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1757.)

BATTLE OF PLASSEY.

43

of war.

obeyed by that traitor, who saw thus a speedy prospect of being able to act in concert with Clive. Yet his mind seems at that period to have been under the influence of various and conflicting emotions. Fear, loyalty, and ambition ruled by turns a soul which had never known the sway of firm or sound principles. He distrusted his allies, and trembled at the consequences of discovery; his vacillation alarmed both Clive and the Calcutta Council; the latter grew lukewarm and doubtful, while the former resolved to put an end to the present dubious position of affairs by taking a decisive step.

On the 17th, Major Coote had possessed himself of the fort of Cutwah, by which the English acquired a large stock of rice and other provisions; on the 21st, for the first and last time in his life, Clive held a council

The object of their deliberations was whether the

army should advance to Plassey or maintain their position. The majority, with whom Clive himself voted, determined

upon
the latter course.

But after a period of deep thought, during which, having walked away alone from the camp, he sat plunged in anxious meditation under the shade of a clump of trees, he changed altogether his plan of operations, and returning, gave orders that the army should cross the river the morning of the ensuing day.

On the 23d of June, the British troops bivouacked in a grove near Plassey. The enemy, it was supposed, lay near Cossimbazaar, but Clive soon discovered that they had entrenched themselves in his immediate vicinity. The discordant sounds of their music broke upon the ears of the English as they prepared to snatch a few hours of hasty repose before the expected fight. At daybreak the Bengalese opened a brisk cannonade upon the wood, but their ill-manned and unskilfully directed artillery effected little damage. The English maintained their position, and Clive waited with some impatience for a demonstration on the part of Meer Jaffier

But the same influences which had produced former vacillation, were in active operation now. On the morning of the action the Nabob sent for his general, and in the most moving terms, besought and implored him to be faithful to his trust. The heart of the conspirator was touched, and the appeal to his honour, though it could not shake his purpose, inclined him towards a middle course.

He retarded the manoeuvres of his own side, and by inactivity contributed to their defeat.

The English continued to repel the attacks made upon their position till noon, when a retrograde movement being observed on the part of the enemy, Clive gave the order to advance. He directed his first effort against a small body of French auxiliaries, who being worsted, abandoned the redoubt which they held, leaving their guns in the hands of the victor. A tumultuous rush forward was then made by the Nabob's army; but these undisciplined and half-accoutred troops could not resist the steady fire of the English, who in less than an hour found themselves completely masters of the field. So terminated the battle of Plassey, an engagement which secured the supremacy of the English in India, while it is no less remarkable for the few lives sacrificed both by victors and vanquished. The former numbered 22 killed and 50 wounded, the latter lost only about

500 men.

During the action, Meer Jaffier had made a manouvre for the purpose, as he afterwards declared, of joining Clive; but his troops, exhibiting no signal of amity, were fired upon by the English. At its close, however, the Bengali general moved his tents nearer to the hostile lines, and the next morning he paid a visit to Clive, who welcomed and saluted him as Nabob of Bengal, Orissa and Bahar. His explanations and apologies were readily accepted if not internally believed, and the new potentate departed at once for Moorshedabad. Suraj-oodDowlah had already quitted it, but his flight remained

1757.]

FATE OF OMICHUND.

45

for some days undiscovered, when pursuers having been despatched after him, he was apprehended and dragged into the presence of his rival. Meer Jaffier appeared at first disposed to compassionate his former master, who, prostrate on the earth, pleaded for his life in the most abject terms. But eastern policy is rarely tempered with mercy, and the usurper suffering more selfish considerations to prevail, ordered the late Nabob to be at once executed. Thus fell the brutal tyrant whose apathy or cruelty had sacrificed so many English victims in the Black Hole of Calcutta.

His successor became speedily aware of the difficulties which hedge round a throne acquired by the aid of strangers. Meer Jaffier was no sooner seated on the musnud than the English called upon him to redeem the promises he had made when he first sought their assistance. They prosecuted their demands with the most greedy and disgraceful rapacity; but the funds lodged in the public treasury, which Mr. Watts had represented as inexhaustible, were discovered not to exceed 1,500,0001. The claims amounted to 3,500,0001., besides the sums that would shortly be needed for the payment of the troops. The native bankers, however, proffered their aid, and a meeting being held at which all parties were present, they at once proceeded to the settlement of the Nabob's affairs. The first preliminaries arranged, Clive determined at once to undeceive Omichund, who, led by the expectation of receiving his promised reward, had come with the other capitalists to the assembly. No notice was taken of his

until the interpreter, by the direction of Clive, went up to him and said in a low tone, “Omichund, the bond shown you was a fictitious one, and we cannot, therefore, admit your claim.” The Hindoo glared wildly for a moment at the speaker, and then dropped upon the earth senseless. His servants bore him into the air, which revived after some minutes his paralysed energies; but reason had departed for ever, and he subsided into a state of hopeless idiocy. Pitying his condition, Clive spoke kindly to him, and recommended that he should try the effect of a pilgrimage to some noted shrine, this being a favourite remedy among the Hindoos. But the aged miser was beyond the delusive consolations of his idolatrous creed, and a few months afterwards, forgotten by all his former associates, he breathed his last, having squandered in childish ornaments and vestments nearly the whole of his ill-gotten wealth.

presence

In the meantime the allies of Meer Jaffier were busily occupied in dividing their spoils. Clive's share amounted to 28,0001., besides about 150,0001. which had been given him privately by Meer Jaffier. Each member of the Council obtained 24,0001., and their subordinates were not forgotten. These prizes, however, produced heartburnings and jealousies of the most painful nature. The land officers demanded that their several shares should be paid over at once without the intervention of agents, and when Clive refused their request they appealed against his decision. He acted in this emergency, however, with his usual promptitude: the individuals presenting the appeal were placed at once under arrest, while their protest was answered by a stern letter of rebuke ; and the officers, discovering the unbending nature of the man with whom they had to deal, withdrew their paper, and humbly apologised for the breach of discipline which they had committed.

1757.]

THE FRENCH IN THE DECCAN.

47

CHAPTER IV.

BUSSY-ARRIVAL OF LALLY-SIEGE OF MADRAS-THE CIRCARS

AFFAIRS OF BENGAL.

1757-1759. MEER JAFFIER had granted to the English, in addition to the sums of money already mentioned, the exclusive possession of a large tract of country around Calcutta. They were also permitted to establish a mint, and received liberty to trade in the provinces under the rule of the Nabob. The French adventurer, M. Law, having made an incursion into Bahar, was dislodged by Coote, the terror of whose arms confirmed the wavering allegiance of several native chiefs, and induced them to maintain for the present their fidelity to Meer Jaffier. But the triumphs of Clive and his coadjutors were clouded by the decease of Admiral Watson, as well as by the intrigues and mismanagement of the Calcutta Council. The removal of the Admiral deprived the English of one of their ablest officers at a time when they could ill spare him, while the interference of the committee of Government with Clive's plans impeded materially the efforts of that able statesman and soldier. Meer Jaffier also displayed no great talents for legislation; his troops were mutinous, and his chiefs disaffected. On the other hand, the Madras authorities, alarmed by the progress of the French in the Deccan, grew importunate for the return of Clive, and seem to have transmitted complaints against him to the East India Directors in England. The latter forwarded to Bengal a scheme of government which the local authorities at once pronounced impracticable and injudicious. The working out of this plan was entrusted to ten members of council, presided over

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