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to death those of whom they wished to get rid ; and the power of executing for piracy was made use of to murder private traders.” 1
When Bombay was overrun by the Mahratta chief Sivaji in 1664, the English, under Sir E. Oxenden, the goverror, successfully defended Surat, and thereby laid the basis of their reputation for constancy and prowess in the East. Aurungzebe, who reigned at Delhi, sent to compliment them on the courage they had shown, and volunteered further privileges as their reward. In the reign of Charles II., Bombay, which had been a Portuguese settlement, was ceded to the King of England, as part of Princess Catherine's marriage portion; and it was thought of so little value, that the open-hearted monarch conceded it to his open-handed subjects the Company. Thus, in the progress of the first eighty years of their intercourse with the East, they contrived to make some money, to establish themselves as colonists in several important places, to commit an infinity of misdemeanours of various degrees of enormity upon friends and foes, but not as yet to excite the jealousy of the Oriental powers.
Some years later, their rash and offensive demeanour at Bombay provoked the Mogul also to wage war against them. He issued orders declaring that it was no longer compatible with the safety of his dominions that they should be suffered to remain for their purposes of encroachment. They were driven from Surat; Bombay was besieged ; and possession was taken of their factories at Visigapatam, and other places; but they had already learned to diplomatise, and “stooped to the most abject submis
The Emperor yielded to entreaty, and suffered the restoration of Surat. He deemed the loss of their trade 1 Note to Mill, I. book I. chap. ii.
? Mill, book I. chap. v.
likewise a consideration ;' and in the recent consciousness of having brought them to the verge of extinction, he relapsed into false security, believing that in case of renewed danger he might easily at any future day bridle their presumption again.
The chiefs of Bengal appear to have been more upon their guard than the rest of their neighbours. They viewed with alarm the insidious progress of the strangers in founding and fortifying new positions along their shores. The advantages of augmented revenue and trade they suspected might be bought too dear; and after numerous petty misunderstandings with the Company, matters came to an open rupture. Of the rights of the immediate quarrel we are uninformed; and it should be carefully borne in mind that, until a very modern period, we are totally destitute of statements upon any side but one. All we know is the result of unwary admissions, or of the comparison and translation into vulgar truth of official documents. Thus we may be satisfied that, however dark the colouring seems throughout the strange and eventful history we are entering upon, it is lighter than the revelation of much that can never be dragged into the view of this world would render it.
Hitherto the Company had everywhere professed to be the humble servants of the princes of the East; but when they fell out with the Nawab of Bengal, a new scene opened. They ventured to question whether disguise had not been worn long enough, and whether the policy they had found so successful with their own countrymen and with the Dutch, might not answer also with the native powers. Accordingly, in 1685, they fitted out their first invading expedition, and sent it forth with orders to seize
Mill, book I. chap. v.
Chittagong, and to do such further violence as might be practicable to those amongst whom they had hitherto dwelt in peace. This premature attempt at open aggression failed ; had it succeeded it might have opened the eyes of the Governments generally in Hindustan to the danger and folly of temporising conduct. But it was fated otherwise;
. and after seizing the island of Ixellee and burning the town of Balasore, the raiders suffered a severe reverse; and the loss of their factories at Patna and Cosimbuzar reduced them to seek for terms of accommodation."
From that day the designs of the Company were changed from the mere pursuit of commerce to those of territorial acquisition. In the instructions sent out from England in 1689, we find the following significant expressions :-“ The increase of our revenue is the subject of our care as much as our trade: it is that must maintain our force, when twenty accidents may interrupt our trade; it is that must make us a nation in India; without that we are a great number of interlopers united by charter, fit only to trade where nobody thinks it their interest to prevent us.” And undeviatingly were these instructions followed by successive generations of " Company's servants, ” as they were styled. Thenceforth trade was valued less for its own sake than as a diplomatic agent, or a well-appointed pioneer to prepare the way for dominion.
for dominion. The experience which had been lost upon the Padishah in their recent conflict with him was not thrown away on them. In 1699 they persuaded him to grant them liberty to found several new factories, and to erect forts beside them. “This, however,” says their historian, “they began cautiously, so as not to alarm the native Governments.' The closing days of the century were spent by the
Mill, book I. chap. v.
Company's servants at the mouths of the Hooghly in establishing themselves in three villages, Chuttanatti, Calcutta, and Govindpur, which had been granted them as a jaghire on the customary terms of fealty and tribute by Azim-shah, when Soubahdar of Bengal. A rich present had induced the grandson of Aurungzebe to make them this concession ; and, with or without his leave, they lost no
; time in erecting works, to which, in compliment to their sovereign at home, they gave the name of Fort William.
Since the wolf's cub leaped over the mud wall on the banks of Tiber, nothing so pregnant with consequences had happened in the history of empire-building; yet few things attracted less of notice among the Whig politicians of St James's, or the Tory politicians of St Germain ;—so little, indeed, that the date is erroneously given in many popular histories, the matter not having been thought apparently worth accurately searching out. The Mogul, living far inland at Delhi, probably heard no more for some time of his new tenants-in-fee, who had come over the dark waters, and humbly craved his permission to squat near the seashore. If he was told of their planting stockades, and putting a sort of fortification there, why should he trouble himself regarding it ? Likely enough his native subjects around them were jealous and disposed to be quarrelsome. Why should not Feringhees defend themselves as best they might ? Poor people I they had come a long way, and seemed to work hard-he would not interfere.
BEGINNINGS OF AGGRESSION.
“A new scene is now to open in the history of the East India Company. Before
this period they had maintained the character of mere traders, and by humility and submission endeavoured to preserve a footing in that distant country, under the native powers. We shall now behold them entering the lists of war, and mixing with eagerness in the contests of princes.”
which had held together the dominions of Aurungzebe were visibly beginning to decay. As in the depen
. dencies of Spain under Philip II., the infatuation of proselytism had tended only to work the disintegration of the scattered realm. In Bengal especially this species of impolicy had served to shake the loyalty of the people. The poorer and more ignorant sort yielded to the harsh dictates of their masters, and to some extent conformed to the Mohammedan faith. The more subtle intellects of the Brahmins resorted to evasion, and the wealthier classes were able to purchase the luxury of keeping a conscience, and of transmitting to their children the traditions of Vishnu. Elsewhere the bulk of the population adhered to the rites and tenets of their fathers; but throughout Southern India, the silent process of alienation had set in.
· History of British India, book I. chap. ii.