| 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 |
 WHEN Seringapatam was taken, letters from the Nawab of
the Carnatic were found in Tippoo's palace. These
letters showed that the Nawab had been plotting with
Tippoo against the British. The Nawab was by this time
very ill, almost dying indeed. So Lord Wellesley let
him die in peace, then he told his family that their
treachery had been found out, and that they could no
longer be allowed to reign. He then took possession of
the Carnatic and added it to the Madras Presidency.
Thus all the coast of India, from Bengal to Cape
Comorin (except Pondicherry), was now under British
rule, and instead of stretching only a mile inland, in
the south of the peninsula, British possessions
stretched from sea to sea.
When Wellesley wrote home to tell of these triumphs, he
said, remembering what had befallen Clive and Hastings,
"I expect either to be hanged or rewarded. In either
case I shall be satisfied, for an English gallows seems
better than an Indian throne."
Wellesley, however, was not hanged. He was thanked and
rewarded as the conqueror of the tyrant Tippoo. He was
given a large sum of money and was made an Irish
marquess. But, far from thinking this honour great, he
called it his "gilt potato." Such was the pride of
"the glorious little man" as his friends loved to call
 The Maráthás were now the only great danger to British
power in India. But they were a great danger. In the
north, indeed, Oudh lay between British India and the
land of the Maráthás. But the rule of the Nawab of
Oudh had grown weak, and his native army became hardly
more than a rabble of wild, mutinous soldiers, which
cost him a great deal, and were of little use.
It was plain to Lord Wellesley, that in case of war,
Oudh would be no defence. Besides the Maráthás, he
feared the Afghans. He knew that often before they had
descended from their mountains in conquering hordes.
Now, he was afraid that once again they might attack
Oudh, and from there sweep over Bengal.
So Lord Wellesley made the Nawab disband his soldiers,
and in return for part of Oudh, he promised the Nawab
to protect and fight for him. This was called the
treaty of Lucknow, and by it, still more of India was
added to the possessions of the Company.
But now the Maráthás began to quarrel among themselves,
and at last their over-lord, who was called the Peshwá,
fled to the British for protection.
Wellesley consented to help and protect him, but he
demanded a great deal in return. The Peshwá was a weak
young man, he was mad with fear, and was ready to
consent to anything. And by the treaty of Bassein,
signed on the 31st of December 1802, he became little
else than the vassal of the Company.
The Peshwá gave up part of his land to the British; he
promised not to go to war without British consent, to
make no treaties whatsoever, and to take no Frenchmen
or any other European into his service.
Lord Wellesley made much the same kind of treaty with
several of the native princes. These treaties were
called Subsidiary Alliances. A Subsidiary Alliance
 means a union for help. It generally means the union
of a lesser or weaker power with a greater. The Indian
princes paid a "subsidy" or sum of money, in return for
which, the British promised them soldiers, help, and
protection in time of war.
By making these treaties with native rulers, Wellesley
hoped to force them to keep peace with each other, so
that there might not only be peace within British India
itself, but around its borders. But when the other
Maráthá chiefs heard of the treaty of Bassein, they
were very angry. They would by no means suffer the
overlordship of the Company, and they prepared to
fight. One of their chief leaders was called Sindhia.
He was young, vain, and proud. He had hoped one day to
make himself Peshwá, but now his treaty had "taken the
turban off his head," he said.
So Sindhia gathered an army and war began. This is
called the second Maráthás war, as the first was fought
in the time of Hastings.
At first the Maráthás did not seem sure of what to do.
They marched back and forth with restless haste, now
here, now there. But at last British and Indian forces
met in a great battle at Assaye.
On the British side the leader was General Arthur
Wellesley. He had only a small army, but, as so often
before, the small British force beat a huge Indian
army. Yet the fight was fierce, and when the battle
was over, many of the British lay dead. But the
Maráthás were fleeing from the field and the power of
Sindhia was broken. Assaye was fought on the 23rd of
September 1803, and is one of the greatest of Indian
Other battles, other victories followed. In the north,
in Hindustan, a British army fought against the French
sepoy troops. There, too, they gained victory after
vic-  tory, and at last, in a battle called Láswári the French
sepoys, "who fought like demons rather than like
heroes," were scattered forever.
The war had begun in September. It was over in
December. On the 30th of that month, proud, vain
Sindhia signed a treaty by which he owned the Company
Of all the Maráthá chieftains, only one now refused to
bend to British power. His name was Jeswant Rao
Holkar. He had no dreams of Empire, but was a wild,
free, raiding horseman like his forefathers, who had
been a terror to India. From his capital of Indore he
swept out with his robber horsemen, plundering and
wasting at will.
Like the freebooting Scots of old, he and his men rode
with a bottle of water and a bag of grain at their
saddle-bow, caring not through what desolate country
they passed. They lurked in the hills, they dashed
upon the enemy unawares, slaughtering stragglers, but
never meeting them face to face in open battle.
While the Maráthá war lasted, Holkar robbed and
plundered at will. Now he was warned to keep within
his own land, and cease from hurting the friends of the
But Holkar was proud and haughty. The length and
breadth of India was his if he chose to claim it, and
he threatened to burn towns and villages and slaughter
the people by hundreds and thousands, if he were not
allowed to take what he thought was his due, and rob
and plunder where he pleased.
This was not to be endured, so a campaign against this
haughty chieftain began.
At first, things went well. Then came disaster. A
small British force under Colonel Monson found itself
 face to face with the whole of Holkar's army. Monson
had food for only two days, and suddenly struck with
fear he turned his back upon the enemy, and marched
Now came the wild chieftain's chance. His light
horsemen followed and harrassed the retreating British,
dashing upon them unawares, swooping down upon
stragglers, surrounding and slaying those who went in
search of food. Hungry and weary the British toiled
on. The rains began and the rivers became swollen and
impassable torrents. The roads were churned to seas of
mud in which the wheels of the gun carriages sank axle
deep, so they had to be left behind, and the ammunition
destroyed. Wet and weary, covered with mud, stricken
with sickness and famine, the men lost heart. The
retreat became a rout, and after weeks of toil and
suffering, a battered few reached Agra. "I have lost
the flower of the army," writes the commander, "and how
they are to be replaced at this hour, heaven only
knows. I have to lament the loss of some of the finest
young men and most promising of the army."
Holkar was now insolently triumphant and he began to
besiege Delhi. But although he and his barbarous hosts
swarmed around the ten miles of shattered wall and
fallen rampart, they were bravely held at bay by the
mere handful of determined men within. Then hearing
that another British army was coming, he marched away,
plundering and destroying as he went, the fires of
burning villages and the blood of the slain marking the
road by which he passed.
But Holkar's triumph was not for long. He, too, was
beaten at last, and was sadly forced to bow the knee
before the might of the British.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics