| Our Empire Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Vivid and picturesque account of the principal events in the building of the British Empire. Traces the development of the British colonies from days of discovery and exploration through settlement and establishment of government. Includes stories of the five chief portions of the Empire: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Ages 10-16 |
THE FRENCH IN INDIA
 WHILE year by year British trade in India had been
growing greater, another European country had begun to
try and gain a footing there too. This country was
France. And in India, as in Canada, the French and
British were to struggle for power.
Almost at the same time as the British founded their
East India Company, the French founded one too. But
for one reason or another they were not fortunate, and
it was not until many years later, in 1688, that the
first French factory was set up in India. This, like
the first of the British, was at Surat.
But besides having all the usual difficulties with
native princes to get over, the French had to fight the
British and also the Dutch. Both by land and sea the
Dutch beat the French, and drove them again and again
out of the factories which they tried to found.
At length the French bought a piece of ground from a
native prince about a hundred miles south of Madras.
Here they built a fort and town, which they called
Pondicherry, and at last began to prosper.
The French settlement was very small, and they were
everywhere surrounded by enemies. So the leader, whose
name was Martin, asked the native prince to allow him
to have some native soldiers. The native prince was
very friendly, so he gladly agreed to give him
 three hundred men. Martin was the first white man who
had thought of making use of the Indians as soldiers,
and it was found that when they were properly drilled
and had European officers they made splendid soldiers.
Besides drilling these men and teaching them order and
obedience, Martin made use of them as colonists. He
gave each man a piece of land and encouraged him to
till it, and to set up looms and weave muslins and
other stuffs which he wanted for his trade.
For nineteen years the French colony prospered. But
the Dutch were determined to hunt them out. At home
they were fighting with the French, and one day they
appeared before Pondicherry with a fleet and an army
large enough to conquer a whole state.
The French were helpless. Against this great army
there were thirty-four Frenchmen, three hundred native
soldiers and only six guns. Yet, few though they were,
Martin and his brave men held out for twelve days. But
the Dutch surrounded them both by land and sea. They
were starving, and gave in.
The French, having promised that they would all go back
to France, were allowed to march out of their
well-defended little fort with all the honours of war,
The native soldiers were allowed to go where they
This seemed to be the end of French power in India.
But four years later peace was signed between the Dutch
and the French, and one of the conditions of the treaty
was that Pondicherry should be given back to the
French. This was done, and once more the French
For some years after this the British, Dutch and French
traders lived almost in peace. But all around them,
among the native princes, there was constant war.
 Kingdoms rose and fell, rulers mounted thrones and were
hurled again from them, "The country being all in warrs
Then in 1744 the French and British went to war at
home. This was the war of the Austrian succession.
And not content with fighting at home, they carried the
war into their colonies.
At this time a very clever Frenchman named Dupleix was
governor of Pondicherry. He did not want to fight, and
he tried to make the British president at Madras agree
to keep peace, even though their kings at home were
But the British president knew that ships and men were
being sent from home to help him to fight the French,
and he would not agree to be at peace. Dupleix was in
despair. He had begun to fortify Pondicherry, but the
walls were not even finished. He had only a garrison
of about four hundred men and one little warship. He
knew that when the British ships with their heavy guns
arrived, his town would be pounded to bits in a very
The French had always kept on very good terms with the
native rulers. So now in his need Dupleix asked the
Nawab Anwaru-Din to help him. Dupleix had more than
once helped the Nawab when he had been in trouble, and
now he sent him handsome presents. Anwaru-Din was so
pleased that he at once sent a message to the governor
of Madras saying that he would not allow the French to
be hurt, and that he would allow no fighting within his
The British thought they were not strong enough to
fight the French and the Nawab too, so they left
Pondicherry alone. The British fleet, when it arrived,
sailed away again, and, instead of taking the town, the
 Admiral contented himself with attacking French trading
ships on the sea, in that way doing a great deal of
damage to the French trade.
Meanwhile another Frenchman named La Bourdonnais had,
with great difficulty, got together a little fleet of
ships, and he came sailing to help Dupleix.
One July day the French and the British fleets met.
From four o'clock until the sun went down, they fought.
But although the French lost most men, it was neither a
defeat nor a victory for either side. Yet next day, in
spite of the fact that they had the best of the
position, the British sailed away and left Madras to
its fate, Had they but known it, La Bourdonnais,
although he was making such a brave show, had food left
for only one day, and nearly all his powder and shot
The news of the battle reached Madras together with the
news that the British fleet had sailed away, and that
soon the French might be expected to appear before the
Madras was almost as unprotected as Pondicherry. The
walls were weak and there were scarcely three hundred
men to protect them. So the British president, in his
turn, sent to the Nawab for help. But, forgetting that
it was useless to ask anything of a native without
giving him something, the president sent him no
present. This the Nawab looked upon as almost an
insult, and he did nothing.
It was not long before the French ships appeared before
Madras, and after three days' fighting the president
gave in. Everything became the property of the French,
the town, the fort, and all that they contained, gold,
silver and merchandise. But La Bourdonnais agreed that
the British should be allowed to buy back their town
for a large sum of money. Meanwhile they became
 prisoners of war. The Union Jack was hauled down and
the French lilies floated in its place.
But now, as soon as he heard of what had happened,
Anwaru-Din was angry. Although he had done nothing to
help the British, he had not meant that they should be
driven away altogether. So the very day that Madras
surrendered he sent an angry message to Dupleix saying
that if he did not stop fighting at once he would send
an army against Pondicherry.
Dupleix knew very well how to manage the Indians. So
he told Anwaru-Din that if the town were taken it
should be given to him. With this the Nawab was quite
Thus Madras was promised to two people. La Bourdonnais
had promised to sell it back to the British, and
Dupleix had promised it to the Nawab.
Neither Dupleix nor La Bourdonnais would give way, and
these two men who had worked so well for their country,
And while they quarrelled a great storm shattered the
French fleet, and much of the spoil taken from Madras
was lost. At last, with such of his ships as remained
to him, La Bourdonnais sailed home. "My part is taken
regarding Madras," he wrote. "I give it up to you. I
have signed the treaty. It is for you to keep my word.
I am so disgusted with this wretched Madras, that I
would give an arm never to have set foot in it."
Meanwhile the Nawab had been growing more and more
angry as week after week went past, and he saw no sign
of Dupleix keeping his promise and handing Madras over
to him. Dupleix did really mean to keep his promise,
but he wanted to destroy the walls first. He wanted to
drive the British out of India altogether,
 and he saw that unless the fortifications were
destroyed, it would be easy for the Nawab to give the
town back to the British, if he liked, and the French
would be no better off than before.
While the quarrel with La Bourdonnais went on, Dupleix
could do nothing. Now it was too late, for the angry
Nawab had gathered his troops and was marching against
Madras, which was by this time garrisoned with French
Anwaru-Din made no doubt of crushing these impudent,
faithless Europeans, as with ten thousand soldiers,
with horses and elephants, and all the glitter and
splendour of an eastern army, he closed round Madras.
To meet this host, four hundred men, bringing with them
two cannon, marched out of the town.
The white turbaned, brilliant, Indian horsemen dashed
upon this handful of men. But suddenly the French
ranks divided. There was a roar of cannon and the
foremost Indian horsemen lay dead.
The Indians were startled and confused, and before they
could recover, the Frenchmen had fired again and yet
Such warfare as this was new to the Indian warriors.
They indeed had cannon, but they were so old and clumsy
that they were more dangerous to those who fired them
than to anyone else. And if they were fired once in a
quarter of an hour, that seemed to them very quick
work. They had never dreamed that it was possible to
fire a cannon four or five times in a minute.
Panic seized upon the Indian horsemen. They turned and
fled. Soon the whole army was fleeing in utter rout,
leaving their tents and baggage in the hands of the
 For the first time the Indians had found out how
powerful the white-faced traders were, and as they fled
they told their tale of wonder, and spread their terror
Dupleix now took complete
possession of Madras. It was neither given to the
Nawab nor sold back to the British. Many of the
British were taken prisoner to Pondicherry. Others
fled in the night and took refuge at Fort St. David,
another British station about twelve miles south of
Pondicherry. Among these was a young man named Robert
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