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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 8


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Before this iniquitous business was completed, the nabob had informed the English that the rajah of Tanjore had broken his engagements by not paying a certain sum of money, and by endeavouring to engage Hyder and the Mahrattas to aid him. He offered the English another large sum, ten lacs of pagodas, and other advantages, the plunder being reserved to himself, and they accepted this disgraceful bargain, invaded Tanjore, seized the rajah and his family, and invested the whole of Tanjore in the name of the nabob of the Carnatic.

When these infamous doings were known in England, a feeling of horror and indignation ran through the country. Never had the English name been so trodden into the dust of villany. The French were ready to proclaim our venal barbarity to the whole world. The opposition in parliament made the walls of St. Stephen's ring with their outcries. The East India Company was compelled to send out lord Pigot to Madras to do what Clive had so vigorously done in Bengal - control and reverse the acts of the council. Pigot most honourably acquitted himself; liberated the outraged nabob of Tanjore and his family, and restored them. But Pigot had not the same overawing name as Clive The council of Madras seized him and imprisoned him, expelling every member of the council that had supported him. This most daring proceeding once more astonished and aroused the public feeling of England. An order was sent out to reinstate lord Pigot, but, before it arrived, his grief and mortification had killed him. Sir Thomas Rumbold, a most avaricious man, was appointed to succeed him, and arrived in Madras in February, 1778, major-general Hector Munro being commander-in-chief; and the army of Hyder, one hundred thousand in number, already again menacing the frontiers.

But we have far overshot the cotemporary history of Bengal. The presidency thought it had greatly benefited by the reforms of Clive; yet it had since been called upon to furnish large supplies of men and money to support the unprincipled transactions at Madras, which we have briefly detailed, and the India House, instead of paying the usual dividends, was compelled to reduce them. In 1769 India stock fell, within a few days, above- sixty per cent. This state of things compelled parliament to turn its attention to the causes of this depression. Neither the reports of the embarrassments in India, nor of the unrighteous acts of the Madras presidency, prevented government granting to the East India Company, the same year, a guarantee of the revenues of the countries they had conquered, for five years, on condition of their paying to government four hundred thousand pounds per annum, and of exporting to India certain quantities of British manufactures. To examine into the state of their affairs at Calcutta, the board of directors appointed three commissioners to go out thither. There were Mr. Vansittart, who had so miserably governed Bengal before; Mr. Scrafton, a man of far superior knowledge and abilities; and colonel Forde, the conqueror of the Northern Circars, and of the Dutch at Bedarra. These gentlemen set sail for India, towards the close of that year, in the frigate Aurora; but, after leaving the Cape of Good Hope, they never were heard of again, the vessel, no doubt, having gone down at sea.

What these gentlemen might have effected at Calcutta, therefore, remains unknown; but there was need enough of such an inspection as they were empowered to make. Mr. Cartier was the head of the council in Bengal till Warren Hastings was appointed to that office in 1772. Matters were bad enough there, and they were not better in the India House at home. There Sullivan had again acquired the chief influence, being elected deputy chairman. Of course, everything that Clive had done it was his endeavour to undo, and the consequence was a condition of anarchy at ' the India House, at Calcutta, which produced the most j disastrous consequences. Whilst Orme, the friend of Clive, who had just published his first part of his History of our Transactions in India, was blazoning abroad the glory of Clive, other writers were busy demonstrating that this wonderful new empire was in danger of being destroyed by the boundless rapacity of the company's servants employed j there. They pointed justly to the monstrous anomaly of fifteen millions of people and so splendid an empire being governed by a trading company, managed by a little knot of directors and a few hundred shareholders. The conclusion was, that plunder, extortion, and misery could be the only results to the unfortunate people of India, and ruin to the company at home; and, in truth, everything appeared to bear out these prognostics. The directors, early in 1772, were compelled to go again to government with fresh demands for a loan.

In order to remove the odium of mismanagement from the directors at home to the company's servants in India, Sullivan moved for leave to bring in a bill for the better regulation of the affairs of the company, and especially of its servants in India. In such a movement it was not likely that he would spare his old enemy, Clive. And in making such an attempt, he was sure to be zealously supported by a large body of the shareholders of the India House, who had been diligently taught that all the failure of revenue in India was the direct consequence of Clive's reforms when last in Bengal. There was now a very numerous body of men in England who had made enormous fortunes in India by every species of crime and oppression. These men, called nabobs, who had grown monstrously rich by Indian plunder, were all ready to unite in hunting down the man whom, after enriching himself, they charged with endeavouring to prevent all others, except a favoured few, doing the same at the expense of the natives. These employed newspapers, by large bribes, and even set on foot such papers, to blacken the man who, having served his own turn, had done his best to restrain the whole great flock of harpies which was continually flying eastward to the same great field of rapine and oppression. It was easy to engage the sympathies of the philanthropic and religious, by representing the evils which were devouring India as originating in Clive; whilst the object of the denouncers was really to prevent this same wondrous scene of aggrandisement being closed to their friends, and children who had to come after them. What those evils were which India suffered then, and so long as the company continued to rule, are described in full by a host of writers of the most unimpeachable authority. The letters of Sir Frederick Shore, a judge, are a record of them such as no other region could furnish. Mr. Vansittart himself, when president of the council in Bengal, wrote that the very members of the council were deriving vast emoluments from this state of things, and audaciously denied its existence. Under such sanction, every inferior plunderer set at defiance the orders of the president and the authority of his officers. When the native collectors of the revenue attempted, under the express sanction of the governor, to collect the usual duties from the English, they were not only repelled, but seized and punished as enemies of the company and violators of its privileges. The native judges and magistrates were resisted in the discharge of their duties, and their functions were even usurped. Everything was in confusion, and many of the zemindars and other collectors refused to be answerable for the revenues. Even the nabob's own officers were refused the liberty of making purchases on his account, and one of them, of high connection, for purchasing some saltpetre from the nabob, was seized, was sent in irons to Calcutta, where some of the council proposed to whip him publicly, and cut off his ears. Mr. Vansittart mentions an officer of the nabob whom he had ordered to send away any Europeans who were committing disorders in the province, but who sent him word that they threatened the most horrible things to him if he dared to interfere. The officer then added, " Now, sir, I am to inform you what I have obstructed them in. This place, Backergunge, was formerly of great trade; it is now ruined, and in this manner: - A gentleman sends a gomastah here to buy or sell. He immediately looks upon himself as sufficient to force every inhabitant either to buy his goods or to force them to sell him theirs. If they refuse, they are flogged and thrown into prison. They compel the people to buy or sell, just at what rate they please. These, and many other oppressions, are daily practised. Before, justice was administered in the public cutcheree; but now every gomastah is become a judge; they even pass sentence on the zemindars themselves, and draw money from them on pretended injuries." Such continued to our own time the system by which all over India the natives, and even men of the highest stations, were ground by our traders and collectors, and tortured in pretended courts of justice when they resisted. Sir Henry Strachey says, " The great men formerly were the Mussulman rulers and the Hindoo zemindars. These two classes are now ruined and destroyed. Exaction of revenue is now, I presume, and always was, the most prevailing crime throughout the country; and I know not how it is that extortioners appear to us in any other light than that of the worst species of robbers." But, when speaking of the government of Warren Hastings, we shall have again to touch on this point.

The reader may now see why such a storm of vengeance was raised against Clive, because he had endeavoured to set some bounds to this unexampled system of robbery. Clive, though he had done things disgraceful enough, had also done magnificent things for the nation, and without him these cormorants would not have had an India to ravage. Clive had his virtues and his sense of honour; he had served himself, but he was desirous to serve his country too. The great tribe, now up in arms against him, had done nothing but help themselves at the cost of the reputation of their country, without one pang of remorse or shame for the rapine and insult which they had heaped on the natives of Hindostan. Worst of all, Clive had dared to declare to the king and lord North, the prime minister, that the directors at home sanctioned all this, and that every reform was useless, unless it commenced with them. For this they spared no means to blacken his character, and exasperate the country against him.

Sullivan, in moving for an inquiry, announced that the company had received heavy charges against Olive's administration in India. These papers were anonymous, and were clearly got up by the board of directors themselves; and Sullivan launched into the proceedings of Clive in India with all the inveteracy of an old enemy. Clive defended himself with a vigour and eloquence which astonished every one; and lord Chatham, sitting under the gallery of the house, declared it was " one of the most finished pieces of eloquence that he had ever heard." Sullivan obtained leave to bring in his bill, but it was not persevered with; but general Burgoyne, now active in the opposition, moved and carried, on the 13th of April, 1772, a resolution for the appointment of a select committee of thirteen members, for inquiring into Indian affairs; and Burgoyne, who was extremely hostile to Clive, was appointed chairman.

The committee went actively to work, and presented two reports during the session. After parliament met again in November, lord North, who had conversed with Clive during the recess, called for and carried a resolution for another and this time a secret committee. The directors, trembling at the idea of a real scrutiny into their conduct, again attempted to send out a new set of supervisors of their own, but the commons put a stop to this; and as the company was in still deeper difficulties, and came to lord North to borrow a million and a half, he lent them one million four hundred thousand pounds, on condition that they should keep their dividends down at six per cent., until this debt was repaid. He at the same time relieved them from the payment of the four hundred thousand pounds per annum for the same period. This was done in February, 1773, and in April he brought in a bill at the suggestion of Clive, who represented the court of proprietors at the India House as a regular bear-garden, on account of men of small capital and smaller intelligence being enabled to vote. By North's bill, it was provided that the court of directors should, in future, instead of being annually elected, remain in office four years; instead of five hundred pounds stock, qualifying for a vote in the court of proprietors, one thousand pounds should alone give a vote; three thousand pounds, two votes; and six thousand pounds, three votes. The mayor's court in Calcutta was restricted to petty cases of trade; and a supreme court was established, to consist of a chief justice and three puisne judges, appointed by the crown. The governor-general of Bengal was made governor-general of India. These nominations were to continue for five years, and then return to the directors, but subject to the approval of the crown.

Whilst the bill was in progress, the members of the new council were named. Warren Hastings was appointed the first governor-general; and in his council were Richard Bar well, who was already out there, general Clavering, the honourable colonel Monson, and Philip Francis. Another clause of lord North's bill remitted the drawback on the company's teas for export to America, an act little thought of at the time, but pregnant with the loss of the transatlantic colonies. By these "regulating acts," too, as they were called, the governor-general, members of council, and judges, were prohibited trading, and no person in the service of the king or company was to be allowed to receive any presents from the native princes, nabobs, or their ministers or agents. Violent and rude, even, was the opposition to these two bills raised by the India House and, all its partisans. They put all their energies in operation, and poured in petitions and remonstrances from all sides; and such were the pleas of invasion of the rights of the subject, the privileges of election, of constitutional liberty, &c., which were put forward, that you would have thought that, instead of endeavouring to protect the unfortunate natives of India from the pitiless rapacity of mere traders, who bought and sold kingdoms in 'Change Alley, government was annihilating every safeguard of popular freedom. The raising the qualification of the voters, the prolongation of the terms of office to the directors, were denounced as setting up an oligarchy.

The passing of these acts did not put an end to the attacks on lord Clive. Burgoyne brought up a strong report from his committee, and, on the 17th of May, moved a resolution charging Clive with having, when in command of the army in Bengal, received as presents two hundred and thirty-four thousand pounds. This was carried; but he then followed it by another, " That lord Clive did, in so doing, abuse the power with which he was entrusted, to the evil example of the servants of the public." As it was well understood that Burgoyne's resolutions altogether went to strip Clive of the whole of his property, a great stand was here made. Clive was not friendless. He had his vast wealth to win over to him some, as it inflamed the envy of others. He had bought the estate of Claremont from the duchess dowager of Newcastle, and was erecting a palace upon it. Yet so diligently,' even in that neighbourhood, had his enemies blackened his character, that the peasantry of the neighbourhood fancied they could hear the sighings of murdered and plundered princes of India in the wind amongst his trees, and verily believed that some day the evil one would carry him off bodily. On the other hand, he had taken care to spend a large sum in purchasing small boroughs, and had six or seven of his friends and kinsmen sitting for these places in parliament. He had need of all his friends. Throughout the whole of this inquiry, the most continued and envenomed attacks were made upon him. The whole of the affairs of Omichund, of the forgery of admiral Watson's signature to the fraudulent agreement, the setting up and pulling down of Meer Jaffier, and everything of that kind, was again dragged to light, and more of it laid on Clive's shoulders than belonged to him. He was repeatedly questioned and cross-questioned, till he exclaimed, I'll your humble servant, the baron of Plassey, have been examined by the select committee more like a sheep-stealer than a member of parliament." He justly complained, that, had he done his splendid deeds for the country in the royal service, instead in that of a mercenary company, he should have been honoured and rewarded, instead of persecuted and pursued to his ruin. He had it in his power to speak strong things regarding the company, and he turned at bay, and did not spare it. At length, tired out, he exclaimed, " Take my fortune, but spare my honour! " and left the house.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 8

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