« PreviousContinue »
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
1 Annual Register, 1767, p. 40. See description, written probably by Edmund Burke.
it did not pay.
unpardonable fault of the system in the eyes of the Directors: 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
accordingly with Nudjum-ul-Dowla on the 20th February 1765, which, ratifying that first made by his father in 1757, repeated most of the provisions of the alliance of 1763. Besides this, however, it secured the appointment of a friend of the Company, Mahomed Reza Khan, the Naib of Dacca, in the office of Chief Minister. Nuncomar, a rich Brahmin, who had held this office under the late Soubahdar, was not deemed well-disposed to the Company's interests, and hence the desire to have him superseded. For the defence of Bengal against the Mogul and the Vizier of Oude by the Anglo-Indian forces, Mir Jaffir had paid at the rate of five lacs a month. This sum his successor agreed to continue; and, moreover, as he "esteemed the Company's troops equal to the defence of the provinces, and as his own," he would only himself maintain such in addition "as were immediately necessary for the dignity of his person and Government, and the business of his collections throughout the provinces." The Company thus became contractors for the military defence of the country, but for that only; judicial and fiscal authority still remained in native hands. In spite of the positive injunctions of the Directors at home to put an end to the scandalous system of inland smuggling, until an equitable and satisfactory plan "could be arranged with the free will and consent of the Nawab, so as not to afford any just ground of complaint," Mr Spencer and the Council inserted in the new treaty a clause which gave the Company, and every servant of theirs trading in his private capacity, immunity from tolls and dues, except 24 per cent. on salt. The young Soubahdar, and his Minister, as usual, paid liberally for the Company's friendship, in sums ranging from one to over two lacs, given under the name of nuzzurana to different members of the Council.
Clive arrived at Calcutta 3d May 1765, accompanied by Mr Sumner and Mr Sykes, who, with himself, General Carnac, and Mr Verelst, were appointed by the Directors a Select Committee, invested with extraordinary powers, to inquire into abuses too notorious, and to take measures for restoring "order and tranquillity." This supercession of their authority provoked attempts at resistance among the Council, but Clive showed a resolute front, and while they murmured, they submitted. The first act of the Committee was one of official reform. The Directors, with a view to check the scandal caused by their servants exacting enormous presents from wealthy natives, had prepared forms of covenant to be subscribed, pledging them not to accept any land, rents, revenue, or other property, beyond a small amount, without special permission previously obtained. Though these documents had arrived in January, the Council absolutely ignored them in their dealings with Nudjum-ul-Dowla and Reza Khan, intending also to remonstrate against the inhibition. The Committee at once set about enforcing compliance; and, by dint of dismissals, suspensions, and retirements among the refractory, order and decorum were for a time restored.
The aspect of military affairs had improved, and Clive was, perhaps, disappointed that no immediate opening presented itself for the exercise of his unusual powers as diplomatist or general. But he had not long to wait. The Vizier of Oude, who had sought the aid of the Mahrattas to conquer Bengal, had sustained a crushing defeat, and sued for peace on any terms, to arrange which Clive proceeded to the camp. It was not thought advisable to press the vanquished too hard, and he was mulcted only in a war-fine of fifty lacs, and the relinquishment of the districts of Allahabad and Korah; which, instead of being