the Carnatic; they agreed to seize Tanjore, and make it over to Mohammed Ali.

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