|The Struggle for Sea Power|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book IV of the Story of the Worlds series. Focuses on the age of empire and world colonization. The histories of European colonies in America, Australia, South Africa, and India are related. Also covered are the Revolution in America, the French Revolution, and campaigns of Napoleon. Ages 12-18 |
"Clive kissed me on the mouth and eyes and brow,
Wonderful kisses, so that I became
Crowned above Queens—a withered beldame now
Brooding on ancient fame."
 DURING the forty years after the death of Aurangzeb a great change passed over India. The great Mogul Empire was
broken up; enemies invaded the land from north and south. They preyed on the defenceless country, they marched
through the gates of Delhi and bore away in triumph the Peacock Throne and all its priceless jewels.
From the time of Alexander the Great little intercourse had been held between Europe and the East. But from
that May day in 1498, when Vasco da Gama
and his brave Portuguese sailors stepped ashore at Calicut, there was constant communication with the ports on
the western coast. For some time Portugal had claimed exclusive right to her Indian trade, but after a time
Dutch ships sailed to her eastern ports. The enterprise of Holland roused commercial enthusiasm in England and
France until these three nations had established trading stations in the East.
The Dutch headquarters was at Batavia; the French at Pondicherry, on the east coast of India;
 the English at Madras, some eighty miles to the north. The governor of Pondicherry was a Frenchman called
Dupleix. He was the first European to see the possibility of founding an empire on the ruins of the Great
Mogul, though it was reserved for the English to carry out his wonderful idea.
Neither the French nor the English traders knew much about the government of India at this time. They knew that
they paid a yearly rent to the native ruler or Nawab, who lived in Oriental splendour at the city of Arcot,
some sixty-five miles west of Madras. This Nawab of Arcot was in his turn under the Nizam of Hyderabad, and
both in the old days were under the Great Mogul.
Dupleix, full of his dreams of empire, saw that his first step must be to capture the English trading station
of Madras. England and France were at war, so he seized this opportunity of attacking Madras, which was but
poorly defended, and carried off the English in triumph to Pondicherry. Here all was joy and gladness. Salutes
were fired from the batteries, Te Deums were sung in the churches. The Nizam came to visit his new allies.
Dupleix, dressed in Mohammedan garments, entered Pondicherry with him, and in the pageant that followed took
precedence of the native court. He was declared Governor of India from Hyderabad to Cape Comorin, a country the
same size as France itself; he was given command of seven thousand men; he ruled over thirty millions of people
 power, and the Nizam himself became but a tool in his hands.
It was at this moment that the genius and valour of a single young Englishman, Robert Clive, changed the whole
aspect of affairs, and won the empire of India for England.
"Clive," said a Frenchman afterwards, "understood and applied the system of Dupleix."
Robert Clive was the eldest of a large English family. He was born in Shropshire in the year 1725. At a very
early age he showed that he had a strong will and a fiery passion, "flying out on every trifling occasion." The
story is still told in the neighbourhood of how "Bob Clive," when quite a little boy, climbed to the top of a
lofty steeple, and with what terror people saw him seated on a stone spout near the top. He was sent from
school to school, but made little progress with his learning. Instead, he gained the character of being a very
naughty little boy. True, one far-seeing master prophesied that he would yet make "a great figure in the
world," but for the most part he was held to be a dunce. Nothing was expected from such a boy, and when he was
eighteen his parents sent him off to India, in the service of the East India Company, to "make his fortune or
die of a fever."
His voyage was unusually long and tedious, lasting over a year. At last he arrived at the port of Madras—a
barren spot beaten by a raging
surf—  to find himself very lonely and very poor in a strange land. He found some miserably paid work in an office,
but he was shy and proud and made no friends. Moreover, the hot climate made him ill.
"I have not enjoyed one happy day since I left my native land," he cried piteously. Twice, in desperation, the
poor home-sick boy tried to shoot himself, but twice he failed.
"Surely," he cried at the second failure—"surely I am reserved for something great."
So it happened that Robert Clive was at Madras when the French came and carried away the English captives to
Pondicherry. Disguising themselves as natives, in turbans and flowing robes, Clive and some friends managed to
escape to another English trading station. There was no more office work to be done at present, and Clive,
together with hundreds of other Englishmen, entered the army to fight against the French. His bravery and
courage soon raised him above his fellows, and he became a captain.
Clive was now twenty-five. He saw plainly that unless some daring blow were aimed at the French soon, Dupleix
would carry all before him. He suggested a sudden attack on Arcot, the residence of the Nawab; and though the
scheme seemed wild to the point of madness, he was given command of 200 Europeans and some native troops to
march against the town.
Arcot was sixty-five miles away. The fort was
 known to be garrisoned by 1100 men, but Clive marched bravely forth. During the march a terrific storm arose.
The rain swept down in a deluge on the little army, the lightning played around them, the thunder pealed over
their heads; but they pushed on through it all, undaunted in their desperate undertaking. Tidings of their
fearless endurance reached the town before them. A panic seized the native garrison: they abandoned the fort.
Not a shot was fired, and Clive with his 500 men entered the city in triumph. The young boy-captain had already
won a deathless renown.
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