Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. III. - The History of British India, vol. 3
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CHAP. III. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 3 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 3.
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Suraja Dowla, Subahdar of Bengal—takes Calcutta—attacked by an army from Madras——dethroned—Meer Jaffier set up in his stead.
book iv.Chap. 3. 1755.During the latter part of the reign of Aurungzebe, the Subahs of Bengal and Orissa, together with those of Allahabad and Bahar, were governed by his grandson Azeem Ooshaun, the second son of Shah Aulum, who succeeded to the throne. Azeem Ooshaun appointed as his deputy, in the provinces of Bengal and Orissa, Jaffier Khan, who had been for some time the duan, or superintendant of the finances, in Bengal; a man of Tartar descent, but a native of Boorhanpore in Deccan, who had raised himself to eminence in the wars of Aurungzebe. Upon the death of Shah Aulum, and the confusions which ensued, Jaffier Khan remained in possession of his important government, till he was too powerful to be removed. While yet a resident in his native city, he had married his daughter and only child to a man of eminence in the same place, and of similar origin with himself, by name Sujah Khan. This relative had repaired with him to Bengal; and when Jaffier Khan was elevated to the Subahdarry of Bengal and Orissa, Orissa was placed under the government of Sujah Khan, as deputy or nawab of the Subahdar.1
Among the adventurers who had been in the service of Azeem Shah, the second son of Aurungzebe,book iv.Chap. 3. 1755. was a Tartar, named Mirza Mahommed. Upon the death of that prince, and the ruin of his party, Mirza Mahommed remained without employment; and was overtaken, after some years, with great poverty. His wife not only belonged to the same place from which the family of Sujah Khan was derived; but was actually of kin to that new ruler. By this wife he had two sons: the eldest named Hodgee Ahmed; the youngest, Mirza Mahommed Ali. Upon the news of the elevation of their kinsman, it was determined, in this destitute family, that Mirza Mahommed, with his wife, should repair to his capital in hopes of receiving his protection and bounty. The disposition of Sujah Khan was benevolent and generous. He received them with favour. The success of his father and mother induced Mirza Mahommed Ali, the youngest of the two sons, to hope for similar advantages. With great difficulty his poverty allowed him to find the means of performing the journey. He obtained employment, and distinction. His prospects being now favourable, he sent for his brother Hodgee Ahmed; and removed the whole of his family to Orissa. The talents of the two brothers were eminent. Hodgee Ahmed was insinuating, pliant, discerning; and in business equally skilful and assiduous. Mirza Mahomed Ali to all the address and intelligence of his brother added the highest talents for war. They soon acquired a complete ascendancy in the counsels of Sujah Khan; and by their abilities added greatly to the strength and splendour of his administration.
Jaffier Khan died in 1725; but destined Sereffraz Khan, his grandson, instead of Sujah Khan, the father of that prince, with whom he lived not on friendly terms, to the succession. By the address book iv.Chap. 3. 1755. and activity of the two brothers, the schemes of Jaffier were entirely defeated; patents were procured from Delhi; and Sujah Khan, with an army, was in possession of the capital and the government, before any time was given to think of opposition. The province of Bahar was added to the government of Sujah Khan in 1729; and the younger of the two brothers, on whom was bestowed the title of Aliverdi Khan, was entrusted with its administration. He exerted himself, with assiduity and skill, to give prosperity to the province, and to acquire strength in expectation of future events.1 In 1739, the same year in which Nadir Shah ravaged Delhi, Sujah Khan died, and was succeeded by Sereffraz Khan, his son. Sereffraz Khan had been educated a prince; and had the incapacity, and the servile subjection to pleasure, which that education usually implies. He hated the brothers; and began with disgusting and affronting, when he should have either exterminated, or reconciled. The resolution of Aliverdi was soon taken. He employed his influence, which was great, at Delhi, to obtain his nomination to the government of Bengal and the united provinces; and marched with an army to dethrone Sereffraz, who lost his life in the battle. With the exception of the Governor of Orissa, whom he soon reduced, the whole country submitted without opposition. He governed it with unusual humanity and justice; and defended it with splendid ability and unwearied perseverance.
The Mahrattas, who had spread themselves at this time over a great part of the continent of India, seemed resolved upon the conquest of Bengal, the richest portion of the Mogul empire.1 The dependencebook iv.Chap. 3. 1755. of the greatest events upon the slightest causes is often exemplified in Asiatic story. Had Sereffraz Khan remained Subahdar of Bengal, the Mahrattas might have added it, and all the adjoining provinces, to their extensive dominion: The English and other European factories might have been expelled: Nothing afterwards remained to check the Mahratta progress: The Mahomedans might have been exterminated: And the government of Brahmens and Cshatriyas might have extended once more from Caubul to Cape Comorin.
Aliverdi was on his return from the expedition against the Governor of Orissa, and had disbanded a great portion of his army, in contemplation of tranquillity and enjoyment, when he learned that a large army of Mahrattas had entered through the valleys in the mountains, at eight days’ journey west of his capital Moorshedabad. The Mahrattas, besides possessing themselves of Candeish and Malwa, had, before this period, overrun and subdued the whole province of Berar, where a general, named Ragogee Bonsla, of the family of Sevagee, had established himself in a widely-extended sovereignty which acknowledged but a nominal subjection to the primitive throne. The dominions of Ragogee Bonsla were separated from Bahar, Bengal, and Orissa, by only a chain of mountains, which it was easy for Mahrattas to penetrate in many parts. And now it was that the said chief, either urged by the hope of adding the richest part of Hindustan to his empire, or at the instigation, as was alleged, of Nizam al Mulk, sent an army under a Brahmen general to invade Bengal. book iv.Chap. 3. 1755. Aliverdi marched against them instantly with the small number of troops which he had about his person, and was hardy enough to venture a battle; but the Afghaun troops in his service were discontented with some recent treatment, and were inclined to make their advantage of his necessities. They acted coldly and feebly during the engagement. Aliverdi found it difficult to avoid a total defeat, and remained surrounded on all sides by a numerous and active enemy. He resolved to fight his way back; and though he suffered prodigiously from the sword, from fatigue, and from famine, he effected a glorious retreat; but reached not his capital till a detachment of the enemy had taken and plundered the suburbs.1
The Mahrattas, instead of returning to their own country, determined to remain during the period of the rains; and collected the revenue of almost the whole of the territory south of the Ganges. Aliverdi made the greatest exertions to collect an army; and marching out at the termination of the rains, surprised the Mahrattas in their camp, and put them to flight; pursued them from post to post; and at last compelled them to evacuate his dominions.2
If Aliverdi flattered himself that he was now delivered from a dangerous foe, he knew not the people with whom he had to contend. The Mahrattas appeared the very next year with Ragogee Bonsla himselfbook iv.Chap. 3. 1755. at their head. Another army of Mahrattas, belonging to the government of Satarah, entered the province; but whether with hostile or friendly intentions, is variously asserted. It is not doubtful that, at this time, Aliverdi delivered himself from his enemies, by a sum of money; upon receipt of which they retired.1
After a little time the general of Ragogee again entered by the province of Orissa, whence he advanced toward Bengal. By a train of artful and base negotiation, he was brought to trust himself at a conference in the tent of Aliverdi. He was there assassinated; and his death was the signal of dispersion to his troops.
The next invasion of the Mahrattas was encouraged by the rebellion of one of Aliverdi’s principal officers. The good fortune of that chief still seconded his vigour. The formidable rebel was killed in battle, and the Mahrattas were compelled to retire.
The Mahratta pressure, incessantly returning, though frequently repelled, seldom failed, in the long run, to make the opposing body recede. The subjects of Aliverdi were grievously harassed, and the produce of his dominions was greatly impaired, by these numerous invasions, and by the military exertions which were necessary to oppose them. book iv.Chap. 3. 1755. In a new incursion, headed by Janogee the son of Ragogee, the Mahrattas possessed themselves almost completely, of Orissa. The attention of the Subahdar was engaged in another quarter: Discontent again prevailed among his Afghaun and Tartar officers, which it required some address to allay: His youngest nephew, who was the most distinguished for ability of all his relations, and whom he had appointed Nabob or Deputy Governor of Bahar, had taken into his pay two Afghaun officers, who had retired in discontent from the service of Aliverdi: These leaders murdered their young master, the nephew of the Subahdar; and with a body of Mahrattas, who had entered the province on purpose to join them, and a considerable army of their own countrymen, whom the host of Ahmed Shah Abdallee, then covering the upper provinces of Hindustan, enabled them to collect, erected against Aliverdi the standard of revolt. Never was that governor, or rather king, for it was but a nominal obedience which he now paid to the throne of Delhi, in greater danger. He was obliged to meet the enemy, with a very inferior force: Yet he gained a complete victory; and the Afghaun lords were killed in the battle. The Mahrattas, however, only retired on the road towards Orissa, without crossing the mountains; and halted at Midnapore. He followed; pursued them into Orissa, with great slaughter; and even recovered the capital Cuttack; but was obliged to leave the province in so defenceless a condition, that the Mahrattas were not long deprived of their former acquisitions.
During the fifteen years of Aliverdi’s government or reign, scarcely a year passed free from the ruinous invasions of the Mahrattas; though during the infirmities of his latter years he had, by a tributary payment, endeavoured to procure some repose. Hebook iv.Chap. 3. 1756. died at the age of eighty on the 9th of April, 1756.1 Aliverdi never had a son. He had three daughters, and his brother had three sons.2 He married his three daughters to his three nephews; all of whom were men of considerable merit. The youngest was slain by the Afghaun lords, as already related; and the two elder both died a little before the decease of Aliverdi. The eldest son of his youngest nephew had from his birth been taken under the immediate care of Aliverdi himself; and was the object of extreme and even doting fondness. This youth, on whom had been bestowed the title of Suraja Dowla, was, upon the death of his uncles, regarded as the destined successor of Aliverdi;3 and took the reins of government without opposition upon his decease.
Suraja Dowla was educated a prince, and with more than even the usual share of princely consideration and indulgence. He had, accordingly, more than the usual share of the princely vices. He was ignorant; he was voluptuous; on his own pains and pleasures he set a value immense, on the pains and pleasures of other men no value at all; he was impatient, irascible, headstrong.
book iv.Chap. 3. 1756. The first act of Suraja Dowla’s government was to plunder his aunt, the widow of his senior uncle, eldest daughter of Aliverdi, reputed immensely rich. To this uncle had belonged the government of the province of Dacca; and orders were dispatched to that place, to seize the receivers and treasurers of the family. His second uncle, who was Nabob of Poorania or Purneah, a province on the northern side of the Ganges, died during the last illness of Aliverdi, and left the government in the hands of his son, whose conduct was imprudent, and his mind vicious. Jealousy, or the desire of showing power by mischief, excited the young subahdar to resolve upon the destruction of his cousin, the nabob of Purneah. He had advanced as far as Raje Mahl, when he received intelligence that one of the principal officers of finance in the service of his late uncle at Dacca, had given the slip to his guards; and found an asylum at Calcutta.
Suraja Dowla had manifested aversion to the English, even during the life of his grandfather; the appearance of protection, therefore, shown to a man, who had disappointed his avarice, and was probably imagined to have escaped with a large treasure, kindled his rage; the army was that moment commanded to halt, and to march back towards the capital. A messenger was dispatched to Calcutta to remonstrate with the Governor; but as the messenger entered the town in a sort of disguise, the Governor thought proper to treat him as an impostor, and dismissed him from the Company’s territory. With a view to the war between France and England, the Presidency had begun to improve their fortifications. This too was matter of displeasure to the Subahdar; and the explanation offered by the English, which intimated that those strangers werebook iv.Chap. 3. 1756. audacious enough to bring their hostilities into his dominions, still more inflamed his resentment. The factory at Cossimbuzar, near Moorshedabad, was seized; and its chief, Mr. Watts, retained a prisoner. The Presidency were now very eager to appease the Subahdar; they offered to submit to any conditions which he pleased to impose; and, trusting to the success of their humility and prayers, neglected too long the means of defence. The Subahdar had a wish for a triumph, which he thought might be easily obtained; and he was greedy of riches, with which, in the imagination of the natives, Calcutta was filled.
The outposts of Calcutta were attacked on the 18th of June, 1756. There was but little of military skill in the place, and it was badly defended. After a short experiment of resistance, a general consultation decided upon the policy of retreat. It was agreed that the women and effects should be put on board the ships in the course of the next day; and that the persons employed in the work of defence should escape in the same manner the following night. There was hardly a chance of mishap, for the natives always close their operations with the close of the day; but by some strange inadvertence no orders were published respecting the mode in which the plan was to be carried into effect. It was generally known that retreat was intended: When the embarkation next morning began, every person imagined he was to shift for himself, and hurried on board by the readiest conveyance: During this confusion an apprehension arose in the ships respecting the security of their situation; and they began to move down the river: The danger of being left without the means of retreat now flashed on the minds of the book iv.Chap. 3. 1756. spectators on shore; and the boats were filled and gone in an instant. “Among those who left the factory in this unaccountable manner were, the Governor Mr. Drake, Mr. Macket, Captain Commandant Minchin, and Captain Grant.”1 Great was the indignation among the people in the fort, upon hearing that they were in this manner abandoned. Mr. Holwell, though not the senior servant, was by the general voice called to assume the command; and exerted himself with great vigour to preserve order, and maintain the defence. “Signals were now thrown out,” says Mr. Cooke, “from every part of the fort, for the ships to come up again to their stations, in hopes they would have reflected (after the first impulse of their panic was over) how cruel as well as shameful it was, to leave their countrymen to the mercy of a barbarous enemy; and for that reason we made no doubt they would have attempted to cover the retreat of those left behind, now they had secured their own; but we deceived ourselves; and there never was a single effort made, in the two days the fort held out after this desertion, to send a boat or vessel to bring off any part of the garrison.”2 “Never perhaps,” says Mr. Orme, “was such an opportunity of performing an heroic action so ignominiously neglected: for a single sloop with fifteen brave men on board, might, in spite of all the efforts of the enemy, have come up, and anchoring under the fort, have carried away all who suffered in the dungeon.”3 During these trying days Mr. Holwell made severalbook iv.Chap. 3. 1756. efforts, by throwing letters over the wall, to signify his wish to capitulate; and it was during a temporary pause in the fire of the garrison, while expecting an answer, that the enemy approached the walls in numbers too great to be resisted, and the place was carried by storm. The Subahdar, though humanity was no part of his character, appears not on the present occasion to have intended cruelty; for when Mr. Holwell was carried into his presence with his hands tied, he ordered them to be set loose, and assured him, upon the faith of a soldier, that of the heads of him and his companions not a hair should be touched. When evening however came, it was a question with the guards to whom they were entrusted, how they might be secured for the night. Some search was made for a convenient apartment; but none was found; upon which information was obtained of a place which the English themselves had employed as a prison. Into this, without further inquiry, they were impelled. It was unhappily a small, ill-aired, and unwholesome dungeon, called, the Black Hole; and the English had their own practice to thank for suggesting it to the officers of the Subahdar as a fit place of confinement.1 Out of 146 unfortunate individuals book iv.Chap. 3. 1756. thrust in, only twenty-three were taken out alive in the morning. The horror of the situation may be conceived, but it cannot be described. “Some of our company,” says Mr. Cooke, “expired very soon after being put in; others grew mad, and having lost their senses, died in a high delirium.” Applications were made to the guard, with the offer of great rewards; but it was out of their power to afford relief. The only chance consisted in conveying intelligence, by means of a bribe, to some officer of high authority; but to no one does it appear that this expedient occurred.1
The news of the capture of Cossimbuzar arrivedbook iv.Chap. 3. 1756. at Madras on the 15th of July, of that of Calcutta on the 5th of August. It was fortunate that Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive were now both upon the coast. Admiral Watson was commander of the squadron which the English ministry had prudently sent to India during the progress of the negotiation in 1754. Soon after his arrival on the coast of Coromandel, the monsoon obliged him to sail to Bombay, from which he returned in the January following, by a very able navigation against a contrary monsoon; and was now joined by Mr. Pocock, who had arrived from England with two ships of superior force. He remained on the coast of Coromandel till the 10th of October, when he again sailed to Bombay, to escape the monsoon. At this place matters of great importance were already in agitation.
Captain Clive had arrived from England, where he had obtained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in his Majesty’s service, and the appointment of Deputy Governor of Fort St. David. He had landed at Bombay, with three companies of the King’s artillery, and between three and four hundred of the King’s troops, with a view to a project, concerted in England, of attacking Salabut Jung, in conjunction with the Mahrattas, and driving the French out of Deccan. The report which the directors in England had received of the brilliant exploits of Captain Clive in India had made them desirous of entrusting to him a service, highly delicate, of the greatest importance, and requiring the fullest acquaintance with the manners and circumstances of the country. “But from that dependance on the ministry,” says Mr. Orme, “to which their affairs will always be subject, whilst engaged in military operations, the Court of Directors, in compliance with very powerful recommendations, book iv.Chap. 3. 1756. appointed Lieutenant Colonel Scott to command the expedition.”1 This officer had sailed to India, in the capacity of Engineer-General, the preceding year. Clive was still directed to land at Bombay, in hopes that some accident might take the business out of the hands of Scott; which in reality happened, for that officer died before the other arrived. But in the mean time, the truce had been concluded between the English and French; and the Presidency of Bombay refused to engage in a measure by which it would be violated. There was another enterprise, however, in which they had already embarked, and in which, with the great force, military and naval, now happily assembled at Bombay, they had sanguine hopes of success.
The Mahrattas as early as the time of Sevagee, had raised something of a fleet, to protect them against the enterprise of the Siddees. In this service a common man distinguished himself; and rose from one post to another, till he became Admiral of the fleet. He was appointed Governor of a strong fort, called Severndroog, situated on a rocky island, within cannon shot of the continent, about eight miles north from Dabul. This adventurer quarrelled with the Mahratta government; and revolted with the greater part of the fleet. He not only set the Mahratta state at defiance; but was able to render himself master of the coast to an extent of sixty leagues, from Tanna to Rajapore; and the Mahrattas compounded their dispute with him, by receiving a small annual tribute as a mark of subjection. The name of the successful rebel was Conagee Angria; and he made piracy his trade. The nature of the coast is well adapted to that species of depredation;book iv.Chap. 3. 1756. because it is intersected by a great number of rivers, and the breezes compel ships to keep close to the land. The European nations had been harassed by this predatory community for nearly half a century; they had made several efforts to subdue them; but the power of Angria had always increased; and his fleets now struck terror into all commercial navigators on the western coast of India.
Several approaches towards the formation of a union for the extirpation of these corsairs had been made by the English and Mahrattas; but without effect, till 1755, when an English squadron, under Commodore James, and a land army of Mahrattas, attacked Severndroog, and took it, as well as the fort of Bancoote. It was toward the conclusion of the same year that Admiral Watson with his fleet, and Colonel Clive with his forces, arrived at Bombay: The final reduction of the piratical state was therefore decreed. On the 11th of February, 1756, the fleet, consisting of eight ships, besides a grab, and five bomb ketches, having on board 800 Europeans and 1,000 Sepoys, commanded by Colonel Clive, arrived at Gheriah; while a Mahratta army approached on the other side. Gheriah, the capital of Angria, stood on a rocky promontory, nearly surrounded by the sea, and had a fort of extraordinary strength. But the number of the assailants, and the violence of the cannonade, terrified both Angria and his people; and they made a feeble use of their advantages. Angria, with a view to effect an accommodation, placed himself in the hands of the Mahrattas; the fort surrendered; and the object of the expedition was completely attained. Watson arrived at Madras on the 16th of May, and Clive repaired to his government at Fort St. David, from which, in the month of August, he was summoned book iv.Chap. 3. 1756. to Madras, to assist in the deliberations for recovering Calcutta.1
It was resolved, after some debate, that the reestablishment of the Company’s affairs in Bengal should be pursued at the expense of every other enterprise. A dispute, however, of two months ensued, to determine in what manner prizes should be divided; who should command; and what should be the degree of power entrusted with the commander. The parties, of whom the pretensions were severally to be weighed, were Mr. Pigot, who had been Governor of Madras since the departure of Saunders, but was void of military experience; Colonel Aldercron, who claimed as senior officer of the King, but was unacquainted with the irregular warfare of the natives; Colonel Laurence, whose experience and merit were unquestionable, but to whose asthmatical complaints the close and sultry climate of Bengal were injurious; and Clive, to whom none of these exceptions applied. It was at last determined, that Clive should be sent. It was also determined, that he should be sent with powers independent of the Presidency of Calcutta. Among his instructions, one of the most peremptory was, that he should return, and be again at Madras with the whole of the troops, in the month of April; about which time it was expected that in consequence of the war between France and England, a French fleet would arrive upon the coast. It was principally, indeed, with a view to this return, that independence of the Calcutta rulers, who might be tempted to retain him, was bestowed upon Clive.
The force, which sailed from the road of Madras, on the 16th of October, consisted of five King’s ships with Admiral Watson as Commander, and five Company’sbook iv.Chap. 3. 1756. ships, serving as transports; having on board 900 European troops, and 1,500 Sepoys. All the ships, with the exception of two, arrived in the Ganges on the 20th of December, and found the fugitives from Calcutta at Fulta, a town at some distance down the river, to which the ships had descended, and where they had found it practicable to remain.
After forwarding letters, full of threats, to Suraja Dowla, which the Governor of Calcutta sent word that he dared not deliver, it was resolved to commence operations, by the capture of a fort, which stood, on the river, between Fulta and Calcutta. On the 27th of December, at the time when the fort was to be attacked by the ships, Clive marched out, with the greater part of the troops, to lay an ambush for intercepting the garrison, who were not expected to make a tedious defence. The troops, fatigued in gaining their position, were allowed to quit their arms to take a little repose; “and from a security,” says Mr. Orme, “which no superiority or appearances in war could justify, the common precaution of stationing centinels was neglected.” In a few minutes they were all asleep; and in this situation, surprised by a large body of the enemy. The presence of mind and steady courage, which never deserted Clive in sudden emergencies, enabled him, even in those unfavourable circumstances, to disperse a band of irregular troops, led by a cowardly commander. “But had the enemy’s cavalry,” says Orme, “advanced and charged at the same time that the infantry began to fire, it is not improbable that the war would have been concluded on the very first trial of hostilities.”1
book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. The ships came up and cannonaded the fort; but the garrison frustrated the project of Clive; and, totally unperceived, made their escape in the night. The other forts on the river were deserted, as the English approached; and on the 2d of January, 1757, the armament arrived at Calcutta. The garrison withstood not the cannon of the ships for two hours; and evacuated the place. The merchandise belonging to the Company was found mostly untouched, because it had been reserved for the Subahdar; but the houses of individuals were totally plundered.
Intelligence was received from the natives, who began to enter the town, that Hoogley, a considerable city, about twenty-three miles up the river from Calcutta, was thrown into great consternation by these recent events. In this situation an attack upon it was expected to produce a very favourable result. One of the ships sent on this service struck on a sandbank, and five days retarded the progress of the detachment. On the 10th of January they reached the spot; made a breach in the wall before night; and the troops no sooner mounted the rampart, than the garrison fled and escaped.
During the expedition to Hoogley news arrived of the commencement of hostilities between England and France.1 The French in Bengal had a force of 300 Europeans, and a train of field artillery; which, if added to the army of the Subahdar, would render him an irresistible enemy. The English were now very desirous to make their peace with that formidablebook iv.Chap. 3. 1757. ruler; but the capture of Hoogly, undertaken solely with a view to plunder, had so augmented his rage, that he was not in a frame of mind to receive from them any proposition; and his army received its orders to march. Happily for the English, the same spirit by which Dupleix was reproached for not having negotiated a neutrality between the French and English Companies in India, though the nations were at war in Europe, prevailed in the Councils at Chandernagor. The rulers at that settlement refused to assist Suraja Dowla; and proposed that they and the English should engage by treaty, notwithstanding the war between their respective countries, to abstain from hostilities against one another in Bengal. Still the power of the Subahdar presented an appalling aspect to Clive; and no sooner had he received intimation of an abatement in the irritation of that enemy, than he renewed his application for peace. The Subahdar received his letter, and even proposed a conference; but continued his march, and on the 3d of February surrounded Calcutta with his camp. Clive resolved to surprise it before dawn of the following morning. The design was no less politic than bold; both as the audacity of it was likely to alarm a timorous enemy; and as the difficulty of procuring provisions, surrounded by a large body of cavalry, must soon have been great. The execution, however, was badly planned; and a thick mist augmented the causes of misfortune. The troops suffered considerably; and were several times exposed to the greatest dangers. Yet they marched through the camp; and produced on the minds of the Subahdar and his army the intended effect. Eager to be removed from an enemy capable of those daring attempts, Suraja Dowla was now in earnest to effect an accommodation. book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. Overtures were received and returned; and on the 9th of February a treaty was concluded by which the Nabob, as he was styled by the English, agreed to restore to the Company their factories, and all the privileges they had formerly enjoyed; to permit them to fortify Calcutta; and to make compensation to them for such of the plundered effects as had been brought to account in the books of his government. So greatly was he pleased with this treaty, that two days after its conclusion, he proposed to conclude with the English an alliance offensive and defensive; a contract which the English eagerly formed, and which both parties ratified on that very day.
In return to the French for that neutrality of theirs which had saved the English, Clive, at the very moment of making peace with the Nabob, sounded him to know if he would permit the English to attack the settlement at Chandernagor, for which there still would be time before the setting in of the southern monsoon. The proposition was hateful to the Subahdar; but for the present he returned an evasive answer. As this was not a prohibition, Clive resolved to construe it as a permission; and he sent his army across the river. The Subahdar now interfered with efficacy; sent an express prohibition; and took measures for opposing the attempt.
The Council at Calcutta, no longer expecting the consent of the Subahdar, and alarmed at the thought of attempting the enterprise in defiance of his authority, entered into negotiation with the French. They had mutually agreed upon terms; and obtained the assent of the Subahdar to guarantee between them a treaty of neutrality and pacification. But the factory at Chandernagor was dependant on the government of Pondicherry, and could only ratify the treaty provisionally; the government of Calcutta signed with definitive powers. This difference started a scruplebook iv.Chap. 3. 1757. in the brain of Admiral Watson; and he refused to sign. In the opinion of Clive, there was but one alternative: that of embracing the neutrality, or instantly attacking Chandernagor. But Watson refused to attack without the Nabob’s consent; and Clive urged the necessity of accepting the neutrality. In a letter to the Select Committee he said, “If the neutrality be refused, do but reflect, Gentlemen, what will be the opinion of the world of these our late proceedings. Did we not, in consequence of a letter received from the Governor and Council of Chandernagor, making offers of a neutrality within the Ganges, in a manner accede to it, by desiring they would send deputies, and that we would gladly come into such neutrality with them? And have we not, since their arrival, drawn out articles that were satisfactory to both parties; and agreed that such articles should be reciprocally signed, sealed, and sworn to? What will the Nabob think, after the promises made him on our side, and after his consenting to guarantee this neutrality? He, and all the world, will certainly think, that we are men without principles, or that we are men of a trifling insignificant disposition.”1 While the altercations on this subject continued, news reached the Subahdar, that Ahmed Shah, the Abdallee, had taken Delhi; and meant to extend his conquests to the eastern provinces of the Mogul empire. This intelligence, which filled him with consternation, suggested the vast importance of securing the co-operation of the English; and he immediately sent a letter to Colonel Clive, the object of which was to pave the way for attaining it, on almost any terms. The very same day on which the letter of book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. the Nabob reached Calcutta, the arrival was announced of three ships with troops from Bombay, and of one of the ships, also bearing troops, which sailed with Clive from Madras, but was compelled to return. “With such additions,” says Mr. Orme, “the English force was deemed capable of taking Chandernagor, although protected by the Nabob’s army: Colonel Clive therefore immediately dismissed the French deputies, who were then with him waiting to sign the treaty, which was even written out fair, and which they supposed had been entirely concluded.”1
The English force advanced; while the scruples of Admiral Watson, under the great accession of force, were vanquished by some supposed contradictions in the letters of the Subahdar; and the opposition of the Subahdar was suspended by his apprehension of the Afghauns. On the 14th of March, the detachment from Bombay having joined the English army, hostilities commenced. The French defended themselves with great gallantry: the Nabob, roused at last, and eager to prevent their fall, sent peremptory orders to the English to desist; and even put a part of hisbook iv.Chap. 3. 1757. army in motion: But the fire from the ships was irresistible, and the reduction of the fort anticipated the effects of his intended resistance. The resentment of the Nabob was checked by his remaining dread of the Abdallees; and he still courted the friendship of the invaders: He, however, eluded their request to give up all the other French factories and subjects in his dominions; and afforded protection to the troops who had escaped from the fort of Chandernagor.
The time was now arrived when, according to his instructions, Clive ought no longer to have deferred his return to Madras. He himself, in his letter to the select committee, dated the 4th of March, had said respecting Watson’s objection to the treaty of neutrality; “This leads me to consider seriously the situation of the Company’s affairs on the coast, and the positive orders I have received from the President and the Committee at Madras, to return at all events with as great a part of the forces under my command as could possibly be spared.”1 “The situation of the Company’s affairs on the coast,” that is, in Carnatic, was indeed in no small degree alarming, if they remained without the protection of their military force, sent for the restoration of the settlements in Bengal. The Presidency of Madras had not left themselves troops sufficient to make head against the French even then in the country; and it was known at Madras, before the departure of Clive, that, in consequence of the expected hostilities, a powerful armament was destined by the French government for India; and without doubt would make its first landing in Carnatic. On the other side Clive beheld an opening book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. for exploits, both splendid and profitable, in Bengal; overlooked all other considerations; violated his instructions; and remained.
The French, who had collected themselves at Cossimbuzar, became the first subject of dispute. Instead of yielding them up, on the repeated solicitations of the English, the Nabob furnished M. Law, who was the head of the factory at Cossimbuzar, with money, arms, and ammunition, and sent them into Bahar; Clive, to the great displeasure of his new ally, threatening, and even preparing, to detach a part of his army to intercept them. By the author of the Seer Mutakhareen, we are told, that M. Law, before his departure, revealed to Suraja Dowla the disaffection of his principal officers; the connection which they would be sure to form with the English for his destruction; and the necessity of retaining the French about his person if he wished to preserve himself from that deplorable fate. The persons, however, who meditated his ruin, and who saw the importance of removing the French, pressed upon his mind the impolicy of quarrelling with the victorious English on account of the vanquished and fugitive French. He therefore dismissed M. Law, telling him, “that if there should happen any thing new, he would send for him again.”—“Send for me again?” answered Law, “Be assured, my lord nawab, that this is the last time we shall see each other; remember my words,—we shall never meet again; it is nearly impossible.”1
Lord Clive, in his statement to the House of Commons, said, “that after Chandernagor was resolved to be attacked, he repeatedly said to the committee, as well as to others, that they could not stop there, but must go further; that, having established themselvesbook iv.Chap. 3. 1757. by force, and not by consent of the Nabob, he would endeavour to drive them out again; that they had numberless proofs of his intentions, many upon record; and that he did suggest to Admiral Watson and Sir George Pococke, as well as to the Committee, the necessity of a revolution; that Mr. Watson and the gentlemen of the Committee agreed upon the necessity of it;1 and that the management of that revolution was, with consent of the committee, left to Mr. Watts, who was resident at the Nabob’s capital, and himself; that great dissatisfaction arising among Suraja Dowla’s troops, Meer Jaffier was pitched upon to be the person to place in the room of Suraja Dowla, in consequence of which a treaty was formed.”2
A complicated scene took place, which it would be little instructive to unfold,3 of plotting and intrigue. The first proposals were made by an officer named Yar Khan Latty; and they were greedily embraced; till intimation was received that Meer Jaffier Khan was inclined to enter into a confederacy for deposing the Subahdar. This was a personage of much greater power and distinction. He had been married at an early period to the sister of Aliverdi, and held a high rank in his army. Between him and Aliverdi had not been always the best understanding; and Meer Jaffier had at one time entered into a project of treason. But the interest of the two parties taught them to master their dissatisfaction; and at book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. the death of Aliverdi, Meer Jaffier was paymaster general of the forces, one of the highest offices in an Indian government. Suraja Dowla hated Meer Jaffier, and was too ignorant and headstrong to use management with his dislikes. Shortly after his accession, Meer Jaffier was removed from his office, and remained exposed to all that might result from the violent disposition of the Subahdar. According to the constitution however of an Indian army, in which every General maintains his own troops, a considerable portion of the army belonged to Meer Jaffier; and this he exerted himself to increase, by enlisting as many as possible of the adventurers, with whom the nature of Indian warfare made the country abound.
In manufacturing the terms of the confederacy, the grand concern of the English appeared to be money. “The Committee really believed,” says Mr. Orme, “the wealth of Suraja Dowla much greater than it possibly could be, even if the whole life of the late Nabob Aliverdi had not been spent in defending his own dominions against the invasion of ruinous enemies; and even if Suraja Dowla himself had reigned many, instead of only one year.”1 They resolved accordingly not to be sparing in their demands; and the situation of Jaffier Khan, and the manners and customs of the country, made him ready to promise whatever they desired. In name of compensation for losses by the capture of Calcutta, 10,000,000 rupees were promised to the English Company, 5,000,000 rupees to English inhabitants, 2,000,000 to the Indians, and 700,000 to the Armenians. These sums were specified in the formal treaty. Over and beside this, it was resolved by the Committee of the Council, that is, the small number ofbook iv.Chap. 3. 1757. individuals by whom the business was performed, that a donation of 2,500,000 rupees should be asked for the squadron; and another of equal amount for the army. “When this was settled,” says Lord Clive,1 “Mr. Becher (a member) suggested to the Committee, that he thought that Committee, who managed the great machine of government, was entitled to some consideration, as well as the army and navy.” Such a proposition, in such an assembly, could not fail to appear eminently reasonable. It met with a suitable approbation. Mr. Becher informs us, that the sums received were 280,000 rupees by Mr. Drake the Governor; 280,000 by Colonel Clive; and 240,000 each, by himself, Mr. Watts, and Major Kilpatrick, the inferior members of the Committee.2 The terms obtained in favour of the Company were, that all the French factories and effects should be given up; that the French should be for ever excluded from Bengal; that the territory surrounding Calcutta to the distance of 600 yards beyond the Mahratta ditch, and all the land lying south of Calcutta as far as Culpee should be granted them on Zemindary tenure, the Company paying the rents in the same manner as other Zemindars.
For effecting the destruction of Suraja Dowla it was concerted, that the English should take the field; and that Meer Jaffier should join them at Cutwa, book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. with his own troops, and those of as many of the other commanders as it should be in his power to debauch. When the English arrived at Cutwa, no allies, however, appeared: Letters were received from Moorshedabad by some of the natives in the camp, stating that the conspiracy was discovered, and that Meer Jaffier had obtained his pardon, on condition of aiding the Nabob with all his resources against the English. Instead of Meer Jaffier and his troops, a letter from Meer Jaffier arrived. In this it was stated, that the suspicions of the Nabob had been raised; that he had constrained Meer Jaffier to swear fidelity on the Koran; that it had thus become impossible for Meer Jaffier to join the English before the day of battle; but that it would be easy for him, in the action, to desert the Nabob, and decide the fortune of the day. The mind of the English commander was disturbed. The treachery of Meer Jaffier could not be regarded as improbable; and “he thought it extremely hazardous” (to use his own words) “to pass a river which is only fordable in one place, march 150 miles up the country, and risk a battle, when, if a defeat ensued, not one man would have returned to tell it.”1
In these difficulties he called a council of war. “It is very rare,” says Mr. Orme, “that a council of war decides for battle.”2 Clive himself says, “that this was the only council of war that ever he held, and if he had abided by that council, it would have been the ruin of the East India Company.”3 The singularity is, that in the council Clive himself was of the same opinion with the majority, and by delivering his opinion first, which was far from the usual practice, had no doubt considerable influence inbook iv.Chap. 3. 1757. determining others: yet that afterwards he disregarded that decision; and took upon himself to act in direct opposition to it. The army was ordered to cross the river the next morning; and at a little past midnight arrived at Plassy.1
At this place, a part of the army of the Subahdar had been intrenched for a considerable time; and the Subahdar himself had reached it with the remainder of his forces the evening before the arrival of the English. The army with which he was now to contend for his power and his life consisted of 50,000 foot, 18,000 horse, and fifty pieces of cannon. Of the English force, 900, including 100 artillery-men and fifty sailors, were Europeans; 100 were Topasses; and 2,100 Sepoys. The battle was nothing but a distant cannonade. This was maintained during the greatest part of the day, and sufficed to terrify the Subahdar, who, by the advice of those who desired his ruin, issued orders of preparation for retreat. Upon this, Jaffier Khan was observed moving off with his troops: Clive was then convinced of his intention to join him: He now, therefore, ordered the English to advance, and attack that part of the line which still maintained its position. The knowledge of these two events determined the mind of the Subahdar, who mounted a fleet camel and fled with 2,000 attendants. No further resistance was offered; and the English entered the camp at five o’clock, having, by the assistance of a weak and vicious sovereign, book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. determined the fate of a great kingdom, and of 30,000,000 of people, with the loss of twenty Europeans killed and wounded, of sixteen Sepoys killed, and only thirty-six wounded.1
The army advanced, about nine miles, to Daudpore, the same evening, with little occasion to pursue the enemy, who had almost entirely dispersed. At this place, Meer Jaffier sent a message to the English commander; that he, with many more of the great officers, and a considerable part of the army, waited his commands. The next morning Clive sent to conduct him to his quarters; and he arrived, under some apprehensions, which the Colonel, thinking it no time for reproaches, hastened to dispel. It was arranged that Meer Jaffier should march to the capital immediately, to prevent the escape of Suraja Dowla, and the removal of his wealth.
That wretched prince had arrived at his palace the night after the battle, where, now apprized that he had not a friend on whom he could rely, and utterly uncertain what course to pursue, he remained till the evening of the following day, when Meer Jaffier entered the city. Then his fears dictated a resolution. He disguised himself in a mean dress, and about ten o’clock at night went secretly out of a window of the palace, with his favourite concubine and a single eunuch, intending to join M. Law, and escape into Bahar, where he counted upon the protection of the Governor. The rowers, however, of his boat, worn out before the morning with fatigue, stopped at Raje Mahl, where he endeavoured to conceal himself in abook iv.Chap. 3. 1757. garden. He was there, at break of day, discovered by a man, whom he had formerly treated with cruelty; and who now revealed him to the Governor. Covered with indignity, he was hurried back to Moorshedabad; and presented to Meer Jaffier, who placed him under the custody of his son. The son, a brutal, ferocious youth, the same night gave orders for his assassination. M. Law, who received a summons to join the Nabob as soon as war with the English appeared inevitable, immediately began his march; but had not passed Tacriagully when he received reports of the battle of Plassy; and halted for further information. “Had he immediately proceeded twenty miles further,” says Mr. Orme, “he would the next day have met and saved Suraja Dowla, and an order of events, very different from those which we have to relate, would, in all probability, have ensued.”1
The battle was fought on the 23d of June, and on the 25th Colonel Clive with his troops arrived at Moorshedabad. On the next day, a meeting was held to confer about the stipulated moneys; when the chief officer of finance declared that the whole of Suraja Dowla’s treasures was inadequate to the demand. “The restitution,” says Mr. Orme, “ with the donations to the squadron, the army, and the committee, amounted to 22,000,000 of sicca rupees, equal to 2,750,000l. But other donations were promised, which have since been the foundation of several fortunes.”2 The scantiness of the Bengal treasury was most unexpected, as well as most painful news, to the English; who had been accustomed to a fond and literal belief of Oriental exaggeration book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. on the subject of Indian riches. With great difficulty were they brought to admit so hateful a truth. Finding at last that more could not be obtained, they consented to receive one half of the moneys immediately, and to accept of the rest by three equal payments, in three years. Even of the portion which was now to be received, it was necessary to take one third not in specie, which was all exhausted, but in jewels, plate, and other effects, at a valuation. Before the 9th of August, after a multitude of difficulties, the stipulated half, all but 584,905 rupees, was delivered and discharged.1
Upon the news of the seizure and death of Surajabook iv.Chap. 3. 1757. Dowla, M. Law, with the French party, hastened book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. back, to join the Governor of Bahar, at Patna, the capital of the province. Upon the assassination of the father of Suraja Dowla, Aliverdi had nominated Suraja Dowla himself to the nabobship of that important province; but appointed Ramnarain, a Hindu, in whom he reposed great confidence, to be Deputy Governor in the absence of the Prince. Ramnarain had administered the affairs of the province during the life of Aliverdi, and had continued in the government since the accession of Suraja Dowla. From him Meer Jaffier expected no co-operation, and displayed anxiety that the French party should be pursued. He suspected, however, the fidelity of any part of his own army; and a large detachment of the English were sent under Major Coote. They were detained too long in preparation; they were poorly provided with the means of expedition; and the European part of the detachment, exasperated at the fatigue they had to endure, behaved mutinously on the way. Before they reached Patna, the French had arrived; and, to obviate disputes, had been sent forward by Ramnarain into the territory of the Subahdar of Oude, with whom he had begun to negotiate an alliance. Major Coote was at first instructed to endeavour by intrigue and by force to wrest the government from Ramnarain: but while he was meditating the execution of these orders, he received further instructions which led to an accommodation; and he returned to Moorshedabad on the 13th of September. The detachment which he had conducted was stationed at Cossimbuzar, near Moorshedabad;book iv.Chap. 3. 1757. the rest of the army was sent into quarters at Chandernagor as a more healthy situation than the seat of the Presidency; and on the day after the arrival of Major Coote, Colonel Clive left Moorshedabad and returned to Calcutta.1
Seer Mutakhareen, i. 17, 43, 296.
Holwell (Interesting Historical Events, i. 70) represents his conduct as highly cruel and unjust, and gives an account of five baskets of human heads, which he saw conveying to him in a boat.
Seer Mutakhareen, i. 298—382; Orme, ii. 26—32.
Holwell, who was in the province, and must have had opportunities of learning many of the particulars, gives (Interesting Historical Events, i. 118) a detailed account of this retreat, which he celebrates as one of the most brilliant exploits in the annals of warfare.
Seer Mutakhareen, i. 407—438; Orme, ii. 35. Both Orme and the author of the Seer Mutakhareen mention the instigation of Nizam al Mulk, but after all it seems to have been only a vague conjecture; and there were motives enough to Ragogee Bonsla without prompting. Holwell (Interesting Historical Events, i. 108) says they were instigated by the Court of Delhi.
The author of the Seer Mutakhareen, who had the best opportunities of knowing, says, (i. 450,) that the Emperor claimed, as due on account of the payment of the chout, the assistance, for the province of Bengal, of the government of Satarah, against Ragogee Bonsla; and that it was in compliance with this request, that the army of Balagee Row came into Bengal. Holwell, i. 140, and Orme, ii. 37, say, that the two armies came in concert, and only differed about the division of the plunder.
For a minute and very interesting account of the government of Aliverdi, see Seer Mutakhareen, i. 355—681. The narrative of Orme, (ii. 28—52,) and that of Holwell (Interesting Historical Events, i. 85—176), do not exactly agree either with Gholam or with one another. Scrafton’s account (Reflections, &c.) Holwell says was stolen from him.
Orme, ii. 34, says that Aliverdi had only one daughter. The author of the Seer Mutakhareen, who was his near relation, says he had three, i. 304.
Orme, ii. 47, says that Aliverdi had declared Suraja Dowla his successor, before the death of his uncle. But the author of the Seer Mutakhareen, who was in the confidential service of Seid Hamet, the surviving nephew, tells us that he regarded himself as the successor of Aliverdi till the time of his death; which was during the last illness of Aliverdi.
Evidence of John Cooke, Esq. (who at that time was Secretary to the Governor and Council of Calcutta), in the First Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, appointed “to inquire into the Nature, State, and Condition of the East India Company,” in 1772.
Report, ut supra. Mr. Cooke, from notes, written immediately after the transactions, gives a very interesting narrative, from the death of Aliverdi, till the morning after the night of the Black Hole.
Orme, ii. 78.
The atrocities of English imprisonment at home, not then exposed to detestation by the labours of Howard, too naturally reconciled Englishmen abroad to the use of dungeons; of Black Holes. What had they to do with a black hole? Had no black hole existed, (as none ought to exist any where, least of all in the sultry and unwholesome climate of Bengal,) those who perished in the Black Hole of Calcutta would have experienced a different fate. Even so late as 1782, the common gaol of Calcutta is described by the Select Committee, “a miserable and pestilential place.” That Committee examined two witnesses on the state of the common gaol of Calcutta. One said, “The gaol is an old ruin of a house; there were very few windows to admit air, and those very small. He asked the gaoler how many souls were then confined in the prison? Who answered, upwards of 170, blacks and whites included—that there was no gaol allowance, that many persons had died for want of the necessaries of life. The nauseous smells, arising from such a crowded place, were beyond expression. Besides the prisoners, the number of women and attendants, to carry in provisions and dress victuals, was so great, that it was astomshing that any person could long survive such a situation. It was the most horrible place he ever saw, take it altogether.” The other witness said, “It is divided into small apartments, and those very bad; the stench dreadful, and more offensive than he ever experienced in this country—that there is no thorough draft of air—the windows are neither large nor numerous—the rooms low—that it would be impossible for any European to exist any length of time in the prison—that debtors and criminals were not separated—nor Hindoos, Mahomedans, and Europeans.” First Report, Appendix, No. xi.
The account of the capture of Calcutta has been taken from the Report above quoted; from the accounts of Mr. Holwell and Mr. Watts; from Scrafton, p. 52—62; Orme, ii. 49—80; and Seer Mutakhareen, i. 716—721. The translator of this last work, says in a note, “There is not a word here of those English shut up in the Black Hole, to the number of 131, where they were mostly smothered. The truth is, that the Hindoostanes wanting only to secure them for the night, as they were to be presented the next morning to the prince, shut them up in what they heard was the prison of the fort, without having any idea of the capacity of the room; and indeed the English themselves had none of it. This much is certain, that this event, which cuts so capital a figure in Mr. Watt’s performance, is not known in Bengal; and even in Calcutta it is unknown to every man out of the 400,000 that inhabit that city: at least it is difficult to meet a single native that knows any thing of it: so careless and so incurious are those people. Were we therefore to accuse the Indians of cruelty, for such a thoughtless action, we would of course accuse the English, who, intending to embark 400 Gentoo Sepoys, destined for Madras, put them in boats, without one single necessary, and at last left them to be overset by the bore, when they all perished after a three days’ fast.”
Orme, i. 406. “Colonel Scott,” says Clive himself, in his evidence before the Committee, (See Report, ut supra) “had been strongly recommended by the Duke of Cumberland.”
See for this account, Orme, i. 406—417; Cambridge’s War in India, p. 120—130; Lord Clive’s Evidence, Report, ut supra.
Scrafton, p. 62, sinks the culpable circumstances.
The Indian historian gives an amusing account of the relations between England and France: “Just at this crisis,” says he, “the flames of war broke out between the French and English; two nations who had disputes between themselves of five or six hundred years standing; and who, after proceeding to bloodshed, wars, battles, and massacres, for a number of years, would lay down their arms by common agreement, and take breath on both sides, in order to come to blows again, and to fight with as much fury as ever.” Seer Mutakhareen, i. 759.
Report ut supra, Appendix, No. vi.
Orme, ii. 139. Clive himself gives a curious account of the deliberation upon this measure: “That the members of the Committee were Mr. Drake (the Governor), himself (Col. Clive), Major Kilpatrick, and Mr. Becher:—Mr. Becher gave his opinion for a neutrality, Major Kilpatrick, for a neutrality;—he himself gave his opinion for the attack of the place; Mr. Drake gave an opinion that nobody could make any thing of. Major Kilpatrick then asked him, whether he thought the forces and squadron could attack Chandernagor and the Nabob’s army at the same time?—he said, he thought they could; upon which Major Kilpatrick desired to withdraw his opinion, and to be of his. They voted Mr. Drake’s no opinion at all; and Major Kilpatrick and he being the majority, a letter was written to Admiral Watson, desiring him to co-operate in the attack on Chandernagor.” Report, ut supra. There is something ludicrous in voting a man’s opinion to be no opinion; yet the undecisive, hesitating, ambiguous propositions, of men who know not what resolution to take, cannot, in general, perhaps, be treated by a better rule.
Report, ut supra, Appendix, No. vi.
Seer Mutakhareen, i. 762.
Captain Brereton, who was Lieutenant with Admiral Watson, declared in evidence, “that he had heard Admiral Watson say, he thought it an extraordinary measure to depose a man they had so lately made a solemn treaty with.” Report, ut supra.
Report, ut supra.
It has been done with exemplary minuteness and patience by Mr. Orme, ii. 149—175.
Orme, ii. 153.
Evidence before the Committee, Report, ut supra.
Ibid. These latter receipts were the occasion of a dispute. “Upon this being known,” said Clive, (Report ut supra) “Mr. Watson replied, that he was entitled to a share in that money. He (Clive) agreed in opinion with the gentlemen, when this application was made, that Mr. Watson was not one of the Committee, but at the same time did justice to his services and proposed to the gentlemen to contribute as much as would make his share equal to the Governor’s and his own; that about three or four consented to it, the rest would not.”
Evidence, ut supra.
Orme, ii. 171.
Evidence, Report, ut supra.
Scrafton (Reflections, p. 90,) says, that the Colonel’s resolution was founded upon a letter he received from Jaffier in the course of the day. Orme, who loves a little of the marvellous, says, “that as soon as the council of war broke up he retired alone into the adjoining grove, where he continued near an hour in deep meditation; and gave orders, on his return to his quarters, that the army should cross the river the next morning.” ii. 170.
Lord Clive stated (Report, ut supra,) “that the battle’s being attended with so little bloodshed arose from two causes; first, the army was sheltered by so high a bank that the heavy artillery of the enemy could not possibly do them much mischief; the other was, that Suraja Dowla had not confidence in his army, nor his army any confidence in him, and therefore they did not do their duty upon that occasion.”
Orme, ii. 185.
Ibid. ii. 180.
A piece of consummate treachery was practised upon an individual. Among the Hindu merchants established at Calcutta was Omichund, “a man,” says Mr. Orme, “of great sagacity and understanding,” who had traded to a vast amount, and acquired an enormous fortune. “The extent of his habitation,” continues Mr. Orme, “divided into various departments, the number of his servants continually employed in various occupations, and a retinue of armed men in constant pay, resembled more the state of a prince than the condition of a merchant. His commerce extended to all parts of Bengal and Bahar, and by presents and services he had acquired so much influence with the principal officers of the Bengal government, that the Presidency, in times of difficulty, used to employ his mediation with the Nabob. This pre-eminence, however, did not fail to render him the object of much envy.” (Orme, ii. 50.) When the alarm, excited by the hostile designs of Suraja Dowla, threw into consternation the minds of Mr. Drake and his council, among other weak ideas which occurred to them, one was, to secure the person of Ounchund, lest, peradventure, he should be in concert with their enemies. He was seized and thrown into confinement. His guards, beheving that violence, that is, dishonour, would next fall upon his house, set fire to it, after the manner of Hindus, and slaughtered the inmates of his harem. Notwithstanding this, when Mr. Holwell endeavoured to parley with the Nabob, he employed Omichund to write letters to his friends, importuning them to intercede, in that extremity, with the prince. At the capture, though his person was liberated, his valuable effects and merchandize were plundered. No less than 400,000 rupees in cash were found in his treasury. When an order was published that such of the English as had escaped the black hole might return to their homes, they were supplied with provisions by Omichund, “whose intercession,” says Orme, “had probably procured their return.” Omichund, upon the ruin of Calcutta, followed the Nabob’s army, and soon acquired a high degree of confidence both with the Nabob’s favourite, and with himself. After the recovery of Calcutta, when the Nabob, alarmed at the attack of his camp, entered into negotiation, and concluded a treaty, Omichund was one of the principal agents employed. And when Mr. Watts was sent to Moorshedabad as agent at the durbar (court) of Suraja Dowla, “he was accompanied,” says Mr. Orme, (ii. 137,) “by Omichund, whose conduct in the late negotiation had effaced the impression of former imputations, insomuch that Mr. Watts was permitted to consult and employ him without reserve on all occasions.” He was employed as a main instrument in all the intrigues with Jaffier. It was never surmised that he did not second with all his efforts, the projects of the English; it was never denied that his services were of the utmost importance. Mr. Orme says expressly (p. 182) that “his tales and artifices prevented Suraja Dowla from believing the representations of his most trusty servants, who early suspected, and at length were convinced, that the English were confederated with Jaffier.” When the terms of compensation for the losses sustained by the capture of Calcutta were negotiated between Mr. Watts and Meer Jaffier, 3,000,000 of rupees were set down for Omichund, which, considering the extent of his property, and that “most of the best houses in Calcutta were his,” (Orme, ii. 128,) was probably not more than his loss. Looking forward to the rewards which he doubted not that Jaffier, if successful, would bestow upon those of the English who were the chief instruments of his exaltation; estimating also the importance of his own services, and the risk, both of life and of fortune, which, in rendering those services, he had incurred, Omichund conceived that he too might put in his claim for reward; and, according to the example of his countrymen, resolved not to injure himself by the modesty of his demand. He asked a commission of five per cent., on the money which should be received from the Nabob’s treasury, and a fourth part of the jewels; but agreed upon hearing the objections of Mr. Watts, to refer his claims to the committee. When the accounts were sent to Calcutta, the sum to be given to Omichund, even as compensation for his losses, seemed a very heavy grievance to men who panted for more to themselves. To men whose minds were in such a state, the great demands of Omichund appeared (the reader will laugh—but they did literally appear) a crime. They were voted a crime; and so great a crime, as to deserve to be punished—to be punished, not only by depriving him of all reward, but depriving him of his compensation, that compensation which was stipulated for to every body: It was voted that Omichund should have nothing. They were in his power, however, therefore he was not to be irritated. It was necessary he should be deceived. Clive, whom deception, when it suited his purpose, never cost a pang, proposed, that two treaties with Meer Jaffier should be drawn up, and signed: One, in which satisfaction to Omichund should be provided for, which Omichund should see; another, that which should really be executed, in which he should not be named. To his honour be it spoken, Admiral Watson refused to be a party in this treachery. He would not sign the false treaty; and the committee forged his name. When Omichund, upon the final adjustment, was told that he was cheated, and found that he was a ruined man, he fainted away, and lost his reason. He was from that moment insane. Not an Englishman, not even Mr. Orme, has yet expressed a word of sympathy or regret.
The chief authorities which have been followed for this series of transactions in Bengal, have been the Seer Mutakhareen, i. 298—772; the First Report from the Committee on the Nature, State, and Condition of the East India Company, in 1772, which is full of curious information; Orme’s War in India, ii. 28—196; and the tracts published by the various actors in the scene, Scrafton, Watts, &c.