Page images
PDF
EPUB

FOX A CABINET MINISTER.

591

a

.

The Newcastle ministry, formed out of very fragile materials, had some months of respite from parliamentary opposition. The septennial term of Parliament was nearly out when Mr. Pelham died. it was disgolved within a month of his decease. The new Parliament met on the 14th of November. Pitt and Fox continued in their subordinate offices-Pitt as Paymaster, Fox as secretary of War. But they each writhed under the arrangements by which Robinson had taken the management of the House of Commons. • The duke might as well send his jack-boot to lead us,” said Pitt to Fox. They could not decently obstruct public business, but they might attack persons. The feeble leader of the Commons had an uneasy time between these two malcontents. They have already mumbled poor sir Thomas Robinson cruelly;" writes Walpole on the first of December. But about this time a scene was acted, which startled the House of Commons out of its habitual slumber. An election petition is presented, which the younger. Mr. Delaval ridicules; and the House is in fits of laughter about a complaint of bribery and corruption. Pitt is sitting in the gallery. He rushes down and instantly rises to speak. “Do members laugh on such a subject as bribery? Do we try within the House to diminish our own dignity, when such attacks are made upon it from without?” “At his first two periods he brought the House to a silence and attention that you might have heard a pin drop.” * He called upon the Speaker to extend a saving hand to raise the character of the House. “ He called on all to assist, or else we should only sit to register the arbitrary edicts of one too powerful a subject.” | Newcastle was as much terrified by “this thunder. : bolt thrown in a sky so long serene,” as the audience of Pitt were confounded. The minister contrived, by giving Fox a seat in the Cabinet, to detach him from his concert with Pitt. Pitt felt the desertion; and told Fox that “they were upon different lines." It appears that the devotion of Fox to the will of the duke of Cumberland, “ whose soldier Mr. Pitt was not," was an additional cause for this separation of their political action. Newcastle had silenced one of his formidable opponents. The other gave him no trouble for the rest of the session.

Events were maturing at this period which rendered it essentially important that England should have a firm and capable government. On the 25th of March, 1755, the king sent a message to both Houses, to acquaint them that “the present situation of

• Fox to Hartington. Appendix to Waldegrave's “ Memoirs," p. 34.
* Fox and Walpole agree in their account of this outburst,
"Grenville Papers," vol. i. p. 144.

affairs makes it necessary to augment his forces by sea and land; and to take such other measures as may best tend to preserve the general peace of Europe, and to secure the just rights and possessions of his crown in America.” The danger to America was from France, with whose colonists there had been perpetual disputes as to boundaries and alleged rights, from the period of the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. In another part of the world there had been similar disputes, amounting to actual warfare. But the affairs of the East Indies were held to belong rather to a trading Company than to the government; and were therefore allowed to follow their own course, without being regarded as a matter of national policy. It may be useful if, in this place, we take a review of the affairs of India and of those of America, as they affected British interests. We begin with India.

We have incidentally traced, at various periods, the progress of the East India Company, from the first establishment of a factory in Surat, in 1612,* through the various contests between rival interests which ended in the union of two companies in 1702. The Company gradually acquired great wcalth and influence; lent large sums of money to the government; and received corresponding charters and privileges. The Mogul power was bastening to decay, whilst its viceroys or subahdars had become independent, or yielded only a very limited submission to a phantom of sovereignty at the court of Delhi. A Settlement had been made at Madras, in 1640. Bombay had been ceded to Charles 11. by the Portuguese, as a part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, and had been assigned by the king to the East India Company. Dutch, Portuguese, and English had settled on the river Hooghly. a branch of the Ganges; and after some imprudent contests in the time of Aurungzehe, the English finally obtained a grant of land in 1698, where they built Fort William, and laid the foundation of Calcutta. These were the three Presidencies, each having à President and Council, appointed by the Court of Directors. A formidable n. valry arose, in the time of Louis XIV., in a French East India Company. This Company had a station at Chandernagore on the Hooghly; and another station on the coast of the Carnatic, where their fort was called Pondicherry: 'The French possessed also the Isle de France (Mauritius), and the Isle de Bourbon.

From the period of the breaking out of the war between England and France, in 1744, to the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748, the English and French settlers had been in active hostility. The advantages in this warfare were decidedly on the side of the

A nte, vol. iii. p. 346.

RETROSPECT OF INDIAN AFFAIRS.

593

French. La Bourdonnais, the governor of the Presidency of the Isle de France, carried a force of three or four thousand Frenchmen, sepoys, and negro-slaves, in French vessels across the Indian Ocean, and suddenly attacked Madras, in September, 1746. He bombarded Fort St. George for five days, which then capitulated. La Bourdonnais stipulated to restore the settlement to the English Company upon the payment of a ransom. Dupleix, the Governor of the Presidency of Pondicherry, expressed great wrath at the terms of the capitulation. Madras was within his jurisdiction, and he would not ratify the treaty. He looked forward to the expulsion of the English from India ; and desired to see their thriving settlement of Madras razed to the ground. Dupleix annulled the capitulation, and insolently carried the Governor of Fort St. George, and other officers, in triumph to Pondicherry. In the counting-house of a merchant at Madras was a young Englishman, Robert Clive, who at the time of the capitulation was in his twenty-first year. He fled to the settlement of Fort St. David, a dependency of Madras, and there obtained an ensign's commission in the Company's service. The war of the two Companies was becoming serious; and a considerable force was sent from England in 1748. With a larger European army than had appeared in India in modern times, the siege of Pondicherry was undertaken. After a great loss, the English raised the siege. The peace came, and under its conditions Madras was restored. But the English and French, although no longer able to fight as principals, could carry on their hostilities as supporters of rival native princes. Dupleix had more ambitious views than the heads of the English Presidencies, or than the Court of Directors in Leadenhall Street. They looked to the extension and security of trade. The bold Frenchman aimed at empire. The Nizam of the Deccan died in 1748. The succession of his son, Nazir Jung, was disputed by a claimant to the throne. In the Carnatic, a province dependent upon the Deccan, the reigning prince was also assailed by a rival. Dupleix gave his well-timed assistance to the two pretenders. In a battle in August, 1749, the Nabob of the Carnatic was slain. His son, Mahomed Ali, fled to Trichinopoly; and Arcot fell into the hands of the Nabob set up by Dupleix. The same success attended the pretender to the throne of the Deccan. Nazir Jung was slain by treachery, as he sat upon his elephant at the head of his army, looking with contempt upon the few French who were drawn up in battle to oppose him. Dupleix received the new Nizam at Pondicherry, and was declared Governor, under the Mogul, of the country upon the eastern coast, from the river Kistna

Vol. V.-38

a

to Cape Comorin. There never was a period in the previous history of our commercial relations with India when it was more probable that the power of the English Company, like that of the Dutch, was hastening to an end. And yet, within a third of a century, a great orator in the House of Commons took the English dominion over the vast peninsula as a theme for reflection on the inconstancy of human greatness, and the stupendous revolutions that had happened in an age of wonders. “ Could it be believed, when I entered into existence, or when you, Mr. Speaker, a younger man, were born, that on this day, in this house, we should be employed in discussing the conduct of those British subjects who had disposed of the power and person of the Great Mogul? **

The boy who fled from Madras, when Dupleix violated the capitulation of Fort St. George, was destined to lay the foundation of the British Empire in India. In Trichinopoly Mahomed Ali prolonged a feeble resistance to Chunda Sahib and his French allies, in their rapid steps towards the complete dominion of the Carnatic. The last stronghold was invested. There was no force to attempt raising the siege. There was no officer at Madras to head the handful of English and native troops to any such daring enterprise. Ensign Clive had now become Captain Clive, and his abilities had procured him the employment of commissary to the troops in the Presidency of Madras. The inspirations of military genius in cases of great emergency are bold even to rashness. The young captain of twenty-five, who had never seen a field of battle, but who rightly estimated what daring might effect, in the first place, and who knew the possibility of combinations with native powers to secure what daring might win, conceived the plan of attacking Arcot, the capital of the Carnatic. A circumstance almost as extraordinary as Clive's bold project is, that the heads of the Presidency listened favourably to his plans, and gave him the command of an expedition consisting of three hundred Sepoys, and two hundred Europeans. He had eight officers under him, four of whom were factors of the Company. Clive and his little band marched up to the gates of Arcot, whilst a violent storm terrified the superstitious natives who composed the garrison. He entered the city of a hundred thousand people without striking a blow. His success induced the besiegers of Trichinopoly to detach a large force, which finally amounted to ten thousand men, to attack the ruinous fort at Arcot in which Clive had established his small garrison. The siege went on, week after week, with little hope of succour from the Company's settlements of Madras and St

* Burke's Speech on Fox's India Bill, December 1, 1783.

a

RETROSPECT OF INDIAN AFFAIRS : CLIVE.

595

a

David's, where scarcely troops cnough were left for their own defence. But Clive thought of i wavering Mahratta chief, who might become his ally. He put himself in communication with Morari Rɔw, who was encamped on the hills of Mysore. Their captain's courage and sagacity inspired ll around him with confidence. The garrison began to feel the assults of hunger. His sepoys begged, not for more food, but that they, who could subsist on scantier fare than the Europeans, might have the liquid in which the rice was boiled, whilst their fellow-sufferers ate the grain which they more needed. The Mahratta chief, the head of a tribe ever conspicuous for bravery, was touched with the resolution by which Arcot was defended. He never thought before, he said, that the English could fight, but now he would help them. Rajah Sahib, who commanded the besiegers, offered Clive a large bribe if he would surrender; but threatened inevitable death to the commander and his garrison, if they should compel him to take the fort by storm. Clive sent him a message of defiance. The 14th of November, the fifteenth day of the siege, was the great festival of Hossein, when all true believers are assured that they who died on this day, battling against the infidels, would be forgiven all the sins of their lives, and enter upon every joy of the Mohammedan paradise. Fired with superstition, and not less with stimulating drinks, crowds rushed to the assault of Arcot. Elephants with plates of iron on their foreheads were driven against the gates. Terrified by the musketry from the walls, they turned upon the multitudes that followed them, and trampled them down. Clive was the soul of the defence. He even took the management himself of a piece of artillery, and destroyed the assailants who were crossing the ditch on a raft. In an hour the attack was at an end. At two o'clock the next morning the besiegers were no more seen.

The wonderful success of the inexperienced captain inspired a confidence in Madras that was justified by the result. Large reinforcements were sent to him ; and he went forth to attack Rajah Sahib in the open field. The victory of Arnee opened the way to more successes. The contest was prolonged by Rajah Sahib, who marched upon Madras in January, 1752, and committed some ravages.

But Clive was at hand; and again he won a great victory. Trichinopoly was feebly defended, although the siege had now become a mere blockade. Clive was appointed to head a new expedition to raise the siege ; but his senior officer, major Lawrence, having arrived from England, took the command. The two acted together without jealousy. The besiegers of Trichinopoly

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »