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The Story of Lord Clive by  John Lang


 

 

DEATH OF SURAJAH DOWLAH—DEFEAT OF THE DUTCH—CLIVE'S END

[103] SURAJAH DOWLAH, fleeing to Moorshedabad, there learned, ere morning that his great army was totally defeated. On again in terror he fled. With his favourite wife he hurriedly embarked in a small boat on the river, in a vain attempt to find safety with the French at Bhagalpore.

That night some buildings in a deserted garden served the terror-stricken prince for a hiding-place. But he found no safety; a traitor betrayed him into the hands of Meer Jaffier, who straightway shut up in a prison the man who, till yesterday, had been his master and his friend. In the dark, soft footsteps crept stealthily to the Nawab's [104] cell; through the thick walls came no tell-tale sound, but the pale light of dawn showed the dead face of Surajah Dowlah.

And little did Meer Jaffier (the man, you will remember, who was in command of the Nawab's army when the horrors of the Black Hole of Calcutta took place), little did he gain by his treachery to his master. He was proclaimed Subahdar, or Nawab, of Bengal, and, so far, he got his wish. But he had for ever placed himself under the thumb of Clive. Nor was his conduct during and after the battle of Plassey of a kind to cause Clive ever to put any trust in him.

Meer Jaffier, besides having to confirm to the English all that Surajah Dowlah had promised them, had to grant to the East India Company all the lands lying to the south of Calcutta, together with a wider strip of ground round and outside the ditch called the Mahratta Ditch, which was then one of the defences of Calcutta. He had to give to the English all the French factories [105] in Bengal; he had to pay enormous sums to the East India Company, and to many others. The fleet received 250,000; Mr. Drake, the Governor of Calcutta (who forsook his men, and fled to the ships when Surajah Dowlah attacked the place), received 28,000; Clive, 28,000; Major Kilpatrick and two others 24,000 each. In addition, Clive received later a further sum of 160,000, and 175,000 was divided amongst eleven others—all this, over and above the sum of 1,000,000 paid to the East India Company. It must have cost the new Nawab something like 2,000,000, which vast sum was paid either in hard cash or in jewels.

In Clive's day in India, it was customary for both officers and men of the army and navy to receive what was called "Prize Money"—that is to say, when a town or fortress had been captured, all, the money and things of value in it were divided in certain proportions amongst the victors. It was customary also for native princes on ascending the throne to give to their supporters [106] and friends great sums of money and rich jewels. Such practices have long been done away with, but they were the usual custom in those days.

And so Meer Jaffier's wish was gratified. But at what a cost! Nor was it only the first cost that hampered him. In order to pay the huge sums which he had promised to the English, he was obliged to tax his own people so heavily that some of the more wealthy and powerful among them rebelled. Meer Jaffier by himself was, powerless to put the rebels down; thus he was forced to come humbly to Clive, begging for help.

In this way Clive, and, through him, England, became the real master of Bengal. As the price of this help it was arranged that the East India Company should receive still further advantages.

Clive had now returned to Calcutta, where he learned that the French were making a bold attempt to overrun another part of India. Though very short of troops, without hesitation he sent Colonel Forde with [107] 500 Englishmen, 2000 sepoys, and some guns, to oppose them. This force defeated the French time after time, and in effect secured for England the chief influence in yet another large portion of India.

Meantime Meer Jaffier was being sore pressed by a rebel prince. It became necessary for Clive himself to go to his help. But no fighting was necessary: when the English troops arrived at Patna, such was the effect of Clive's name that the rebels fled. For this help, before he again quitted Patna, Meer Jaffier gave to Clive a grant of land as a reward for his great services, or rather, he arranged that Clive, instead of himself, should henceforth receive the rent paid by the East India Company for certain lands leased to them by Meer Jaffier. These rents amounted to almost 30,000 per annum. Over this transaction there was, later, much ill-feeling, and Clive some time afterwards gave up to the Company his rights.

About this time trouble with the Dutch East India Company arose. The Dutch [108] were then possessed of the rich and beautiful island of Ceylon, and, as you may remember, they also held other places in India, one of their settlements being at Chinsurah, on the Hoogly, twenty miles above Calcutta.

The Dutch were not unnaturally jealous of the position which England had made for herself in India, and especially they were angry that the English should have a monopoly of the saltpetre trade, that they should claim the right to search all ships coining up the river Hoogly, and that English pilots only should be employed on the river. They had made up their minds that an end should be put to all this, and they secretly agreed with Meer Jaffier, that if he would make ready an army to help them, they on their part would send a fleet, with large bodies of troops, to turn England out of Bengal. Of this plot Clive knew nothing.

In June 1759 the Dutch sent word to Meer Jaffier that all was ready, and in [109] October of that year their fleet actually did arrive in the Hoogly. There were four ships, each of thirty-six guns, tow of twenty-six, and one of sixteen guns. On board, they had 700 European soldiers and 800 Malays. At Chinsurah they had 158 Europeans, besides native troops.

Against this large force Clive had but three ships of thirty guns each (none of them regular men-of-war), and one small despatch boat. His troops in Calcutta consisted only of 330 Englishmen and 1200 sepoys, and there was no chance of getting more from any other place. The position was very serious.

But it was just when things were most serious that Clive was at his best. He at once went to see Meer Jaffier, who happened then to be in Calcutta. From the Nawab's manner, it was plain to Clive that he was in the plot with the Dutch. But Clive said nothing that might cause Meer Jaffier to see that he suspected the truth; he even allowed the Nawab to leave [110] Calcutta. Of him Clive had no great fear.


[Illustration]

THE DUKE OF DORSET FIGHTING THE DUTCH FLEET IN THE HOOGLY.

Every man in Calcutta who was fit to bear arms was now called out; the three thirty-gun ships were ordered to lie just below the fort, whilst the small despatch-boat was sent off under a press of sail to look for the English fleet, and guns were mounted in batteries which commanded the channels in the river through which ships could sail. Just when all this preparations were made, in a lucky moment, Colonel Forde arrived with his troops, fresh from their victories over the French.

Now came a message from the Dutch, demanding that the English should give up the rights of which the Dutch complained. Clive's answer not being satisfactory to them, they at once attacked and took seven small English ships which were lying off Falta (one of them the despatch-boat which had been sent in search of the fleet); they tore down the English flag, and plundered and burnt the houses on the river-bank. The [111] Dutch fleet then sailed up the river, and just out of reach of the English batteries, landed their troops, who were ordered to march thence to Chinsurah.

By quitting their ships the Dutch were making serious mistake, of which Clive took instant advantage. Colonel Forde was sent with his men towards Chinsurah, whilst Clive ordered Commodore Wilson, with his three ships, to attack the Dutch squadron.

Never did English sailors fight a more gallant action. Three ships, the Duke of Dorset, the Calcutta, and the Hardwicke, carrying in all ninety guns, attacked and defeated seven, armed with 212 guns. As soon as Wilson received his orders, he made sail.

The Duke of Dorset, commanded by Captain Forrester, the smallest of the three English ships, was the fastest sailer, and getting a long lead of the others, she was gallantly laid alongside the largest Dutch man-of-war. Scarcely had she got into [112] the position when the wind changed, and the other English ships were unable to come to her help. For over half-an-hour did the little ship bravely fight the whole Dutch fleet, and when at last the wind brought up the other Englishmen, she stuck to her big enemy, and after a fight lasting two hours, took her.

Meantime the Hardwicke  and the Calcutta  were hammering away at the other Dutchmen, and so hot was their fire, that soon the whole Dutch fleet struck their flags, with the exception of the Bleiswyk, which escaped down the river, and was immediately snapped up by two other English which luckily had then just arrived. In the ship that was taken by the Duke of Dorset, thirty men were killed and over sixty wounded. The Duke of Dorset  had not one man killed, though many were wounded; but she had over ninety round shot in her hull, and her rigging was cut to pieces.

Their fleet being now destroyed, the Dutch soldiers were in a most dangerous [113] Position. They must reach Chinsurah, and to reach Chinsurah they must  defeat Colonel Forde; if they could not do so they were lost.

Meantime the commandant of the Dutch troops in Chinsurah, thinking to hamper Forde, had marched out with all his men, and had taken up a strong position at Chandranagore. But Forde with his veterans soon drove them out of their position, and took all their guns. That night he was joined by another small force of English soldiers under Captain Knox, and having got information of the whereabouts of the Dutch force which had landed from the ships, he sent a message to Clive asking for instructions, but saying that he thought he had a good chance of defeating the enemy.

Clive was playing whist when the message arrived. He did not even rise from the table when Forde's message was handed to him. After reading it, he merely penciled on the back, "Dear Forde,—Fight them [114] immediately," sent it off, and went on with his game.

Forde did "fight them immediately," at a place called Biderra. His victory was complete. Of 700 Dutch and 800 Malays is that little army only sixty Dutch and 250 Malays escaped, and but fourteen of the former ever reached Chinsurah.

This put an end for ever to all trouble with the Dutch in India, and, moreover, the repeated victories of the English left Meer Jaffier in such a state of terror that Clive now saw that it would be safe for him to quit Bengal.

Clive was no more than thirty-five years old when he returned for the second time to England, bringing with him this time an enormous fortune. His income is said to have been as much as 40,000 a year. He was made an Irish Peer, which was less than he had desired, or expected. It did not place him in the House of Lords, but he soon obtained a seat in the House of Commons.


[Illustration]

ONE OF THE WORST THINGS CLIVE HAD TO HANDLE WAS A MUTINY AMONGST THE OFFICERS.

[115] Like most very successful men, Clive had made during his great career in India many bitter enemies, who now set about trying to injure him. They succeeded, to a certain extent, but in the few years following Clive's departure from Bengal the state of affairs there became so threatening and so full of danger, that even his enemies had to entreat him to go out again in order to set affairs in order. He was appointed Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of Bengal.

To understand all that Lord Clive now did, you will have to read for yourselves, when you are older, the History of India at that time.

He found Bengal a hot-bed of corruption and dishonesty; by his firm handling he purified it, and he then laid the foundations of that most splendid service, the Civil Service of India.

One of the worst and most dangerous things which Clive had at this time to handle was a mutiny in the army, a mutiny [116] not amongst the men, but amongst the officers, who were dissatisfied over the question of pay and allowances. It was a very serious matter, but how promptly and how thoroughly Clive settled it, you must later read for yourselves; there is not room to tell of it in this little book.

One other thing which Clive did at this time may interest you. Meer Jaffier had in his will left to him a sum of 50,000. Clive did not think it right to take the money, so, instead of using it for himself, he made of it a fund for the relief of officers and men of the East India Company's Service who might be disabled by wounds or by the effects of the climate. This was called "The Lord Clive Fund," and it was in use up to the year 1858, when, on the East India Company ceasing to exist, the money came back to Clive's descendents.

Nor is there room here to tell you of the persecution of Clive by his bitter enemies in England, when, ill and sorely needing reset, he returned for the last time in [117] 1767. His health continued to get worse; he suffered intense pain, and the incessant attacks of his enemies gave him no peace.

But he overcame all his enemies, all, save one—disease. Sleeplessness and pain were ever with him, and 1774 he ended his life.


THE END.

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