Vincent Arthur Smith.

The Oxford student's history of India online

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in India while the nations were officially at peace in Europe.
An envoy sent from France superseded Dupleix, who was
recalled and allowed to die in poverty, the great private
fortune which he had amassed having been expended by him
in financing the plans he had formed for making France the
ruling power in Southern India.

Lally ; battle of Wandiwash ; fall of Pondicherry. In 1756
the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in Europe set the French
and English in Southern India fighting again, this time with
official authority. The French Government appointed as their
governor and commander-in-chief a distinguished officer, Count
de Lally. Voyages in those days being slow, he did not arrive
in India until May, 1758. At first he gained some small suc-
cesses, notably the capture of Fort St. David, but the English
fleet protected Madras and forced him to retire to Pondicherry
in 1760. On land the French forces were routed by Sir
Eyre Coote at Wandiwash in that year. In January, 1761,


Pondicherry surrendered after a gallant defence for nine
months. Lally was taken prisoner, and later sent to France.
His countrymen treated him badly, and after some years' im-
prisonment, he was executed in 1766 on conviction for having
' betrayed the interest of the [French] King and the India
Company, for abuse of authority and exactions against the
subjects of the King and the foreign residents of Pondicherry '.
Although Lally was a foolish and ill-tempered man he was not
a traitor to his King, and ought not to have been executed.
After some years the sentence was annulled, and his estates
were restored to his son.

Ruin of the French. The Seven Years' War was ended
in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. In India the result of the
operations was ruinous to the French, who were left without
any regular military force, or any local possessions, except
their factories of Calicut and Surat, which were mere trading
stations. The fortifications of Pondicherry and the buildings
within them were destroyed, so that, as Orme puts it, ' not
a roof was left standing in this once fair and nourishing city '.
The town was rebuilt subsequently.

De Bussy and the ' Northern Circars '. When Lally arrived
in India, a countryman of his, Monsieur de Bussy, controlled
the Nizam's court at Hyderabad, and had taken possession of
the districts then known as the ' Northern Circars ' (Sarkars). 1
Colonel Forde, marching from Bengal, turned the French out
of those districts in 1758 and 1759, while de Lally's ill-judged
interference destroyed de Bussy 's influence in the Deccan, so
that the Nizam was brought over to the English side. Mean-
time the battle of Plassey had been fought, and the English
had become masters of Bengal, as will be narrated in the next

Summary. The outline of the leading events in the three

1 The Northern Sarkars in Mughal times were Guntur, Kondapalli, Ellore,
Rajahmundry, and Chicacole, the chief town being Masulipatam. The
corresponding Districts in the Madras Presidency are Guntur, Godavari,
Kistna (Krishna), Ganjam, and Vizagapatam. But Guntur was not
acquired by the East India Company until the time of Lord Cornwallis.

FROM 1761 TO 1858 245

Anglo-French wars waged in the south of India may be con-
veniently summarized in the following statement, which makes
no mention of the contemporary events in Bengal and else-
where :

The Anglo-French Wars in the South.

I. War of the Austrian Succession, declaration of war by France

against England . ... . . .'. . 1744

Capture of Madras by the French . ' . ' ; -'.*' '' . 1746

Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle . ;.. . : (..- < . . 1748

Restoration of Madras to the English .... 1749

II. Unofficial War.

Siege of Trichinopoly by Chanda Sahib and the French :

capture and defence of Afcot by Clive , . - .- . , . 1751

Surrender of Trichinopoly by the French : other British

successes ........ 1752

Return of Clive to England . . y *. . .r.^ . 1753

Recall of Dupleix ....... 1754

III. The Seven Years' War. Began 1756

Occupation of ' Northern Circars ' by de Bussy . . 1757

Arrival of Count de Lally ; the French capture Fort St.
David and attack Madras ; Colonel Forde occupies the

' Northern Circars ' 1758-9

Battle of Wandiwash > 1760

Fall of Pondicherry ..... January 1761
Treaty of Paris, end of the Seven Years' War . . . 1763
In 1782-3 Admiral de Suffren fought actions with a British fleet off the
Madras coast, which may be called a fourth Anglo-French war. Those
actions were indecisive, and operations were stopped by the Treaty of Ver-
sailles in 1783. The armies in Hindustan, led by French officers, were
destroyed by Lord Lake in 1803.

Effect of sea power. The French ill success in these wars
was partly due to the incompetence of Count de Lally, the
capacity of Major Stringer Lawrence, and the genius of Robert
Clive ; but those personal accidents are not the whole explana-
tion. The most essential element in the French failure and
the British victory was, as already observed, the superior
English naval power. The small land forces of the Madras
authorities were well supported by the British fleet, which,
as a rule, was able to beat the French squadrons. Pondicherry


might have held out against the land forces alone, but it could
not resist them and the navy together. The ambitious
schemes of Dupleix really never had a chance of lasting success,
because he lacked the support of a fleet strong enough to bring
him a constant supply of men and stores, while preventing
the English from receiving, as they did, such supplies in

The kingdom of Mysore. When the kingdom of Vijayanagar
was broken up after the battle of Talikota in 1565 (ante, p. 142),
its component parts passed under the rule of various chieftains.
One of those parts the province of Mysore, varying in extent
from time to time continued to be governed by a dynasty
of Hindu Rajas who had been feudatories of the Vijayanagar

Haidar AH becomes master of Mysore. In 1749 Haidar Ali,
then twenty-seven years of age, joined as a volunteer horseman
the corps under the command of his elder brother Shahbaz,
an officer in the service of the Mysore Raja. The young man,
having attracted notice during the defence of a fort, was
appointed to the command of a small force with the rank of
Nayak ; and in due course was promoted to be Faujdar of
Dindigal. He used his authority to raise a large body of
organized plunderers, and thus became a power in the state.
A treacherous palace intrigue drove him from office, but by
various stratagems he recovered his position, and in June
1761 had made himself practically master of both the Raja and
Mysore. The weakness of the Marathas after the battle of
Panipat in that year gave him his opportunity, and the capture
of Bednore with treasure extravagantly valued at twelve
millions sterling supplied him with funds.

First Mysore war. The Marathas could not willingly brook
the rise of a new and aggressive power. In 1765 they inflicted
a severe defeat on Haidar Ali and compelled him to pay a heavy
indemnity. Next year he compensated himself by the con-
quest of Malabar. The Nizam, who at first had opposed
Haidar Ali, now joined him against the English, but the allies



(Anglo-French Wars, 1746-63.

Wars with Haidar Mi


Statute Miles

* e- >v-v /Pondicherry

$ Cuddalore

hinoioly" Tan-lore ' Wcgapatam -^



were defeated by Colonel Smith. In 1769 Haidar All appeared
before Madras and frightened the incompetent local govern-
ment into making a treaty with him, on the basis of mutual
restitution of conquests, exchange of prisoners, and reciprocal
assistance in defensive war. The conflict thus ended is known
as the first Mysore war. Three years later the Marathas again
proved themselves too strong for him and forced him to buy
them off at a high price.


The English in Bengal ; Siraj-ud-daula ; battle of Plassey ; the
Company as sovereign of Bengal.

The Company's war with Aurangzeb, 1685. The beginnings
of European settlement on the Indian coasts and the early
stages in the history of the East India Company have been
recorded in chapter xvii (ante, pp. 159-68). The first de-
liberate bid by the Company for political power in India was
made in 1685, when the Directors, in pursuance of a quarrel
with the Subadar of Bengal, obtained the sanction of King
James II to the dispatch of armed squadrons to operate against
the ports of both the eastern and western coasts. The expe-
dition to the Hooghly not only failed, but resulted in the
temporary expulsion of the English from Bengal (ante, p. 166).
On the western side the English fleet caused so much annoy-
ance by stopping the pilgrim ships sailing from Surat that in
1690 Aurangzeb, who had no navy and was busy with the
Marathas, came to terms with his assailants on both coasts and
permitted Job Charnock to return to the Hooghly and found
Calcutta. Soon afterwards, Fort William was built, and the
merchants, feeling safe within its walls, devoted themselves
to making money and put away all thoughts of empire.

Independence of Bengal ; Allahvardi Khan. The govern-
ment of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa became practically inde-
pendent of Delhi in 1740, when the lawful subadar or nawab

FROM 1761 TO 1S58 249

of those provinces was treacherously slain by a Turkoman
officer named Allahvardi (AKvardi) Khan, who usurped
the dead man's place. Lavish bribes to the value of
about seventeen millions of rupees secured the approval of
the imperial court, and the usurper retained office until
his death. Once he was established as ruler of the provinces
he never sent anything more to Delhi, and was really,
although not in name, king of his dominions. The titular
emperor at Delhi exercised no control over Bengal after 1741.
For several years (1742-51), Allahvardi Khan was much
troubled by Maratha invasions. The atrocious murder by the
subadar of a Maratha general and his officers did not stop
the plague, and ultimately Allahvardi Khan was obliged to buy
off the marauders by ceding the Cuttack province in Orissa
and engaging to pay twelve lakhs of rupees yearly as chauth
for Bengal.

When his power was concerned, Allahvardi Khan was as
unscrupulous as the other politicians of his day, but as a ruler
of his people he was far above his contemporaries. Stewart,
the British historian of Bengal, declares that he was ' affable
in manners, wise in state affairs, courageous as a general. He
possessed every noble quality '. Orme is equally compli-
mentary, and gives him the quaint praise that he ' remained,
perhaps, the only prince in the East whom none of his subjects
wished to assassinate '. In his old age, however, he made
a bad mistake by naming as his successor his grand-nephew,
Mirza Mahmud, better known by his title of Siraj-ud-daula,
who was a debauched, cruel, and utterly worthless young man,
seventeen years of age when he succeeded his grand -uncle in
1756. 1

Capture of Calcutta by Siraj-ud-daula. The officials of the
East India Company at Calcutta offended the young Nawab
by sheltering one Kishan Das, a rich Hindu, whom the
Nawab desired to rob. Moreover, news having been received

1 Siraj-ud-daula means ' lamp ' or ' sun of the state '. The title is usually
written in incorrect forms. It has even appeared as ' Sir Roger Dowler'.


of the approaching outbreak of the Seven Years' War in
Europe, the Calcutta people thought it prudent to strengthen
their fort, and so gave further offence. Siraj -ud-daula believed
Calcutta to be much richer than it really was, and resolved to
loot the place and drive out the English.

The Calcutta merchants, who had been living quietly without
thought of anything but business for more than half a century,
did not know how to defend themselves properly. When
Siraj -ud-daula came near with a large army, Mr. Drake, the
governor had an extremely weak force, including only 174
Europeans, with which to resist. He did something at first,
but soon took fright, and slipped away down the river with
other cowards.

The deserted garrison elected Mr. Holwell, a brave man, as
their leader. He did all that was possible to defend his charge
for three days, but on the fourth day was overwhelmed by the
greatly superior numbers of the enemy and forced to surrender.

The Black Hole. The prisoners, 146 in number, were care-
lessly thrust into a tiny lock-up room on a hot night in June,
and left there to live or die. Next morning, when the door
was opened, only twenty-three were taken out alive, including
Mr. Holwell. This tragedy is known to English writers as
the affair of the Black Hole of Calcutta. Siraj -ud-daula, who
was in no way concerned about the death of his prisoners,
confiscated all the Company's property, and the English for
the second time lost their footing in Bengal.

Relief by Admiral Watson and Clive. But, happily for the
British reputation, the services of the Company included men
who were not cowards. It so happened that an expedition
under the command of Admiral Watson and Robert Clive, then
on his way out from England, had been operating successfully
against the pirates of the Bombay coast, and had just returned
to Madras when the news arrived of the capture of Calcutta.
Some people in Madras wished to keep what resources they
had in order to fight the French. The matter was hotly
debated for two months, but ultimately the right decision

FROM 1761 TO 1858 251

was taken, and the available force, consisting of Admiral
Watson's fleet, with 900 European soldiers, and 1,500 sepoys
under dive's command, was dispatched to Bengal in October,
and sailed up the Hooghly in December 1756.

Action at Dum-dum and capture of Chandernagore. In
February 1757 the Nawab was badly defeated in an action
at Dum-dum, and obliged to agree to the return of the English,
the fortification of Calcutta, and the establishment of a mint
there. But, when he heard of the outbreak in Europe of the
contest known as the Seven Years' War, his hopes of receiving
French aid revived, and he invited the French general, de
Bussy, to come up from the south. By way of reply, Clive
and Watson took possession of Chandernagore, the French

Misgovernment of Siraj-ud-daula ; Omichand. The mis-
government of Siraj-ud-daula, a good-for-nothing youth, pro-
voked discontent, directed by Mir Jafar, brother-in-law of
Allah vardi Khan, who entered into negotiations with Clive.
The English officers agreed to place Mir Jafar on the throne of
Bengal in return for a payment of 175 lakhs of rupees besides
compensation for losses. In order to secure the indispensable
support of Aminchand (Omichand), an influential Sikh banker,
Clive descended to the meanness of inserting in a forged copy
of the agreement with the Nawab a promise to pay the banker
a large sum, which was omitted from the genuine document.
Aminchand naturally was overwhelmed when Clive coolly con-
fessed to the deception, but the current story that he lost his
reason from the shock and died an imbecile is false. The old
Calcutta records prove that after an interval he resumed
business and engaged in several transactions with the English.
As Mr. Marshman observes, ' this is the only act in the bold
and arduous career of Clive which does not admit of vindica-
tion, though he himself always defended it and declared
that he was ready to do it a hundred times over '. Admiral
Watson refused to sign the false document, but allowed Mr.
Lushington to sign in his name. Negotiations between the


English and the Nawab followed without satisfactory results.
On June 13 Clive advanced, informing the Nawab that he had
' found it necessary to wait upon him immediately '.

Battle of Plassey, June 23, 1757. On the 23rd of June,
1757, a year after the tragedy of the Black Hole, Clive met the
army of the Nawab at Plassey, in the Nadiya District, near
Kasimbazar, and not far from Murshldabad. The English
commander's force consisted of a little more than 3,000 men,
including about 950 Europeans, and his guns were few and light.
His opponent had at his disposal 50,000 infantry, 18,000
cavalry, and fifty-three guns, mostly of heavy calibre, besides
some forty or fifty Frenchmen with four light field-pieces.
The Nawab displayed abject personal cowardice, and, after
many hours' feeble fighting, his huge host was utterly routed.
The handful of ' vagabond Frenchmen ', as Orme calls them,
under the command of a man named St. Frais, made a brave
stand, but were unable to save the cause of the coward whom
they served. The loss on the British side was trifling, amount-
ing to only twenty -two killed and forty -nine wounded. The
Nawab 's losses were supposed to be about a thousand men
killed and wounded. Shortly after the battle, which hardly
deserves the name, Siraj-ud-daula was captured and put to
death by a follower of Mir Jafar. In accordance with the
agreement made, Mir Jafar was recognized by the English
authorities as Nawab, the title generally given at that period
to the subadar, and was compelled to pay heavily for his

Conquest of the Northern Sarkars (Circars). In 1758 Clive
took a bold step, by dispatching Colonel Forde, with a force
which Bengal could ill spare, to wrest the Northern Sarkars
(ante, p. 244) from the French, whose hold on the province
had been weakened by Count de Lally's orders recalling de
Bussy. The expedition, which was well managed and wholly
successful, resulted in the acquisition of valuable territory by
the Company, and the transference by the Nizam of his alliance
from the French to the English side.

FROM 1761 TO 1358 253

Defeat of the Dutch. Mir Jafar, the new Nawab, having
soon found that fiis English patrons were disposed to be
masters, resented the position and sought deliverance by
negotiations with the Dutch. But Clive put a stop to them
by inflicting a severe defeat on the Hollanders at their settle-
ment of Chinsurah, adjoining Hooghly (1759). Next year he
returned to England, where he was received with honour by
King George, and Mr. Pitt, the Prime Minister, and given an
Irish peerage as Baron Clive of Plassey. 1

Massacre of Patna. During Olive's absence the Company's
affairs in Bengal were ill managed by Mr. Vansittart, a weak
but tolerably honest man, who had the misfortune to be sur-
rounded by colleagues not at all honest. These men oppressed
the people by means of a cruelly worked salt monopoly and
other devices for their own enrichment. They replaced Mir
Jafar as Nawab by his son-in-law, Mir Kasim, making a good
profit out of the transaction, and obtaining for the Company
the cession of Bard wan, Midnapur, and Chittagong. The mis-
conduct of Mr. Ellis, a civil official at Patna, resulted in the
outbreak of war with the Nawab, who, having been defeated
in actions at Katwa (Cutwa) and other places, took refuge in
Oudh, and some years later died at Delhi in extreme poverty.

On the other hand, the British lost Mr. Ellis and a number
of other officials and soldiers, about 200 in all, who had been
taken prisoners, and were barbarously massacred. Most of
them (148) were slaughtered at Patna by Walter Pveinhardt,
nicknamed Sumroo or Sombre, a German soldier of fortune
then in the service of Mir Kasim (October 1763).

Battle of Buxar, 1764. A year later (October 1764) Major,
afterwards Sir Hector, Munro encountered at Buxar, on the
Ganges, the combined forces of Mir Kasim and the Nawab-
Vazir of Oudh, who had united in an effort to expel the

1 An Irish peer does not become, as such, a member of the House of Lords,
and may sit in the House of Commons, as Clive actually did. Twelve
representative peers, elected by the Irish peerage, have seats in the House
of Lords.

FROM 1761 TO 1858 255

foreigners. The allies were decisively defeated, after a real
hard-fought battle, in which the Company's force lost 847
killed and wounded, and the country as far west as Allahabad
lay at the disposal of the victor. The emperor Shah Alam
took no part in the action, and came into the British camp on
the next day. Buxar completed the work of Plassey, and
finished once for all the military subjugation of Bengal and
Bihar. The Marathas at that date had not recovered from the
effects of the disaster at Panipat, and hardly counted among
the Indian powers.

Clive's return to India ; his non-aggressive policy. In May
1765 Clive, who had been sent out again from England to
settle the disorder in Bengal, returned to Calcutta. He found,
to use his own words, ' a presidency divided, headstrong, and
licentious, a government without nerves, a treasury without
money, and a service without subordination, discipline, or
public spirit '. He knew well that the empire of Hindustan
was within his grasp, if he chose to take it.

' We have at last arrived ', he wrote, ' at that critical period
which I have long foreseen, that period which renders it neces-
sary to determine whether we can or shall take the whole
to ourselves. ... It is scarcely hyperbole to say that to-morrow
the whole Moghul empire is in our power.'

But he disapproved of a policy of adventure, and refused the
empire which was to be had for the taking.

Grant of the DiwanI, Aug. 12, 1765. He was content to
legalize the Company's position in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa
(' Orissa ' including only the Midnapur District and part of
Hugli) by accepting from the titular emperor a grant of the
DiwanI, that is to say, power to collect and administer the
revenues of those provinces. 1 The Company was thus placed
in the legal position of the diwan or civil colleague of a subadar
under the Mughal system. It undertook to pay twenty-six
lakhs of rupees annually to the imperial treasury. Some

1 The Cuttack (Katak) province in Orissa was then in the hands of the
Marathas in virtue of the cession made by Allahvardi Khan in 1751.


months earlier the emperor had granted the sarkars of Benares
and Ghazipur as fiefs to be held direct by the Company.

Double government ; Oudh. In his anxiety to disturb
traditional arrangements as little as possible, Clive worked the
Diwani or revenue administration through native agents, and
left all police and executive business in the hands of the
subadar, or Nawab, as he was then generally called. This
system, essentially weak, worked badly in practice, and was
defensible only on the ground that nothing better was possible
at the time. The Company did not possess the staff necessary
for a regular administration. Oudh was left in the possession
of the Nawab-Vazir, subject to the cession to the emperor
of the Allahabad and Kara Suba (excluding Ghazipur and
Benares), as the equivalent of tribute due, which had never been
paid. This arrangement was agreeable to Shah Alam, who,
on his part, granted to the Company the ' Northern Circars ',
of which he was not in possession. He took up his residence
at Allahabad, and remained there for six years, practically as
a pensioner of the English.

Mutiny of British officers (1766) ; reforms. Certain reduc-
tions in the allowances (batta) to the British officers having
been retrenched under orders from the Directors, great dis-
content arose among the persons affected, and most of the
officers in Bengal so far forgot their duty as to form mutinous
combinations. This dangerous movement was met by Clive
with inflexible firmness and frustrated within a fortnight.
Civil as well as military reforms were pressed with vigour,
civil officers being required to sign covenants and abstain from
accepting gifts. A scheme was devised for giving the officials
adequate legitimate pay, but met with only partial acceptance
from the Directors. All these measures of reform aroused
much hostility among persons whose pecuniary gains were

Olive's return to England and death. In 1767 illness com-
pelled Clive to return home, leaving his work unfinished. On
arrival in England he was at first received with due honour, but




after a time his enemies began to pursue him with malignant
calumny. Ultimately the House of Commons, while unable
to approve of all his acts, resolved that ' Robert, Lord Clive,
did, at the same time, render great and meritorious services
to his country '. The attacks on him then ceased, but his

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Online LibraryVincent Arthur SmithThe Oxford student's history of India → online text (page 19 of 27)