Page images




“In consideration of the services of the English Company, we have granted them

the Dewanny of the provinces of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa, as an ultumgau (free gift). It is requisite that the said Company engage to be security for the sum of twenty-six lacs a year for our royal revenue, which sum has been appointed from the Nawab Nudjum-ul-Dowla Behauder ; and as the Company are obliged to keep up a large army for Bengal, we have granted them whatsoever may remain out of the revenue, after remitting the sum of twenty-six lacs, and providing for the expenses of the Nizainut.”



WHEN the partakers in the first harvest of spoil re

turned to England, laden with unlooked for riches, wonder, curiosity, envy, and emulation filled the minds of

Dreams of speculation and adventure, such as had quickened the popular pulse after Raleigh’s voyage of discovery, or when the city had been bewitched by the golden promises of Law, once more occupied the thoughts of youth and age, of the well-to-do and the runagate. Clive was looked upon as another Cortez, who had, for the benefit of his countrymen, broken into a distant storehouse of exhaustless wealth. The way was opened for the attainment of treasure without toil, and the enjoyment of power without the waste of years in apprenticeship. Who would not go

Firman of Gift of Dewanny to the Company, 12th August 1765.

[ocr errors]

for a share in the Indian lottery? The scene was distant, the passage long, the climate tropical, and the manners of the natives strange. But every wastrel who had courage left-every bankrupt whose credit was run out,-every reckless soldier who had neither money or interest to secure promotion,-every daring seaman who was impatient of the rough nights and scant wages of winter voyages in the German Sea,-every younger son of quality who, bred in ease and pleasure, despaired of finding a fat living or a place at court, a legal sinecure or an heiress for a wife, began to meditate exploits in Bengal or the Deccan :


“ To spill a few bright drops of blood,

And straight rise up a Lord.”

The hope of Oriental spoil spread like an epidemic; and, like other diseases, its taint once generally diffused, it became, among certain classes, families, and connections, normal and hereditary. Reasoning, where all the elements of calculation were illimitably vague, seemed but waste of time; and scruples about international or individual right or wrong, were of course regarded as mere sentiment. The tone of political society in England, at the accession of George III., was eminently propitious to the growth of such ideas. To the unchecked corruption of the previous reign, was added the development of arbitrary notions, encouraged by the Court. The Church was fast asleep, and the religious revival led by Wesley had made but little way. The slave trade and West Indian slavery, with their showers of golden fruit, were the tallest trees in the fashionable orchard; while the hardy growths of American industry were regarded with comparative disdain by the statesmen and courtiers, jurists and crities, who advocated the appropriation of their unpretentious fruit to eke out means of prodigality at home.

It was the fittest season and the fittest field in which the seeds of a new kind of fillibustering could be sown, and every year, it was said, would prove as plenteous as the last, or yet more abundant. The incidents of Asiatic adventure, and all the ideas suggested by its successful prosecution, became interwoven alike with those of public and of private life, and they may be traced as a new source of illustration in the philosophy and literature of the day. In comedy, the forgotten scamp constantly turned up in the third act, under the title of Nabob, to rescue the mortgaged inheritance, or deliver some despairing fair from the arms of a high-born suitor whom she loathed; and the climax of charity-sermons consisted of an adulation to munificence, addressed to Dives, to whom providence had mercifully given wealth, that otherwise would have been offered to idols.

Mr Vansittart's administration was eminently successful for all who were concerned in it. It was the heyday of rapine, and if coups d'état at Moorshedabad, and wars on the frontier were not as plunderful as before, they secured personal opportunities greater than ever to those who made haste to be rich. The hapless ryots cried and there was none to help them. The richer classes, Rajahs, Polygars, and Talookdars, shuddered in silence at the progress of expropriation, but knew not how to make their complaints heard in England. What they could not do for themselves, was done for them by their tormentors, who were incessantly quarrelling amongst one another, and recounting the enormities they had witnessed in the East.

All this would probably have mattered little, but for one


Annual Register, 1767, p. 40. See description, written probably by Edmund Burke.

unpardonable fault of the system in the eyes of the Directors : it did not pay. Individuals were continually returning home laden with riches; and of despatches there was no stint, full of glorious victories over ungrateful Moslems and the hated French. But the remittances did not improve. Too much was spent in salaries, perquisites, and riotous living. Sumptuary rules and reductions of expenditure were all in vain. At every shearing, the golden fleece seemed to be appropriated amongst them by the Company's servants, and little was left for the Company but the goat's wool. It was clear that unregulated spoliation did not yield the proper percentage. But how to economise and regulate it ?—that was the question.

Men's eyes turned once more on Clive. He was just beginning to enjoy the ease and luxury of the position he had won. His house in Berkeley Square, his equipage, and even his dress, betrayed his daily exultation. He had a dozen votes in Parliament at his command, and rival statesmen, therefore, sought his society. He was the only living commander who had actually won pitched battles, so he was made much of at the Horse Guards. He was the only Englishman who had added to His Majesty's dominions without adding to the national debt, so George III. liked to talk to him at levée. Though quizzed by the fops of St James's Street, and laughed at as ill-bred by women of fashion, he was regarded by the multitude as a hero, and by politicians as an administrator of signal power. If he could be only persuaded to return to Bengal, all would be sure to go well. So thought the proprietors of India Stock. The Chairman, Mr Sullivan, was, however, his personal adversary, and many of his colleagues shrank from submitting to one whom they knew would prove to be their master. But bad tidings grew worse, and shortcomings grew shorter. How was a 10 per cent. dividend to be paid ? After a stormy debate at the India House, in which Clive insisted on Sullivan being deposed, he was deputed to resume the reins of government at Calcutta, and was named by the Crown, General-in-chief of all the English forces in Asia.

While he was at home, Clive had doubtless interchanged views with those who held office under Bute and Grenville as to the future direction of the Company's affairs in relation to the Princes of the East. How far his own views of further encroachment were systematised or matured at this period, it is impossible to tell. Immersed in pleasure and intrigue, it is not likely that the Ministers of George III. bestowed much deliberate care upon forecasting the future of India. Clive went forth a second time to feel his aggressive way; but he was not long in determining on the path to tread. In a private letter addressed to one of the Directors, Mr Rouse, he thus writes—“We are at last arrived at that critical period which I have long foreseen, which renders it necessary for us to determine whether we shall take the whole to ourselves ; for it is not hyperbole to say,

To-morrow the whole Mogul Empire is in our power.

After the lengths we have run, the Princes of Hindustan must conclude our views to be boundless ; they have such instances of our ambition, that they cannot suppose us capable of moderation. The very Nawabs whom we might support would be jealous of our power.

We must become Nawabs ourselves, in fact, if not in name.”

On the death of Mir Jaffir, Mr Vansittart retired from the Presidency, which was temporarily filled by Mr Spencer from Bombay, pending the arrival of Clive. The accession of a young and inexperienced Prince to the Soubahdarate offered an opportunity of further encroachment not to be neglected. A new treaty was entered into

« PreviousContinue »