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Ali Khan had married the sister of the late Soubahdar. He was commander of the forces, and to him it was proposed that he should take the place of Nawab-Nazim of Bengal. When all was ripe for action, it was arranged that Clive should suddenly take the field, and that Mir Jaffir should draw off a large number of the Nawab's troops.1 Meanwhile, it was necessary to lull the suspicions of him who was to be deposed; and Clive's letters written during the plot give evidence of the pains that were taken for this purpose, as well as of the diplomatic dexterity of the writer. In one epistle he talks of "the perfect harmony and friendship which subsisted" then between them; and on the very eve of the crisis, lest the Soubahdar's fears should be inconveniently excited, he mentions that he wrote him a letter "which would calm his resentment." Resentment,what for? Were there, then, wrongs to resent? The Council became uneasy as the correspondence was protracted, and on one occasion wrote to Clive beseeching him to employ confidential agents, and to commit nothing to paper; but he was not to be scared by the peril of exposure, and laughing at the fears of the "rotten at heart," he went his dauntless way. At length, on the 13th June, all the preparations were ready, the march on Moorshedabad was commenced, and Suraja, roused too late from his dream of doubt and indecision, advanced to meet his enemies. It had been arranged that Mir Jaffir should join the forces under his command with those of the Company at Cutwa; but on arriving at the rendezvous, Clive was perplexed to find only a letter from his confederate, promising to join him on the field of battle. The treacherous suspected treachery, and a council of war decided on retreat, fearing that their small force might be surrounded and entirely cut off; but Clive, though he at 1 Mill, book IV. chap. iii. 2 Memoirs of Clive, vol. i. chap. v.
first wavered in his resolution, took counsel with himself, resolved to trust his ally, and to stake all on the chances of a battle. Pushing forward with his little army of 1000 Europeans and 2100 sepoys, he reached the village of Plassey a little after midnight, where he found the Nawab's army, numbering 50,000 foot, 18,000 horse, and 50 guns, securely posted behind intrenchments. The battle was begun soon after dawn of the 23d June by an attack on the part of the Nawab's troops, who thus left the shelter of their intrenchments; and it had not lasted long, before Mir Jaffir was observed moving off with a large body of horse. The critical moment had arrived, and Clive ordered an advance of his small but resolute corps. The ill-trained numbers of the Soubahdar, disheartened by the defection. of their comrades, scattered in confusion, and he himself fled the field with 2000 men. At Moorshedabad, his fallen fortunes left him but few friends, and quitting the palace in the disguise of a fakir, accompanied by two servants, he endeavoured to reach the French, who were advancing his aid. But he was discovered at Raje Muhl, taken back to the capital, and there put to death.
The prey had fallen; it remained to divide the skin. Clive, at the head of a select body-guard, entered Moorshedabad on the 25th June, and on the 29th, Mir Jaffir Ali Khan was duly installed as Nawab-Nazim of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa. The bill of costs presented by Clive and the Council for their assistance in his elevation was a heavy one: 1,280,000 rupees was demanded and actually paid to the members of Council for their personal share, of which Mr Drake and Colonel Clive received 280,000 rupees each, and Watts, Beecher, and Kilpatrick, 240,000 rupees each. Clive also took an additional present of £160,000 from the new Soubahdar. When, in later When, in later years, he was questioned
before a committee of the House of Commons 1 touching this princely donation, he recalled the gem-crowned piles of gold which he had seen in the treasury of Moorshedabad, and swore he was astonished at his own moderation: and his biographer accepts this as a satisfactory proof that Clive was not influenced by sordid or mercenary motives. The settlement of so nice a question may be left to the metaphysicians. Less subtle intellects would deduce from the story, that civil war must have been a speculation worth pursuing when it yielded sums so handsome for promotionmoney. Besides the twelve lacs of private spoil, the Company were to be paid 10,000,000 rupees; the European inhabitants of Calcutta, for damage sustained in the late occupation, 5,000,000 rupees; the Armenian residents, 2,000,000 rupees; and a further sum of 5,000,000 rupees was to be divided amongst the army and navy. The total amounted to £2,697,750 sterling; but the exchequer of Moorshedabad was wholly unequal to such demands, and after much wrangling, the amount of the compensations was subsequently reduced to one half, which was paid, all but five lacs, in specie and jewels.
The fitting climax of the drama yet remained. Associated with Mir Jaffir in the revolution were Omichund and Jugget Seit, two of the rich bankers who enjoyed so much favour and influence with the Governments of the East. The notoriety of their opulence, the habitual security in which they lived, and their great political power, is in itself a comprehensive refutation of the ignorant pretence that these Governments were the mere transient and capricious alternations of despotism. Credit is brittle ware at best, and needs all the care and shelter of what is esteemed the subtlest system of civilisation to preserve it unharmed;
1 Evidence before Select Committee in 1772.
and banking is precisely that part of the credit system most susceptible of injury from the breath of violence, and most sure to perish at the very apprehension of arbitrary usage. The bankers of India could no more have accumulated their vast wealth, and maintained their importance in the State, had they not been exempt from the fear of outrage, than the exotics we have borrowed from their land, whose luxuriance we protect in houses of glass, could gain or preserve that luxuriance if exposed to the rude caprices of our fickle weather. The universal safety of Oriental bankers is still more instructive when we learn that their riches generally lay in securities of various kinds, which they held of men of every class, from the trader to the prince. Without their aid, no Government ventured to undertake permanent or expensive schemes. Their friendship was courted by the Minister, and purchased by favours from the throne. They had better means of intelligence than any other men; they were the best of political agents, and the least easily deceived. Hence, the wish of all the confederates against Suraja Dowla to engage Jugget Seit, who carried on business at Moorshedabad, and Omichund, whose house was at Calcutta, as participators in their design. The avarice of Omichund was keenly excited. He entered readily into the whole intrigue, and soon gained knowledge which rendered him indispensable. He had the ear of the Soubahdar at all times, and felt that, having both sides in his power, he could exact from each his own terms. Under the threat of betrayal, he claimed an immense sum as his share of the spoil, and peremptorily demanded that a clause guaranteeing him should be inserted in the treaty between Mir Jaffir and the Company. Omichund was master of the situation, and the Council felt there was no alternative but compliance. Clive, fertile in expedients, came to the rescue. Two
treaties were drawn up-one on white paper, the other on red. One contained the grant to Omichund, in the other it was omitted. Both papers were signed by all the parties except Admiral Watson, who declined putting his signature to the cheat. The omission would have raised suspicion, and Clive made all safe by forging Watson's name. unsuspecting Hindoo was satisfied; but when the time came for settling accounts among the conspirators, Clive bade an interpreter inform the old man of the trick of which he had been the dupe that the treaty containing his name was a sham, and that having asked too much, he was to have nothing. Stunned at this ruin of his golden dreams, Omichund fell to the ground insensible. He slowly recovered, but remained for the rest of his days an idiot.
When the news of the retaking of Calcutta and the conclusion of peace reached England, public satisfaction was naturally great. But when the Court of Directors and the Ministry announced the subsequent events, exultation and rejoicing knew no bounds. The English public were kept long in ignorance of the truth; they were dazzled by the glittering trophies of acquisition. It were well for their own memory, and for the character of the nation thus deceived, if the court of George II. or the East India Company could have pretended that they were equally uninformed.