Page images

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 erpensive 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 ('ouncil 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. The 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.




" Then was seen what we believe to be the most frightful of all spectacles, the

strength of civilisation without its mercy. To all other despotisms there is a check, imperfect indeed, and liable to gross abuse ; but still sufficient to preserve society frow the last extreme of misery. A time comes when the evils of submission are obviously greater than those of resistance, when fear itself begets a sort of courage, when a convulsive burst of popular rage warns tyrants not to presume too far on the patience of mankind. But against misgovernment such as then afflicted Bengal, it was impossible to struggle. The superior intelligence and energy of the dominant class made their power irresistible. A war of Bengalees against Englishmen was like a war of sheep agains wolves.”


[ocr errors]

HE terms on which Mir Jaffir obtained the co-opera

tion of the Company were not allowed to remain i the insecure form of spoken promises ; they were embodie in a solemn treaty of thirteen articles, dated June 1757 sworn to by “God and the Prophet” on one side, and declar on the Holy Gospels and before God, on the other. Colon Clive, Admiral Watson, Governor Drake, and Mr Wat were the signataries on behalf of the Company, whom th bound to “ assist Mir Jaflir Khan Behander with all th force to obtain the Soubahship of the provinces of Beng Behar, and Orissa, and further to assist him to the utm against all his enemies whatever, as soon as called upon that end.” On his part, the Nawab agreed to an offen

- Historical Essays, Warren Hastings, vol. iii.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


and defensive alliance with the Company; to possess them of all the effects and factories belonging to the French, whom he was not to permit again to settle in his Soubahdary; to pay the pecuniary compensation already mentioned; to give them several tracts of land within, and 600 yards extent beyond, the ditch of Calcutta ; to give them the zemindary or leasehold of revenue of all land to the south of Calcutta ; to maintain their troops when in his service; and not to erect fortifications below the Hooghly. But the fine gold of this agreement soon grew dim. Mir Jaffir had the Company's friendship while he could pay for it; but he soon found that the glove of a friend may cover the mailed hand of a foe. India, at its best, was not the mine of fabulous wealth that covetous Europeans fondly imagined. Foreign invasion and domestic strife had seriously crippled the industrial resources of the country, and hence the payments guaranteed by the treaty fell into arrear.

Mir Jaffir was a soldier, not a financier, and he knew not how to meet importunate demands save by fresh exactions from an overburdened people. His troops were mutinous for pay, disquietude was general, and the whole machinery of government was out of gear. Yet the importunities of the Council of Calcutta were unremitting, and their demeanour became such at last as to extort bitter reproaches from the impoverished Prince, whom they professed to treat as the ruler of Bengal. On a threatened invasion by the Shahzada, heir-apparent of the Great Mogul, they furnished, at the Nawab's request, military succour, in accordance with the terms of the alliance, and the Vizier of Oude was repulsed with great loss by Colonel Forde, Clive's favourite lieutenant. These events tended still further to confirm the prestige of British prowess in the eyes of the natives, and to exalt still higher in their own esteem the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

handful of intrepid adventurers who had broken in the ivory doors of power. For his services in this campaign (live was created an Omrah of the viceregal court.

Br his own account of the transaction, it appars that he domande an estate to support his new dignity, and the Soulablar conferred on him a jaghir valued at £27,000 a year.

Meanwhile, on the ('oromanı il cost, fortune hal verre round. Lally, a man of versatile genius and romantic course,

hall undertaken to nitrieve the losses of the French, and for a time he seemed likely to keep his worl. Fort St David surrendered, and Malrus was besjoen), until rilieved by Admiral Pocock, after the battle of Con lore, in which the French were signally defeated. Forde then lail siege to Jasulipatam, which was taken April 7, 1759, with much buty. Eventually, with a territory estendling eighty miles along the coil-t, ani twenty in the interior, it wils retained as a pwrmanent possession, with the acquirurber of the Vizam.

If Mir Jattir had to enlure the mortification of appmaring, in the right of his suljerts, too much indle-bea-od to his foreign allies for military support, and with having mortgaged for it too deeply the immediate revenues of his country, he might at least console himself with the belief that his own pre-eminence and that of his family wito grure He could harlly have believed that already them in whom he tru-to-el, not wisely but too well, were privily planning how he might be supused-d, and his lineal den Berndants set aside. There is a letter from (live to Mr Pitt, then First Mininter, bearing the date of 7th January 1759,' wherein he depicts the weakness of the Nawal's aulmini-tration; hints that they coulil easily find a pretenre for breaking with him; des ribes his son, Jeeran, is so

* Memeins of Clive, rol ii chap I.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »