HOW WE CLEARED THE ROAD TO EMPIRE
IN the year 1786, when Lord Cornwallis reached India as the second Governor-General, we were faced by the
Mahratta power in the west and north-west, and by Tippoo, Sultan of Mysore, the son of Hyder Ali. These were
our only really dangerous enemies at that time. The British Government, represented by its Governor-General,
had now openly taken its place as one of the first powers in India.
Tippoo, who hated us as much as his father, tried
 hard to stir up both the French and Afghans against us, and at last we were compelled to unite with the
Mahrattas and our untrustworthy ally, the Nizam of Hyderabad, against him. In 1792, therefore, we took his
capital and deprived him of some territory on the Malabar coast to prevent the French landing to help him.
This, however, only filled him with wilder thoughts of revenge, and, although we offered him many advantages
if he would become friendly and cease from plotting with the French against us, we at last had to fight him
once more. He was besieged by Colonel Arthur Wellesley, afterwards the famous Duke of Wellington, in his
capital, Seringapatam, which we took by storm. Tippoo was killed in a hand-to-hand fight at one of the gates,
and his kingdom came to an end. It was then given back to the old Hindu family whom Hyder Ali had driven out,
and who rule it well and quietly at the present day.
This left the Mahrattas the only native power of importance in India who were independent of our protection.
They possessed large and well-trained armies led by considerable numbers of French officers, who, of course,
did their best to increase the influence of France in India, which Bonaparte, our enemy in Europe, had talked
The Marquis of Wellesley, who was now Governor-General, was a determined and far-seeing statesman. He saw
clearly, as no one had done before, that Great Britain would one day have to bring all India under
 its government. It was certain, of course, that we should have to fight the Mahrattas, but our army was now
much stronger than in Clive's days, and besides some fine British battalions we had two splendid generals in
Sir Arthur Wellesley and General Lake.
Soon a couple of the Mahratta leaders, Holkar and Scindia, began to fight furiously against one another, and a
third chief, the Peishwar, fearing he would be attacked next, placed himself under British protection. The
other Mahratta leaders were enraged at this, and determined to fight us. General Wellesley, who led our army
against them, sent a message to Scindia saying ,that if he withdrew his forces from our frontier all would be
well. But Scindia replied, "You go first." Whereupon Sir Arthur Wellesley said, "I have offered you peace; you
have chosen war, and war you shall have."
In four days Wellesley had captured two of Scindia's strong places, and shortly after came up with the enemy
at Assaye. Scindia's army was 50,000 strong, a large number being well trained and led by French officers. He
also had a powerful artillery of 100 guns. Wellesley had only 4200 men, including the 78th Highlanders, the
74th Regiment, and the 19th Light Dragoons, but hearing that the enemy intended to move off, he determined to
attack them at once without waiting for another force under General Stevenson to come up.
SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY.
The battle was a desperate one. Our artillery was
 overpowered by the enemy's numerous and well-served guns. Our advance was stopped and the Mahratta horsemen
charged. But before they could reach our infantry the 19th Dragoons crashed into them. It was the first time
they had met British cavalry, and they broke and fled in wild disorder. Once more our infantry pressed forward
with glittering lines of bayonets, while the cavalry broke the Mahratta infantry at the village of Assaye.
As we swept through their line of guns the Mahratta gunners flung themselves on the ground as though dead, but
as soon as we had passed over them they were up and at their guns again, firing them into our backs. It was a
very critical moment, but nothing could shake the British infantry, and the 78th, turning about, charged back
and saved the day. The battle was won, but we lost more than one-third of our whole force.
General Lake's victories in the north-west were equally important. The Mahrattas, under their French general
Perron, fought well, but the most desperate battle of all was at Laswaree at the end of 1803, which we only
won with great difficulty.
NATIVE OFFICER, CALCUTTA, 1795.
There is one strange scene upon which we cannot help dwelling for a moment. It was just after Lake had
scattered Scindia's forces in a hard set-to outside
 Delhi. At sunset, after the fight, Lake and the officers of his staff rode into the ancient capital of the
Moghuls. It was the first time that an Englishman ever entered the old imperial city as a conqueror.
With eyes wide with eager curiosity, wonder, and perhaps fear, the poor people of Delhi, who had suffered so
much from the horrors of war, gathered in their thousands to watch these strange new warriors. What was going
to happen to them now? Would Delhi be sacked and plundered again? It was natural that they should ask such
questions, for they could not know that these fresh conquerors were bringing a new time—though very
slowly, perhaps—of peace, justice, and fair treatment for all men, as good as and even better than
In the beautiful palace, which Shah Jehan had built in his pride and glory, Lake found an old, old man seated
under a ragged canopy, blind—for the last invaders had struck out his eyes—poverty-stricken, and
miserable. It was the successor of the great Moghuls, still holding the empty title, a poor puppet emperor
without an empire. When Lake and his officers strode away through the great ghostly palace at night and left
the old man to his dreams of the past, he had been told that in future he and his people would be under the
care and protection of Great Britain, and that the Mahrattas would trouble him no more.
THE GATE TOWERS OF THE PALACE, DELHI.
 After the defeat and submission of Scindia, Holkar, the other Mahratta leader, held out in Rajputana, and by
the extreme rapidity of his movements proved, like the Boers in South Africa, a very active and troublesome
enemy. He even inflicted a severe defeat upon a British force. But Lake pursued him with restless
determination, until at last his forces were surprised and broken up. Holkar himself escaped, but was
afterwards glad to return and make peace as Scindia had done before him.
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