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Private Diary

a RaBga PlUai

From 1736 to 1761.


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Curator, Madras Record Office

Volume V



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The present instalment of Ranga Pillai's Diary runs
from April 1 to October 17, 1748, and embraces
a period of greater general interest than the
last. The text of the Madras transcript appears
to contain a larger number of corrupt passages ; and
again, unfortunately, it has not been possible to
collate these with other versions

Ranga Pillai's private life flowed on during this
period without such vicissitudes as marked the
previous year. His antagonism with Madame
Dupleix continued unabated, as also his eagerness
to find fault with her. If we may believe him, the
people of Pondichery found her injustice harder to
bear than the shells poured upon them by Boscawen's
mortars ; and the manner in which Dupleix followed
her advice frequently incurs the diarist's censure.
It is unfortunate that almost all the official docu-
ments relating to the administration of Dupleix
have disappeared; practically none survive among
the archives of Pondichery ; and it is therefore
difficult to judge how far Ranga Pillai's observa-
tions were inspired by jealousy. He is certainly a
prejudiced witness; but there is no reason to
suppose that the administration of Pondichery
differed appreciably from the contemporary type of
administration in Europe, though tinged with
customs borrowed from the Indian Governments of
that day.


{y tee diary of J n and a ranqa pill At

The affair which, touched Ranga Pillai most
closely was coutiocted with his management of
viUages at Karikal. Here again materials are
lacking to confirm or rebut his assertions. At that
time there were two possible methods of revenue
admiuistration. One was to let the villages at a
fixed rent to a tax-farmer ; the other was to place
them under the superintendence of one who might
be trusted to bring all his collections to account.
Some Karikal villages were thus placed under
Ranga Pillai, who confided the management to
certain agents at Karikal. They sent in their
accounts and made payment accordingly to Paradis,
who was then Commandant ; but subsequently
under pressure of inquiry they admitted that their
accounts were inaccurate, and so a further demand
was made upon Ranga Pillai and his partner. Their
submission, after many objections, strongly suggests
that they acquiesced ia the justice of the demand.

He still remained Chief Dubash, although not
yet formally appointed to the post. This delay in
appointment was principally due to the stoppage of
trade which the war with the English had occa-
sioned. The most important functions of the office
consisted in managing the merchants who supplied
the cloth for the Company's investment ; and that
was in abeyance.

The war itself offers much more important and
interesting subject-matter in the present than in
the preceding volume. 1 have already pointed out


the dead lock that had been reached in the struggle ;
but the position was modified in June 1748, by the
arrival of Bouvet with a French squadron on the
Coast, and in August b}?- the arrival of a powerful
English expedition. Bouvet sedulously avoided any
conflict with the British squadron lying at Fort St.
David under the command of Admiral Griffin. He
appeared off that place, deceived the English
Commander into the belief that he meant to make
his way to Pondichery, and then under cover of night
sailed with the prevalent southerly winds for
Madras, while Griffin feared to move lest he should
be driven to leeward of Pondichery and so permit
supplies being thrown in there. He was sharply
blamed for his failure to bring the French to action,
as indeed he had expected to be. ' I acquaint your
lordship more fully with this,' he wrote to Anson,
* lest the impertinence of some people should raise
clamour, as it has been the custom to condemn all
who see French ships and do not take them.' ^
Bouvet too w^as attacked for not falling upon the
English when their crews were ashore, and two of
their men-of-war w^ere rudderless ; but he emerges
with more credit than his rival from the inquiry.
His principal business was to carry supplies to
Dupleix, who was so short of money that he was on
the point of sending his plate to the mint.^ The

1 Griffin to Anson, August 15, 1748. Br. Mus. Add. MSS. 15, 955, f, 306.
^ Nazelle, Dupleix et la Ddfense de Pondichery, p. 288. Of. infra, p. 69.


relief he brought materially assisted Dupleix in
maintaining his position until the arrival of the
news of peace. And, whereas Dupleix alleged that
he would have had to deal with only four English
vessels, ^ Griffin liad six men-of-war and two
Company's ships, mounting 382 guns, as against
Bouvet's 318, altogether apart from the two rudder-
less ships. ^ Bouvet was to all appearances justified
in his decision to avoid action.

Altogether apart of that, his appearance on the
Coast gave Dupleix an opportunity for which he
had long been waiting. An attack upon Fort St.
David was useless so long as the fort was covered
by the English squadron ; but, when that had been
lured to the northward and leeward of the place,
nothing hindered the attack. Dupleix perceived this
at once. On June 15/26 Ranga Pillai mentions his
preparations.^ On the evening of the next day the
French marched under Mainville to attack Cuddalore.
The place certainly offered an easy prey. It was
situated at some distance from the fort and sepa-
rated from it by a river, which increased the diflSculty
of sending reinforcements thither, Ranga Pillai had
not been consulted about the project ; Dupleix seems
to have relied upon the reports of Madame's spies ;
and so his dubash dwells at malicious length on

^ Dupleix to the Company, January 15, 1749 (Nazelle, op. cit,, p. 289).
- Narrative of the Transactions of the British Squadrons in the East
Indies, p. 67.
» Infra, p. 73.


the reports received of Mainville's success, followed
almost immediately b J news of bis utter failure. He
should certainly have succeeded. Tbe defences of
the place were miserable. Clive states that on the
north and south the town was quite open.^ That
is an exaggeration ; but the crumbling walls were
defended by two companies only, with less than a
hundred peons, and very little ammunition.^ Orme
relates that Lawrence lured Mainville into attacking
the place by pretending to withdraw the garrison;
and Mallesou takes occasion to reprehend Law-
rence's conduct. Orme got his information from
Clive ^; but the version must be dismissed as
inaccurate. Neither gun nor man was moved to or
from Cuddalore, although orders had been issued
for the ammunition to be moved into the fort.*
This was the extent of Lawrence's ruse. Panic
caused the French failure. The night was very dark.
The assailants came unawares upon the town. They
were alarmed at a sudden outburst of fire all round
the walls — that outburst being itself the result
of panic — supposed the town to be packed with
troops, and fled in disorder. This failure in attack
is scarcely creditable to French arms ; while the
success of the defence was due rather to good fortune
than to skill or valour.

^ Clive ap. Orme MSS. India, i, 141.

* Letter of Hyde Parker, January 17, 1749. Misc. Ltrs. Reed., 1749-50,
No. 7 (India Office).

* Orme MSS. ut supra.

* Hyde Parker's letter.


About this time, the principal Dutch settlement,
Negapatam, was almost as lai'ge and important as
Pondicliery or Madras. Throughout the War of the
Austrian Succession, Dutch sympathies had lain
rather with the English than with the French.
Although the Governor of Pulicat, de Jong, had
refused asylum to Mrs. Morse and other English
women when La Bourdonnais attacked Madras,
Mersen, his superior, had welcomed English refugees
at Negapatam, had sheltered an English sloop
beneath his guns, and had taken charge of English
treasure to save it from French hands. When French
troops invaded the Netherlands in 1747, the Dutch
joined the Enghsh and the Imperialists ; and oi-ders
were despatched to the officials of the Dutch East
India Company to assist the English against the
French. This decision was communicated to the
Fort St. David Council in April 1748 ^ ; and the
Dutch immediately set to work to put Negapatam in
a posture of defence.^ Later on, when the English
besieged Pondichery, the Dutch sent a detachment
of troops to help in the siege. They were com-
manded by Captain Roussel, who had formerly been
in the service of the French East India Company,
and who, ten years later, was to command the
unfortunate expedition with which the Dutch hoped
to conquer the predominance of Bengal.

' Mersen, etc.. to Floyer, etc, April 17/28, 1748 ; Letters to Fort St.
David, ii, pp. 37-38.
2 Infra, pp. 28-29.



Meanwhile the English had been preparing an
expedition to avenge the capture of Madras and
restore the Company's prestige on the Coroinandel
Coast. On receipt of that news, the Company had
at once petitioned Newcastle for the assistance of His
Majesty's forces.^ In June and July 1747, orders
were issued for the equipment of a squadron of nine
men-of-war, which were to carry a company of Royal
artillery and twelve independent companies of foot
specially raised for the occasion. In the following
November the fleet sailed under Boscawen. It
reached the Cape in the months of March and April,
and then sailed to attack Mauritius. That project
appeared too hazardous to be undertaken ; so
Boscawen proceeded with what speed he could to
the Coromandel Coast, in order if possible to reduce
Pondichery before the monsoon rains should set in
in mid-October. He arrived off Fort St. David at
the end of July, being preceded by false reports at
Pondichery of the repulse of his forces and the loss
of ships.

His coming had been long expected. So early as
the previous March he had been looked for from day
to day.'^ Accordingly Dupleix had had ample leisure
in which to complete the plan of his defence. More-
over all through the months previous to the siege,

^ Secret Committee to Newcastle, April 24, 1747. P.B.O. Colonial,

* Hallyburtoa to Paupa Braminy, March 2, 1748, Orme MSS. Virions,


he was expecting the arrival of the strong squadrons
which had been fitted out at L' Orient and Brest, but
which had been scattered or destroyed by the vigilant
English fleets. Meanwhile he had been busily
completing the fortifications ; and in July Paradis
came up from Karikal to take the military command,
the question of his rank having been settled by his
appointment to be one of the Supreme Council, which
conferred on him the power of commanding military
officers of any rank.

Even when Boscawen had arrived, there were
prodigious delays in beginning operations, due, so
he declared, to the total absence of preparations
before his arrival. He marched on August 8/19,
and on the llth/22nd encountered a party of French
sepoys, who were driven from their entrenchments ;
on (he 18th/24th he attacked the French fort at
Ariyankuppam ^ which was not taken until August
19/30 ; and it was not until August 30/September 10
that the English broke ground before Pondichery.
Thej^ had wasted a month of precious time. More-
over when the attack was thus begun, the besiegers
took up the worst possible position that could have
been chosen, north-west of the town, where their
trenches could not be cleared of water, and where
the troops were worn out by harassing marches to
convoy all the stores that had to be brought up
from the ships to the camp. Ranga Pillai's comment,

^ 111 regard to topograiihical detail, the reader is recommended to
exaniiue the plans in Nazelie's Duplei.v et la Defense de Pondichery,


fchat God must have put it into their minds to take
up such a position, plainly indicates how astonishing
and complete the error was.

It is needless to relate here the whole story of
the siege. The heavy batteries of the English did
not open fire until Septetnber 9/20. Even then
the French fire was and remained superior. The
attack culminated in a fierce cannonade from both
sea and land on September 27/October 8 ; but
as this failed to produce any perceptible effect, as
the monsoon rains were at hand, and sickness was
prevalent in the English camp, Boscawen embarked
his stores on October 2/13 and withdrew two days
later. Boscawen commanded at the beginning of the
siege 2,400 British infantiy, 1,000 seamen, and 150
artillery men. Of these by the end of the siege he
had lost 164 killed or died of disease, 137 wounded,
38 missing and 812 sick — close on a third of his
whole force ^.

In Pondichery itself, one of the most curious
incidents was the destruction of the Iswaran
Temple. This lay close beside the Jesuit Church,
and the fathers had lono^ been endeavourino: to
secure its removal. They had failed hitherto ; but
the previous volumes of the Diary record several
incidents to which the continual bickering over
this subject had given rise. But when the minds
of the inhabitants were engrossed with the English

1 See the official returns in the P.B.O., Admiralty, -160.


attacks, and a considerable number of the chief
casto-people had song'ht refuge elsewhere, the
Jesuits thought the time had come for ending what
they regarded as no less than a public scandal ; and
Dupleix was brought to share their views, not im-
probably by Madame's persuasion. Much of what
Ranga Pillai writes on this subject is very just,
especially his version of what Dupleix ought to have
done if he wished to have the temple removed.^
This affair was coupled with a similar attempt to
remove a mosque that stood near the Capuchins'
Church; but this was checked by the active dis-
content excited thereby among the Muhammadan
sepoys of Abd-ul-rahman. But these incidents
furnish good examples of the religious policy w^hich
the more intolerant of the Roman Catholic priest-
hood succeeded in imposing upon French colonial
administrators, and which formed one of the most
ominous aspects of French colonial policy under the
old regime.

The state of mind prevalent in Pondichery dur-
ing the siege is well reflected in the Diary. At
first there was absolute confidence that the English
would never venture to attack the place. Then when
their plans were known and the siege had become
certain, this confidence was succeeded by a general
state of alarm, during which a considerable number
of inhabitants, including some of Chanda Sahib's

^ See pp. 311-312 infra.


relations, quitted the place, and Dupleix had much
trouble in preventinsr a general exodus. Tlie shells
too which the English threw into the town, at first
from their bomb-ketch and later on from a battery
of mortars to the westward of the place, created
much fear. Hanga Piilai's description of these shells
makes curious readinof — their rise into the air
reminds him of a man cliuibing a ladder ; and their
h\ow flight, of a fat man making his way through a
crowd. But the area of the town was too great for
the English shells to do very much damage or pro-
duce a panic. People soon grew used to them and
lost much of their fear. Indeed the English round-
shot seems to have been more alarming than the
shells, owing to the lack of previous warning and
the abruptness of the destruction that they accom-
plished. On the whole, the principal feature of
Boscawen's bombardment would appear to be its
insufficiency; he needed many more and much
larger guns to accomplish what he aimed at.

The eminently successful defence which Dapleix
put up was from all points of view enormously
beneficial to the French position in the Carnatic ;
and it added not a little to the general belief in
Dupleix' good fortune. Ranga Pillai plainly, though
unjustly, attributes the defence of the place to its
Governor's luck rather than to the prudence and
foresight of his measures ; and the reputation thus
confirmed was a considerable element in the more
dazzling successes which Dupleix was to secure in


the next few years, in just the same way as Olive's
reputation for good fortune served him so well in
facilitating his exploits. Dupleix, Ranga Pillai
assures us more than once, might tear his cloth bat
would be certain to find a use for the pieces. In
more solemn tones, the diarist considers him pos-
sessed of ' the nectar of help, otherwise called . .
. the favour of God.'
Boscawen's failure before Pondichery, shortly
followed by the news that the preliminaries of peace
had been agreed upon at Aix-la-Chapelle, closed
the first phase of the Anglo-French struggle. Both
parties were left with embittered feelings and un-
reconciled differences. The trade-rivalry, which had
made the English directors appeal to Government
for help to crush their rivals, was obviously about
to re-open ; and the French would evidently enjoy
all the subtle advantages which success in war
bestows upon the nation which has waged it.
Besides, the English had to endure the humiliation
of having lost their principal settlement, of having
failed to take Pondichery, and of having recovered
Madras only in exchange for conquests made upon
the other side of the globe ; and the French,
especially Dupleix, nursed the painful memory of
heavy financial loss inflicted by the naval opera-
tions of the English squadrons under Barnett and
Griffin. The peace, so far as rested with the
French and English in India, was likely to be but a
temporary affair ; and the events which furnished


the pretext for war in India while peace was still
maintained in Europe were already casting their
shadows forward. The present volume indeed sug:-
gests that the six months covered by it witnessed
a definite step in the slow evolution of Dupleix'
policy. At the outset he was still intent upon the
projected exchange of Madras for the districts of
Villiyanallur and Valudavur, adjoining the Pondi-
chery limits ; his old friend, Imam Sahib, was
supposed to be arranging this with the aged Nizam-
ul-mulk. Then in June came the news of the latter's
death and the accession of his son, Nasir Jang.
Imam Sahib claimed to be deep in the confidence*
of the new subahdar ; and grants of the villages
in question were freely promised^ At this time
Dupleix was anxious to emulate the fame which
DuDias had won in Europe in consequence of the
honours paid him by Safdar Ali. He gave Ranga
Pillai a draft of a letter which he wished to have
snnt to him as from Nasir Jang, with a list of
presents copied verbatim from the list which the
Abbe Gruyon had published of the presents offered
to Dumas. But he had also grown impatient of the
delays of Oriental Courts. This affair of the village-
grants had been mooted months before, and he adds
a threat that unless the villages are speedily granted,
he may take them by force. Further signs of his
impatience are afforded by his treatment of Avay
Sahib, Imam Sahib's vakil. The vakil was charged
\,o obtain at Pondichery what was needful for the


approaching marriage of Imam Sahib's daughter at
Arcot. These things were to be paid f r out of the
loan which Imam Sahib had long before made to
the French ; but the Pondichery finances were
unequal to its repayment, even in part ; and this
seems to have led to something very like a breach
between Dupleix and the man who had acted as
principal agent for the French at the Nizam's Court,
and consequently with that Court itself; compli-
mentary letters might still be exchanged, as on the
occasion of Boscawen's retreat from before Pondi-
chery ; but Nasir Jang henceforward held but a
small place in Dupleix' plans for the future. He
was, it may be supposed, disgusted with the
ineffective duplicity of Nasir Jang and his servants.
For the moment too he seems to have thought
much the same of Chanda Sahib. In the previous
volume, we have recorded a curious and interesting
correspondence regarding his release from confine-
ment at Satara ; ^ but though a whole year had
elapsed, the situation was still uncertain. His
coming was constantly reported, yet he never came.
When Boscawen formed his siege, Dupleix was still
watching anxiously for the oppearance of that bright
array of pennons and banners by which the march
of an Oriental army was betokened ; but Chanda
Sahib was still delaying on the northern bank of the
Kistna, and Pondichery was saved by the endurance

' See Vol. IV, pp. 124, etc.


of its defenders and the mistakes of its euemies,
instead of by the advent of a great army friendly to
the French. The efifects of this delay are evident
enough in the treatment which Dupleix accorded
to the Navait families resident in I'ondichery.
In May and June, before Bouvet had brought the
bitterly-needed supplies of money, Dupleix, having
turned to them for a financial aid which he believed
they could well offer, had found them to all seeming
forgetful of their past friendliness ; and in the first
moment of keen annoyance he seems to have
resolved to break with them altogether. They may
pay what they owe the French and depart. This
severity of mood was modified by the fallacious news
of Chanda Sahib's coming ; but when the English
shells proved too much for the nerves of his guests,
he let them go elsewhere, detaining Chanda Sahib's
son as a hostage. Evidently the traditional view of
the constant and close friendship between Dupleix
and the Navaits left much out of account. Dupleix'
policy was not nearly so consistent or far-seeing as
has been alleged. He was indeed prepared, so early
as 1745 \ to lend money in order to assist Chanda
Sahib to become Nawab. It was a policy in which
not only he and his Council, but the Company also,
saw considerable advantages.^ But those advan-
tages w^ere nothing more <han might reasonably be
asked by a trading company from a favourable

Online Library1709-1761 Anantarankam PillaiThe diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai (Volume 5) → online text (page 1 of 30)