| 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 BATTLE OF PLASSEY
 CLIVE did not stay long in England. He soon returned
to India with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and upon
the terrible day of the Black Hole he landed again at
Fort St. David. But in those days news travelled
slowly, and it was not until August that the people of
Madras heard of the cruel deed. Then, gathering an
army of fifteen thousand sepoys and nine hundred
British soldiers, Clive set out to avenge the death of
his fellow-countrymen. The little army went by sea,
with Admiral Watson in command of the ships. Madras is
a long way from Calcutta, and sailing in those days was
a slow business, for the ships were often at the mercy
of the winds. And although Clive set out in October,
it was December before he reached Bengal.
Clive lost no time in attacking the Nawab, and very
soon Calcutta was in his hands. The Nawab marched to
meet Clive with thousands of soldiers, with elephants,
and horses, and cannon, which were both great and many.
But Clive, with his little army, beat the Nawab so
thoroughly that he was soon suing for peace.
This Clive granted, the Nawab promising to restore all
that he had stolen from Calcutta and to give more
privileges to the British than they had had before.
This was not a great triumph, and it hardly seemed as
if Suraj-ud-Daula was punished enough for his cruel
treat-  ment of the British. But perhaps Clive thought that it
would be difficult to force him to do more as he was so
But Suraj-ud-Daula was treacherous as well as cruel.
He had made promises, which he never meant to keep,
merely in order to gain peace. Now he tried in every
way that he could to wriggle out of these promises. He
secretly wrote to the French and asked them to help him
against the British. He did all manner of things,
changing his mind again and again.
Clive at last grew tired of the Nawab's lying and
wriggling, and made up his mind to put an end to it.
Britain and France were again at war, for the Seven
Years' War had begun. So Clive now besieged the French
factory at Chandranagor. The French fought bravely,
but Clive was more than a match for them, and after ten
days they gave in.
With the loss of Chandranagor French power in the north
of India was at an end. For more than eighty years
they had struggled with their rivals, the British, in
trade. Now that struggle was over. Clive, having thus
put an end to Suraj-ud-Daula's hope of help from the
French, next turned to crush him.
Suraj-ud-Daula, who was wicked and treacherous, was
hated by all, and many even of his own followers were
ready to betray him. Now, although it does not seem a
very fine thing to do, Clive joined with these traitors
in order to bring about the downfall of the Nawab.
Mir Jafar, the commander-in-chief of Suraj-ud-Daula's
army, was one of the discontented. Now Clive promised
to make him Nawab if he would betray his master.
Another of the traitors was Omi Chand, a very wealthy
and very greedy Indian banker.
 Clive plotted with these men, and all was nearly
arranged when Omi Chand threatened to tell the Nawab
all about it, unless the British promised him an
immense sum of money for himself.
Omi Chand was as wicked and as treacherous as
Suraj-ud-Daula, "The greatest villain upon earth,"
Clive calls him, and he thought that the best way to
meet his lying was by lying. Clive had two treaties
drawn up. One was written upon red paper and one on
white. The one on red paper was only a sham treaty and
in it Omi Chand was promised all that he wanted. In
the other, which was the real treaty, his name was not
mentioned. All the council signed both treaties except
Admiral Watson. He would have nothing to do with the
deceit. But Clive was not to be stopped, and some one
else signed Admiral Watson's name for him.
Of course this was wrong, and this deed shows like a
black blot among all the splendid and brave acts of
Clive's life. But the position of the British in India
was full of danger. They were but a handful of white
men in the midst of millions of dark foes, and Clive
thought that it was only by meeting treachery with
treachery that he could save them all from death. And
he was never ashamed of it.
Long afterward, when his enemies accused him of this
deed, he said that he would do it again if the need
came, "Yes, a hundred times!"
When Clive was ready to fight he sent a letter to
Suraj-ud-Daula which made him see that he could no
longer trifle. Then he gathered his army and marched
to Plassey to meet the foe.
But now Mir Jafar, who had quarrelled with the Nawab,
made friends or seemed to make friends with
 him again. Clive knew not what to do. Was Mir Jafar
going to keep his word and help him, or was he not?
Without his help the risk of a battle was almost too
great. If the British lost, it would mean an end to
their power in Bengal. In this difficulty Clive called
a council of war, and asked his officers what they
would advise. "Shall we attack or shall we wait for
more help?" he asked. Seven officers voted to attack,
thirteen, Clive himself among them, voted to wait.
So it was settled. There was to be no battle.
After the council was over, Clive went away by himself
and walked about for an hour thinking it all out again.
As he was sitting under some trees still in doubt, a
letter from Mir Jafar was brought to him. In this
letter Mir Jafar swore that he was still faithful to
Clive. This might be true or it might be false, but
Clive had made up his mind. He would fight, come what
would. Returning to the camp he gave orders to march.
At six o'clock in the morning of 23rd June 1757, the
battle of Plassey began, and by five in the afternoon
the huge Indian army with elephants and camels, horses
and clumsy ox-drawn cannon, was fleeing from the field.
Mir Jafar had not helped Clive, neither, however, had
he helped the Nawab. He had stood aloof waiting to see
which side would win. And when the Nawab's most trusty
general was killed and the Nawab himself in despair
threw his turban on the ground at Mir Jafar's feet,
begging for help, Mir Jafar soothed him with soft
words. But instead of helping him he sent more
messages to Clive.
Plassey is one of the most important of Indian battles.
It is not important because of the number killed—on
Clive's side there were only twenty-two and on the
Nawab's five or six hundred. It is important
 because at one blow it gave to Britain the whole of
Bengal, for Mir Jafar was merely a tool in the hands of
When the battle was over Mir Jafar was not sure how
Clive would receive him. But Clive had got all that he
wanted, so he greeted him as the new Nawab, and with
the usual great ceremonies he was seated upon the
But when Omi Chand appeared to receive his reward it
was very different. Clive, although he was many years
in India, never learned to speak any of the Indian
tongues. So now he turned to his secretary, "It is
time to undeceive Omi Chand," he said.
"Omi Chand," said the secretary, "the red treaty is a
trick. You are to have nothing."
The greedy banker could hardly believe his ears.
Already he had been gloating over his ill-gotten gains.
The shock of disappointment was too great. He fell
back fainting in the arms of his servants. He never
recovered from the bitter blow. His mind was so
shattered that he became quite foolish and childish and
died some months later.
Suraj-ud-Daula fell into the hands of Mir Jafar who put
his late master cruelly to death. In this the British
had no hand.
But Mir Jafar, although he had got what he wanted, and
was Nawab, soon found that it was not all a bed of
roses. He had to pay immense sums of money to the
British as a reward for having made him Nawab. To get
this money he ground his people cruelly. Used as they
were to tyranny, the oppression of Mir Jafar was more
than even they could bear, and they rebelled. Outside
enemies threatened him too, and to put the rebellion
down and drive out these enemies, Mir Jafar was obliged
to ask help from Clive.
 Clive gave the help but demanded still more money. So
the Nawab was little better off than before.
Mir Jafar raged with wrath. He felt that he was a mere
puppet and that the British were the real rulers and he
longed to be rid of them. So now he began to plot with
the Dutch, who still had a factory in Bengal. But in a
fight both by land and sea the British beat the Dutch.
The power of Holland in India was destroyed for ever,
and the British were supreme in Bengal.
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