« AnteriorContinuar »
all obstacles began to bend before that iron gal. Clive saw clearly that it was absurd to courage and that vehement will. The receiv- give men power, and to expect that they would ing of presents from the natives was rigidly be content to live in penury He had justly prohibited. The private trade of the servants concluded that no reform could be effectual of the Company was put down. The whole which should not be coupled with a plan for settlement seemed to be set, as one man, liberally remunerating the civil servants of the against thes measures. But the inexorable Company. The Directors, he knew, were not governor declared that, if he could not find disposed to sanction any increase of the sala support at Fort William, he would procure it ries out of their own treasury. The only elsewhere; and sent for some civil servants course which remained open to the governor, from Madras to assist him in carrying on the was one which exposed him to much misre administration. The most factious of his op- presentation, but which we think him fully ponents he turned out of their offices. The rest justified in adopting. He appropriated to the submitted to what was inevitable; and in a support of the service the monopoly of salt, very short time all resistance was quelled. which has formed, down to our own time, a principal head of Indian revenue; and he di
But Clive was far too wise a man not to see that the recent abuses were partly to be ascrib-vided the proceeds according to a scale which ed to a cause which could not fail to produce seems to have been not unreasonably fixed. similar abuses as soon as the pressure of his He was in consequence accused by his enestrong hand was withdrawn. The Company mies, and has been accused by historians, of had followed a mistaken policy with respect to disobeying his instructions-of violating his the remuneration of its servants. The salaries promises of authorizing that very abuse were too low to afford even those indulgences which it was his especial mission to destroy, which are necessary to the health and comfort-namely, the trade of the Company's serof Europeans in a tropical climate. To lay vants. But every discerning and impartial by a rupee from such scanty pay was impos-judge will admit, that there was really nothing sible. It could not be supposed that men of even average abilities would consent to pass the best years of life in exile, under a burning sun, for no other consideration than these stinted wages. It had accordingly been understood, from a very early period, that the Company's agents were at liberty to enrich themselves by their private trade. This practice had been seriously injurious to the commercial interests of the corporation. That very intelligent observer, Sir Thomas Roe, in the reign of James the First, strongly urged the Directors to apply a remedy to the abuse. "Absolutely prohibit the private trade,” said he, “for your business will be better done. I know this is harsh. Men profess they come not for bare wages. But you will take away this plea if you give great wages to their content; and then you know what you part from.”
in common between the system which he set up and that which he was sent to destroy. The monopoly or salt had been a source of revenue to the governments of India before Clive was born. It continued to be so long after his death. The civil servants were clearly entitled to a maintenance out of the revenue, and all that Clive did was to charge a particular portion of the revenue with their maintenance. He thus, while he put an end to the practices by which gigantic fortunes had been rapidly accumulated, gave to every British functionary employed in the East the means of slowly, but surely, acquiring a competence. Yet, such is the injustice of mankind, that none of those acts which are the real stains of his life, has drawn on him so much obloquy as this measure, which was in truth a reform necessary to the success of all his other reforms.
In spite of this excellent advice the Company adhered to the old system, paid low sala- He had quelled the opposition of the civil rics, and connived at the by-gains of its ser- service: that of the army was more formida vants. The pay of a member of Council was ble. Some of the retrenchments which had only three hundred pounds a year. Yet it was been ordered by the Directors affected the innotorious that such a functionary could hardly terests of the military service; and a storm live in India for less than ten times that sum; arose, such as even Cæsar would not willingly and it could not be expected that he would be have faced. It was no light thing to encounter content to live even handsomely in India with- the resistance of those who held the power of out laying up something against the time of his the sword, in a country governed only by the return to England. This system, before the sword! Two hundred English officers engaged conquest of Bengal, might affect the amount of in a conspiracy against the government, and the dividends payable to the proprietors, but determined to resign their commissions on the could do little harm in any other way. But same day, not doubting that Clive would grant the Company was now a ruling body. Its ser- any terms rather than see the army, on which vants might still be called factors, junior mer- alone the British empire in the East rested, left chants, senior merchants. But they were in without commanders. They little knew the truth procousuls, proprætors, procurators of unconquerable spirit with which they had to extensive regions. They had immense power. deal. Clive had still a few officers round his Their regular pay was universally admitted to person on whom he could rely. He sent to be insufficient. They were, by the ancient Fort St. George for a fresh supply. He gave usage of the service, and by the implied per- commissions even to mercantile agents wh mission of their employers, warranted in en- were disposed to support him at this crisis, riching themselves by indirect means; and and he sent orders that every officer who re this had been the origin of the frightful oppres- signed should be instantly brought up to Cal. sion and corruption which had desolated Ben-cutta. The conspirators fcund that they VOL. III-43
miscalculated. The governor was inexorable. able and vigorous Mayors of the Palace-to The troops were steady. The sepoys, over Charles Martel and to Pepin. At one time whom Clive had always possessed extraordi- Clive had almost made up his mind to discard nary influence, stood by him with unshaken this phantom altogether; but he afterwards fidelity. The leaders in the plot were arrested, thought that it might be convenient still to use tried, and cashiered. The rest, humbled and the name of the Nabob, particularly in dealings dispirited, begged to be permitted to withdraw with other European nations. The French, the their resignations. Many of them declared Dutch, and the Danes, would, he conceived, their repentance even with tears. The younger submit far more readily to the authority of the offenders Clive treated with lenity. To the native prince, whom they had always been ac ringleaders he was inflexibly severe; but his customed to respect, than to that of a rival severity was pure from all taint of private ma-trading corporation. This policy may, at that levolence. While he sternly upheld the just time, have been judicious. But the pretence authority of his office, he passed by personal insults and injuries with magnanimous disdain. One of the conspirators was accused of having planned the assassination of the governor; but Clive would not listen to the charge. "The officers," he said, "are Englishmen, not assas-lish as "Your Highness," and is still suffered sins."
was soon found to be too flimsy to impose on anybody; and it was altogether laid aside. The heir of Meer Jaffier still resides at Moorshedabad, the ancient capital of his house, still bears the title of Nabob, is still accosted by the Eng
to retain a portion of the regal state which sur
While he reformed the civil service and established his authority over the army, he was equally successful in his foreign policy. His landing on Eastern ground was the signal for immediate peace. The Nabob of Oude, with a large army, lay at that time on the frontier of Bahar. He had been joined by many Afghans and Mahrattas, and there was no small reason to expect a general coalition of all the native powers against the English. But the name of Clive quelled in an instant all opposition. The It would have been easy for Clive, during enemy implored peace in the humblest lan-his second administration in Bengal, to accu guage, and submitted to such terms as the new governor chose to dictate.
mulate riches such as no subject in Europe possessed. He might, indeed, without subjectAt the same time, the government of Bengal ing the rich inhabitants of the province to any was placed on a new footing. The power of pressure beyond that to which their mildest the English in that province had hitherto been rulers had accustomed them, have received altogether undefined. It was unknown to the presents to the amount of three hundred thou ancient constitution of the empire, and it had sand pounds a year. The neighbouring princes been ascertained by no compact. It resembled would gladly have paid any price for his the power which, in the last decrepitude of the favour. But he appears to have strictly ad western empire, was exercised over Italy by hered to the rules which he laid down for the the great chiefs of foreign mercenaries, the guidance of others. The Prince of Benares Ricimers and the Odoacers, who put up and offered him diamonds of great value. pulled down at their pleasure a succession of Nabob of Oude pressed him to accept a large insignificant princes, dignified with the names sum of money and a casket of costly jewels. of Cæsar and Augustus. But as in one case, Clive courteously, but peremptorily, refused; so in the other, the warlike strangers at length and it deserves notice that he made no merit found it expedient to give to a domination of his refusal, and that the facts did not come which had been established by arms alone, the to light till after his death. He kept an exact sanction of law and ancient prescription. account of his salary, of his share of the profits Theodoric thought it politic to obtain from the accruing from the trade in salt, and of those distant court of Byzantium a commission ap- presents, which, according to the fashion of the pointing him ruler of Italy; and Clive, in the East, it would be churlish to refuse. Out of same manner, applied to the court of Delhi for the sum arising from these resources, he dea formal grant of the powers of which he frayed the expenses of his situation. The sur already possessed the reality. The Mogul was plus he divided among a few attached friends absolutely helpless; and, though he murmured, who had accompanied him to India. had reason to be well pleased that the English always boasted, and as far as we can judge he were disposed to give solid rupees, which he boasted with truth, that his last administra never could have extorted from them, in ex-tion diminished instead of increasing his for change for a few Persian characters which tune. cos him nothing. A bargain was speedily One large sum indeed he accepted. Meer struck; and the titular sovereign of Hindostan issued a warrant, empowering the Company to collect and administer the revenues of Bengal,
Orissa, and Bahar.
There was still a Nabob, who stood to the ritish authorities in the same relation in which the last drivelling Chilperics and Childerics of the Merovingian line stood to their
Jaffier had left him by will above sixty thou sand pounds sterling, in specie and jewels and the rules which had been recently laid down extended only to presents from the living and did not affect legacies from the dead. Clive took the money, but not for himself. He made the whole over to the Company, in trust for officers and soldiers invalided in their service
The fund, which still bears his name, owes its origin to this princely donation.
After a stay of eighteen months, the state of his health rendered it necessary for him to return to Europe. At the close of January, 1767, he quitted for the last time the country on whose destinies he had exercised so mighty an influence.
from obscurity, that they had acquired great wealth, that they exhibited it insolently, that they spent it extravagantly, that they raised the price of every thing in their neighbourhood, from fresh eggs to rotten boroughs; that their liveries outshone those of dukes, that their coaches were finer than that of the Lord Mayor, that the examples of their large and illgoverned households corrupted half the servants in the country; that some of them, with all their magnificence, could not catch the tone of good society, but, in spite of the stud and the crowd of menials, of the plate and the Dresden china, of the venison and the Burgundy, were still low men ;-these were things which excited, both in the class from which they had sprung, and in that into which they attempted to force themselves, that bitter aversion which is the effect of mingled envy and contempt. But when it was also rumored that the fortune which had enabled its possessor to eclipse the Lord-Lieutenant on the race-ground, or to carry the county against the head of a house as old as "Domesday Book," had been accumulated by violating public faith-by deposing legitimate princes, by reducing whole provinces to beggary-all the higher and bet ter as well as all the low and evil parts of hu
His second return from Bengal was not, like his first, greeted by the acclamations of his Countrymen. Numerous causes were already at work which imbittered the remaining years of his life, and hurried him to an untimely grave. His old enemies at the India House were still powerful and active; and they had been reinforced by a large band of allies, whose violence far exceeded their own, The whole crew of pilferers and oppressors from whom he had rescued Bengal, persecuted him with the implacable rancour which belongs to such abject natures. Many of them even invested their property in India stock, merely that they might be better able to annoy the man whose firmness had set bounds to their rapacity. Lying newspapers were set up for no purpose but to abuse him; and the temper of the public mind was then such, that these arts, which under ordinary circumstances would have been ineffectual against truth and merit, pro-man nature, were stirred against the wretch duced an extraordinary impression,
who had obtained, by guilt and dishonour, the riches which he now lavished with arrogant and inelegant profusion. The unfortunate Nabob seemed to be made up of those foibles against which comedy has pointed the most merciless ridicule, and of those crimes which have thrown the deepest gloom over tragedy
The great events which had taken place in India had called into existence a new class of Englishmen, to whom their countrymen gave the name of Nabobs. These persons had generally sprung from families neither ancient nor opulent; they had generally been sent at an early age to the East; and they had there of Turcaret and Nero, of Monsieur Jourdain acquired large fortunes, which they had brought back to their native land. It was natural that, not having had much opportunity of mixing with the best society, they should exhibit some of the awkwardness and some of the pomposity of upstarts. It was natural that, during their sojourn in Asia, they should have acquired some tastes and habits surprising, if not disgusting, to persons who never had quitted Europe. It was natural that, having enjoyed great consideration in the East, they should not be disposed to sink into obscurity at home; and as they had money, and had not birth or high connection, it was natural that they should display a little obtrusively the advantage which they possessed. Wherever they settled there was a kind of feud between them and the old nobility and gentry, similar to that which raged in France between the farmer-general and the marquess. This enmity to the aristocracy long continued to distinguish the servants of the Company. More than twenty years after the tine of which we are now speaking, Burke pronounced, that among the Jacobins might be reckoned "the East Indians almost to a man, who cannot bear to find that their present importance does not bear a proportion to their wealth."
The Nabobs soon became a most unpopular class of men. Some of them had in the East displayed eminent talents, and rendered great services to the state; but at home their talents were not shown to advantage, and their services were little known. That they had sprung
and Richard the Third. A tempest of execra-
grounds, was amazed to see in the house of his noble employer a chest which had once been filled with gold from the treasury of Moorshe dabad; and could not understand how the conscience of the criminal suffered him to sleep with such an object so near to his bedchamber. The peasantry of Surrey looked with mysteri
most in the list of those national crimes for which God had punished England with years of disastrous war, with discomfiture in her own seas, and with the loss of her transatlantic empire. If any of our readers will take the trouble to search in the dusty recesses of circulating libraries for some novel published sixty years ago, the chance is, that the villainous horror on the stately house that was rising or sub-villain of the story will prove to be a savage old Nabob, with an immense fortune, a tawny complexion, a bad liver, and a worse heart.
at Claremont, and whispered that the great wicked lord had ordered the walls to be made so thick in order to keep out the devil, who would one day carry him away bodily. Among the gaping clowns who drank in this frightful story, was a worthless ugly lad of the name of Hunter, since widely known as William Hunt ingdon, S.S.; and the superstition which was strangely mingled with the knavery of that re markable impostor, seems to have derived no small nutriment from the tales which he heard of the life and character of Clive.*
In the mean time, the impulse which Clive had given to the administration of Bengal, was constantly becoming fainter and fainter. His policy was to a great extent abandoned; the abuses which he had suppressed began to re vive; and at length the evils which a bad government had engendered, were aggravated by one of those fearful visitations which the best government cannot avert. In the summer of 1770, the rains failed; the earth was parch.
Such, as far as we can now judge, was the feeling of the country respecting Nabobs in general. And Clive was eminently the Nabob the ablest, the most celebrated, the highest in rank, the highest in fortune, of all the fraternity. His wealth was exhibited in a manner which could not fail to excite odium. He lived with great magnificence in Berkeley Square. He reared one palace in Shropshire, and another at Claremont. His parliamentary influence might vie with that of the greatest families. But in all this splendour and power, envy found something to sneer at. On some of his relations, wealth and dignity seem to have sate as awkwardly as on Mackenzie's "Margery Mushroom." Nor was he himself, with all his great qualities, free from those weaknesses which the satirists of that age represented as characteristic of his whole class.ed up; the tanks were empty; the rivers shrank In the field, indeed, his habits were remarkably simple. He was constantly on horseback, was never seen but in his uniform, never wore silk, never entered a palanquin, and was content with the plainest fare. But when he was no longer at the head of an army, he laid aside this Spartan temperance for the ostentatious luxury of a Sybarite. Though his person was ungraceful, and though his harsh features were redeemed from vulgar ugliness only by their stern, dauntless, and commanding expression, he was fond of rich and gay clothing, and replenished his wardrobe with absurd profusion. Sir John Malcolm gives us a letter worthy of Sir Matthew Mite, in which Clive orders "two hundred shirts, the best and finest that can be got for love or money." A few follies of this description, grossly exaggerated by report, produced an unfavourable impression on the public mind. But this was not the worst. Black stories, of which the greater part were pure inventions, were circulated respecting his conduct in the East. He had to bear the whole odium, not only of these bad acts to which he had once or twice stooped, but of all the bad acts of all the English in India-of bad acts cominitted when he was absent-nay, of bad acts which he had manfully opposed and severely punished. The very abuses against which he had waged an honest, resolute, and successful war, were laid to his account. He was, in fact, regarded as the personification of all the vices and weaknesses which the public, with or without reason, ascribed to the English adventurers in Asia. We have ourselves heard old men, who knew nothing of his history, but who still retained the prejudices conceived in their youth, talk of him as an incarnate fiend. Johnson always held this language. Brown, whom Clive employed to lay out his pleasure
within their beds; a famine, such as is known only in countries where every household de pends for support on its own little patch of cultivation, filled the whole valley of the Ganges with misery and death. Tender and delicate women, whose veils had never been lifted be fore the public gaze, came forth from the inner chambers in which Eastern jealousy had kept watch over their beauty, threw themselves on the earth before the passers-by, and with loud wailings implored a handful of rice for their children. The Hoogley every day rolled down thousands of corpses close by the porticoes and gardens of the English conquerors. The very streets of Calcutta were blocked up by the dying and the dead. The lean and feeble survivors had not energy enough to bear the bodies of their kindred to the funeral pile or to the holy river, or even to scare away the jack als and vultures, who fed on human remains in the face of day. The extent of the mortality was never ascertained, but it was popularly reckoned by millions. This melancholy intel ligence added to the excitement which already prevailed in England on Indian subjects. The proprietors of East India stock were uneasy about their dividends. All men of cominon humanity were touched by the calamities of our unhappy subjects, and indignation soon began to mingle itself with pity. It was ru moured that the Company's servants had created the famine by engrossing all the rice of the country; that they had sold grain for eight, ten, twelve times the price at which they had bought it; that one English functionary, who, the year before, was not worth one hun dred guineas, had, during that season of mise
See Huntingdon's Kingdom of Heaven taken by Prayer, and his Letters.
ry, remitted sixty thousand pounds to London. | try, hated at the India House, hated, above all, These charges we believe to have been utterly by those wealthy and powerful servants of the unfounded. That servants of the Company Company, whose rapacity and tyranny he had had ventured, since Clive's departure, to deal in rice, is probable. That if they dealt in rice, they must have gained by the scarcity, is cerain. But there is no reason for thinking that hey either produced or aggravated an evil which physical causes sufficiently explain. The outcry which was raised against them on this occasion was, we suspect, as absurd as the imputations which, in times of dearth at home, were once thrown by statesmen and judges, and are still thrown by two or three old women, on the corn-factors. It was, how ever, so loud and so general, that it appears to have imposed on an intellect raised so high above vulgar prejudices as that of Adam Smith. What was still more extraordinary, these unhappy events greatly increased the unpopularity of Lord Clive. He had been some years in England when the famine took place. None of his measures had the smallest tendency to produce such a calamity. If the servants of the Company had traded in rice, they had done so in direct contravention of the rule which he had laid down, and, while in power, had resolutely enforced. But in the eyes of his countrymen, he was, as we have said, the Nabob-the Anglo-Indian character personified; and, while he was building and planting in Surrey, he was held responsible for all the effects of a dry season in Bengal.
Parliament had hitherto bestowed very little attention on our Eastern possessions. Since the death of George the Second, a rapid succession of weak administrations, each of which was in turn flattered and betrayed by the court, had held the semblance of power. Intrigues in the palace, riots in the city, and insurrectionary movements in the American colonies, had left them little leisure to study Indian politics. Where they did interfere, their interference was feeble and irresolute. Lord Chatham, indeed, during the short period of his ascendency in the councils of George the Third, had meditated a bold and sweeping measure respecting the acquisitions of the Company.
But his plans were rendered abortive by the strange malady which about that time began to overcloud his splendid genius.
withstood. He had to bear the double odium of his bad and of his good actions-of every Indian abuse, and of every Indian reform. The state of the political world was such, that he could count on the support of no pow erful connection. The party to which he had belonged, that of George Grenville, had been hostile to the government, and yet had never cordially united with the other sections of the Opposition-with the little band who still fol lowed the fortunes of Lord Chatham, or with the large and respectable body of which Lord Rockingham was the acknowledged leader George Grenville was now dead: his followers were scattered; and Clive, unconnected with any of the powerful factions which di vided the Parliament, could reckon on the votes only of those members who were returned by himself. His enemies, particularly those who were the enemies of his virtues, were unscru pulous, ferocious, implacable. Their malevolence aimed at nothing less than the utter ruin of his fame and fortune. They wished to see him expelled from Parliament, to see his spurs chopped off, to see his estate confiscated; and it may be doubted whether even such a result as this would have quenched their thirst for revenge.
Clive's parliamentary tactics resembled his military tactics. Deserted, surrounded, outnumbered, and with every thing at stake, he did not even deign to stand on the defensive, but pushed boldly forward to the attack. At an early stage of the discussions on Indian affairs, he rose, and in a long and elaborate speech, vindicated himself from a large part of the accusations which had been brought against him. He is said to have produced a great impression on his audience. Lord Chatham, who, now the ghost of his former self, loved to haunt the scene of his glory, was that night under the gallery of the House of Coinmons, and declared that he had never heard a finer speech. It was subsequently printed under Clive's direction, and must be allowed to exhibit, not merely strong sense and a manly spirit, but talents both for disquisition and declamation, which assiduous culture might have improved into the highest excellence. He confined his defence on this occasion to the measures of his last administration; and succeeded so far, that his enemies thenceforth thought it expedient to direct their attacks chiefly against the earlier part of his life.
At length, in 1772, it was generally felt that Parliament could no longer neglect the affairs of India. The government was stronger than any which had held power since the breach between Mr. Pitt and the great Whig connection in 1761. No pressing question of domestic or European policy required the attention The earlier part of his life unfortunately preof public men. There was a short and delu- sented some assailable points to their nostility. sive lull between two tempests. The excite-A committee was chosen by ballot, to inquire ment produced by the Middlesex election was over; the discontent of America did not yet threaten civil war; the financial difficulties of the Company brought on a crisis; the ministers were forced to take up the subject; and the whole storm, which had long been gathering, now broke at once on the head of Clive.
into the affairs of India; and by this committe the whole history of that great revolution which threw down Surajah Dowlah, and raised Meer Jaffier, was sifted with malignant care. Clive was subjected to the most unsparing examination and cross-examination, and afterwards bitterly complained that he, the Baron of Plassey, had been treated like a sheep-stealer. The boldness and ingenuousness of his replies would alone suffice to show how alien from his ♦ Wealth of Nations, Book IV. chap. v.-Digression. I nature were the frauds to which, in the course
His situation was indeed singularly unfortunate. lle was hated throughout the coun