A.D. 1751 TO A.D. 1757
Never was the strange susceptibility of India to the influence of
personal vitality better exemplified than in the case of Robert Clive.
When, in 1751, he first emerged--a good head and shoulders taller than
the general ruck of Anglo-Indians--from the troubled turmoil of
conflicting interests, conflicting policies which characterised India
in those days,
indostan was on the point of yielding herself to
France; when, in 1767, he finally left the land where he had laboured
so long and so well, England was paramount over half the peninsula.
Never in the whole history of Britain was better work done for her
prestige, her honour, by one man; and yet that one man died
miserably from opium, administered wilfully by the sword-hand which
had never failed his country; administered as the only escape from
It will always be a question whether Clive was or was not guilty of
the charges preferred against him. Those who really know the Indian
mind, who fully realise the depth of the degeneracy into which that
mind had fallen amongst the effete nobility of the eighteenth century,
may well hesitate before denying or affirming that guilt, knowing, as
they must, how easy a thing is false testimony, understanding how
skilfully an act, innocent enough in itself, may be garbled into
Either way, this much may be said. The benefits he had conferred on
his country were sufficient surely to have ensured him more
sympathetic treatment at the hands of that country than he actually
But this is to anticipate.
Clive was born--but what does it matter when, where, and how, a man of
deeds comes into the world? All that is necessary is to say what he
did. Clive, then, was a writer, or clerk, in the East Indian Company's
service. It was not, apparently, a congenial employment. Quiet,
reserved, somewhat stubborn, he led a very solitary life, knowing, he
writes in one of his home letters, scarcely "any one family in the
place." A friend tells a tale of him, characteristic, yet hardly
sufficiently authenticated for history. He found young Clive sitting
dejectedly at a table, on which lay a pistol. "Fire that thing out of
the window, will you?" said the lad, and watched. "I suppose I must be
good for something," he remarked despondently, when the pistol went
off, "for I snapped it twice at my own head, and it missed fire both
Whether true or not true, the lad of whom such a story could even have
been told must have been something out of the common.
He was rather a tall English lad, silent, with a long nose and a
pleasant smile. He was barely one-and-twenty when Dupleix took Madras,
and for the first time he found himself a soldier. He returned to his
writership, however, for a time, but such a profession was manifestly
impossible to his temperament--a temperament admirably illustrated by
the following story. He accused an officer of cheating at cards. A
duel ensued, in which Clive, with first shot, missed; whereupon his
adversary, holding his pistol to Clive's head, bade him beg his life.
This he did instantly with perfect coolness, but when asked also to
retract his accusation, replied as calmly: "Fire, and be damned to
you! I said you cheated, and you did. I'll never pay you."
The adversary, struck dumb by his--no doubt--righteous stubbornness,
thereupon lowered his weapon.
Such was the young man who at six-and-twenty, in the absence on leave
of Major Lawrence, set off as a captain to the relief of Trichinopoly
with six hundred men. He was completely outclassed both in numbers and
pecuniary resources, and feeling himself to be so, he returned to Fort
St David and boldly proposed a complete volte face. The French were
thoroughly engaged aiding their ally at Trichinopoly. If he and his
small force made a detour to Arcot, the capital, they might find it
unprepared. They did; Clive marched in, took possession of the fort
before the very eyes of one hundred thousand astonished spectators,
and finding over L50,000 worth of goods in the treasury, gave them
back to their owners, and issued orders that not a thing in the town
was to be touched; the result of such unusual consideration being
that, when he finally had to defend his capture, not a soul in the
town raised a hand against the strange young sahib who seemed to
have no fear, and certainly had no greed.
But young Clive had a Herculean task before him. With a mere handful
of men--three hundred and twenty in all--he had to defend a ruinous,
ill-constructed fort one mile in circumference--ditch choked, parapets
too narrow for artillery--from the determined onslaught of ten
thousand men. And he did so defend it. Despite failures due to
inexperience, rebuffs due to rashness, despite hair's-breadth personal
escapes, due to reckless, almost criminal courage, he won through to
the end. There is something impish and boyish about the record of
these six weeks' siege. How, more out of sheer bravado than anything
else, the garrison crowned a ruined tower on the ramparts with earth,
hoisted thereto an enormous old seventy-two-pounder cannon which had
belonged to Aurungzebe! How they turned it on the palace which rose
high above the intervening houses, and letting drive with thirty-two
pounds of their best powder, sent the ball right through the palace,
greatly to the alarm of the enemy's staff, which was quartered there!
How once a day they fired off the old cannon, until on the fourth day
it burst and nearly killed the gunners!
All this, and the thrilling story of the mason who--luckily for the
garrison--knew of the secret aqueduct constructed so as to drain the
fort of water, and stopped it up ere it could be used, would make a
fine chapter for a boy's book of adventure. Here it is enough to
record that on the 14th November, after a desperate and futile
assault, the enemy--French allies and all--withdrew, and Clive found
himself free to follow on their heels to Vellore, where he succeeded
in giving those of them who were sufficiently brave to stand, a most
satisfactory beating; in consequence of which numbers of the beaten
sepoys, with the quick Oriental eye for vitality, deserted their
colours. Clive enlisted six hundred of the best armed, and returned to
Madras, where he was received with acclaim, for victory was then a new
sensation to the Anglo-Indian. A month or two afterwards, however, he
was out again on the war-path, giving the French-supported army of
Chanda-Sahib a good drubbing at Cauvery-pak. Whilst out, he received
an urgent summons to go back to the Presidency town. Major Lawrence
was returning from leave, and would resume command.
Despite the urgency, he found time, nevertheless, on his way back to
go round by a certain town which Dupleix, in the first pride of
victory, had founded under the name of Dupleix-Fattehabad, to
commemorate--what surely had been better forgotten--his terrible act
of treachery towards Nasir-Jung in the matter of the ratified but
delayed treaty which cost the latter his life. And here, with the same
reckless hardihood which had characterised the whole campaign, he
paused--though in the midst of an enemy's country--to batter to pieces
the pretentious flamboyant column on which Dupleix had recorded his
conquest in French, Persian, Mahratti, Hindi.
One can picture the scene, and one's heart warms to the English boy
who watched with glee the hacking and hewing, while the natives stood
by, their sympathy going forth inevitably to the strong young arm.
Three days afterwards Clive gave up his command, and here his first
campaign ends. It was very straightforward, very clear; but what
followed was complicated--very!
Trichinopoly was still besieged: the French backing Chanda-Sahib, who
claimed it as Nawab of the Carnatic; the English backing Mahomed-Ali,
who held it as Nawab of Arcot. To the support of the latter Major
Lawrence led his mercenaries, and for a time the siege was raised. By
this time, however, the Directors in London were becoming restive over
hostilities which interfered with the commerce of the Company. In
order to bring the struggle for supremacy to a head, Clive proposed a
division of forces, south and north. Whether he was actuated in making
this bold proposal by any hope of getting a command over the heads of
his seniors or not, certain it is that after agreeing to the proposal,
Major Lawrence found it impossible to keep to seniority. The natives
flatly refused to go north unless Clive led them.
Here, again, the personal equation--the only thing that has ever
counted in India--stepped in. It was a genuine tribute to Clive's
possession of that greatest attribute of a good general--fortunae. It
heartened him up, and he instantly began a second campaign of success,
driving Dupleix to despair, since after every petty victory some of
the beaten sepoys, following fortune, invariably deserted to the
English side. Clive's army, in fact, was a snowball. It increased in
size as it went, and after the big fight at Samiaveram, was joined by
no less than two thousand horse and fifteen hundred sepoys. But the
young man, for all his gloomy face, his silence, his stubbornness, had
a curiously sympathetic personality to the natives. When Seringham was
taken, and a thousand Rajputs shut themselves up in the celebrated
pagoda swearing death ere it should be defiled, Clive "did not think
it necessary to disturb them," but at Covelong he drove the frightened
recruits back to battle at the point of the sword. After taking
Chingleput, the campaign came to an abrupt conclusion. Clive, falling
sick, had leave to go to England. This was in 1752.
Major Lawrence, meanwhile, in the south, had been fairly successful.
The siege of Trichinopoly raised, the French, who had done all the
artillery work, retreated to Pondicherry.
But complications arose. Mahomed-Ali, Nawab of Arcot, showed
indisposition to press his advantage, and to his great chagrin Major
Lawrence discovered that Trichinopoly itself had been promised to the
Mysore king, one of Mahomed-Ali's native allies. The Nawab himself was
ready to repudiate his promise; the English, it is to be feared, did
not favour straightforward fulfilment. The result was a hollow
compromise, which in its results showed that honesty would have been
the best policy. For the next two years, therefore, Trichinopoly
became the scene of constant warfare, and such was the stress of
battle that raged round the unfortunate town, that in November 1753
not a tree was left standing near it, and the British detachment and
convoy which finally relieved it was forced to go six or seven miles
to get a stick of firewood.
The story of the final and futile assault of the French is a thrilling
one, especially the incident of the night-attack frustrated by the
falling into a disused well of a soldier, whose musket going off,
alarmed the garrison, thus rendering of no avail a previous wholesale
tampering with the guard. For the French had no hesitation in using
underhand means; in this, indeed, lay the strength of Dupleix. On this
occasion, anyhow, they suffered for it, since, pinned between the
outer ramparts and an inner one, four hundred out of six hundred
Frenchmen were either killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.
The year 1740 brought a mutual fatigue of warfare both to the French
and the English East India Company. They called a truce to assert that
they had never really been at war, the hostile interlude being merely
the amusements of mercenaries.
But the whole affair was comic. The Council-of-Negotiation which met
at a neutral little Dutch settlement was as unreal as the patents
produced on both sides in support of the claims of their puppets.
There were seven on the French side for the murdered Muzaffar-Jung's
successor, Salabut, including one from the Great Moghul. The English,
too, had patents for their puppet Mahomed-Ali, also including one from
the Great Moghul. Now it is possible that both these contradictory
patents were genuine--anything was possible in the India of 1754--but
the English one was not produced, and the French one had a wrong seal!
So the affair ended in added exasperation.
But in truth France and England's attention was now awakening to the
unceasing hostilities in India. International conferences were held in
London, where the Secretary of State, in order to be prepared for
refusal of his terms, fitted out a fleet for Eastern waters. The
menace proved successful. France, never greatly enamoured of her
Eastern Company, gave away the game by sending out one Monsieur
Godeheu to take over the Governorship from Dupleix.
It was a bolt out of the blue. Whatever his faults may have been, the
latter had spent his life for, and risked his whole fortune in, the
Company. He never recovered the blow, but went home, sought bare
justice by a lawsuit, and died ruined, broken-hearted, ere his case
was decided. So England has no monopoly in ingratitude to her public
Monsieur Godeheu was peaceful, painstaking, praiseworthy. He produced
an ill-considered but plausible treaty which rather knocked the wind
out of Clive's sails when he returned to Bombay in 1755 with Admiral
Watson's fleet, fully prepared to attack the Dekkan from the north. He
had to content himself with a campaign against the pirate-king of
Anghria, in the course of which a momentous quarrel arose between the
English and their Mahratta allies. The latter claimed a share of the
plunder, the former refused it, asserting with righteous indignation
that deliberate treachery had been proved up to the hilt against their
so-called allies, and that consequently they were entitled to nothing.
A sordid quarrel at best, which bore bitter fruit in years to come.
From this, Clive sailed to take up command at Madras, where he was met
by disastrous news from Calcutta.
Suraj-ud-daula, Nawab of Bengal, had seized on it, suffocated a
hundred and twenty-three of its inhabitants--many of them men in the
best positions--in the Black Hole, and had returned to Murshidabad,
whence he had issued orders for the destruction and confiscation of
all English property in his dominions. Such was the ineptitude of
England at that time in India, that two whole months elapsed ere
Clive, in a fever of impatience, was allowed to start for retaliation.
While we can imagine him fretting and fuming, we shall have time for a
glance back to see who Suraj-ud-daula was, and what was the cause of
Ali-Verdi-Khan, who, it will be remembered, had ceded Orissa to the
Mahrattas, had also snatched the Nawabship from his master's son; a
graceless youth, it must be admitted, while Ali-Verdi-Khan himself
was, despite many horrid acts, a fairly just ruler. During his
lifetime the English had no complaint; but at his death he committed a
gross injustice on every soul in his dominions by appointing as his
heir his grandson Suraj-ud-daula, a perfectly infamous young man. No
one, apparently, had a good word to say for him, except those amongst
whom he spent a vicious, depraved life.
His aunt, Ghasita Begum, at any rate, nourished no illusions
concerning him, and being an ambitious woman, anxious to preserve her
great fortune for future occasions of conspiracy, took immediate
precautions while Ali-Verdi lay dying against any confiscation of her
treasures. She employed one Kishen-das, a pretended pilgrim to
Juggernath, to carry them off in boats down the Ganges. Once on the
river, Kishen steered, not for the sea, but for Calcutta. It is
difficult to say whether the Governor and Council knew what they were
harbouring, but the fact remains that the treasures sought and found
British protection, one Omichand, a Hindu merchant, giving Kishen-das
Suraj-ud-daula took the business very badly. He made a scene at his
grandfather's death-bed, and accused the English of siding with the
faction that was against his succession. Yet, when that succession was
an accomplished fact, and the English agent appeared at his audience
to apologise in set terms for a so-called mistake in turning away, as
an impostor, from Calcutta, a spy who asserted he bore a letter from
Suraj-ud-daula, the latter kept a calm countenance and said
negligently that he had forgotten the incident. And yet it was no
slight one; for there is little doubt that the Council were not quite
satisfied with its own action.
The Nawab, however, was biding his time, and he soon found it. War was
on the point of breaking out once more in Europe between France and
England, and orders were, in consequence, sent out by the Directors of
the Company to overhaul fortifications. Repairs were at once
commenced. This was Suraj-ud-daula's opportunity. He first sent a
haughty enquiry as to why, without leave, the English were building a
new wall, and, pretending that the reply given was inadequate,
followed up his first communication by marching to Kossimbazaar with
his army, sending for Mr Watts the Governor, and with threats forcing
him to sign an engagement to destroy, within fifteen days, all new
works which had been begun at Calcutta, deliver up all the Nawab's
subjects he might call for, and refund any sums the Nawab might have
lost by passports of trade having been illegally granted.
Now, in dealing with these Indian disputes it is notoriously difficult
to read through the written lines of the formulated plaint and
counter-plaint, and reach the palimpsest below; that palimpsest of
fine, complicated motive which invariably underlies the simplest plea,
which makes even a petty debt case in India like an English A. B. C.
scrawled over a Babylonian brick, covered closely with fly-foot
stipplings. But here the stipulation regarding the Nawab's subjects
gives a clear clue. Whether Suraj-ud-daula had any just cause of
complaint or not, his real grievance was the loss of his aunt's
This abject yielding of the English was fatal. Had any one of the
type of Clive or John Nicholson been on the spot, events might have
been very different; as it was, disaster and destruction followed.
Suraj-ud-daula marched on Calcutta, receiving by the way the gift of
two hundred barrels of gunpowder from our treaty-bound friends the
French at Chandanagore! Reading the record of these few fateful days
in June 1756 one knows not whether to laugh or to cry, to let pity or
righteous wrath prevail, as the history of silly delay and still
sillier activities unfolds itself. The feverish digging of absolutely
untenable trenches, the three weeks' delay without any preparation
whatever while letters were passing to and fro, the neglect to apply
for reinforcements to other presidencies, the imprisonment of
Omichand, the miserable fracas in his house, in which a Brahmin peon,
mad with rage and professing fear lest high-caste women should be
violated, rushed into his master's harem, killed a round dozen of
innocent ladies, and then stabbed himself, reminds one of nothing but
the fateful days of May a hundred years after, when Englishmen stood
by and watched the Mutiny grow from a chance by-blow to a giant
unrestrained. Calcutta was taken. Mr Drake, the governor, and Captain
Minchin, the commandant, ran away. The ships weighed anchor and sailed
out of gunshot, leaving one hundred and ninety deserted men in the
fort. But if cowardice showed unabashed, courage was not lacking, and
among those who showed it Mr Holwell deserves honourable mention. A
civilian himself, he locked the gates of the fort to prevent further
desertion, and final resistance being hopeless, did his best by
diplomacy to avert absolute destruction. A hard task, for he lost
twenty-five of his miserable garrison in one assault, and he lost the
aid of more by drunkenness: for the soldiers got at the arrack
Still, he might have succeeded but for the fact that the Nawab lost
his temper on finding that the treasury only contained L5,000! And he
had imagined the English rich beyond dreams. He jumped to the
conclusion that there must be treasure concealed, and when none was
forthcoming, seems to have cared nothing for the personal safety he
had guaranteed to Mr Holwell and his following of a hundred and forty
men, women, and children.
The tale of the Black Hole of Calcutta is too well known to need
repetition. The unfortunate company were herded at nightfall into a
room eighteen feet square, and despite their agonising appeals for
deliverance, left to suffocate. By daybreak only three-and-twenty
And the ships which could have carried them off ere hostilities began,
which even afterwards might have rescued them, were sailing merrily
down the river, the full breeze of dawn bellying their sails.
It is an indelible disgrace!
Suraj-ud-daula, disappointed in plunder, retired to Murshidabad
fulminating vain thunders against all things British, as he abandoned
himself once more to infamous pleasures.
But Clive was on his track. Clive, filled-according to his
letters--"with grief, horror, and resentment"; determined that the
expedition should not "end with the retaking of Calcutta only, but
that the Company's estate in these parts shall be settled in a better
and more lasting condition than ever."
The story of his success is a long one, and is, unfortunately, marred
by more than one doubtful, almost inexcusable act. But that he should
utterly have escaped from the corruption of the whole atmosphere in
India at this time is more than any one has any right to expect, even
of a hero. He was but mortal, and from the time he was twenty, had had
to steer his way through a perfect network of intrigue. Again, his
complicity in much that happened is by no means assured, for we know
that he was surrounded by enemies amongst his own countrymen, who,
jealous of his success, angered with his blunt outspokenness, did
not hesitate to injure him. Let us consider for a moment what Clive
must have said to Captain Minchin, to Mr Drake, concerning their
pleasure-trip down the Hooghly while their friends were suffocating in
the Black Hole! We have his opinion of the "Bengal gentlemen" in his
letters, which runs thus:--
"The loss of private property and the means of recovering it are the
only objects which take up their attention. I would have you guard
against everything these gentlemen can say; for, believe me, they are
bad subjects and rotten at heart, and will stick at nothing to
prejudice you and the gentlemen of the Committee. Indeed, how should
they do otherwise when they have not spared one another? Their conduct
at Calcutta finds no excuse even amongst themselves; the riches of
Peru or Mexico should not induce me to dwell among them."
These are strong words, but they were written under strong emotion.
Clive, arriving at Calcutta, after a most fatiguing march of
skirmishes along the river, had been mortified by finding that Admiral
Watson, who had sailed up it and captured the town after two hours'
desultory cannonading, had already appointed a Captain Coote as
military governor. This post, naturally, was Clive's by every right,
and he objected strenuously. Matters went so far that the admiral
threatened to fire on the fort if Clive refused to leave it, and
though a compromise was effected, the affair shows the animus
against the young colonel.
He was hampered on all sides. We find him point-blank refusing to
place himself under the orders of the Committee.
"I do not intend," he writes, "to make use of my power for acting
separately from you, without you reduce me to the necessity for so
doing; but as far as concerns the means of executing these powers, you
will excuse me, gentlemen, if I refuse to give it up."
The very existence, therefore, of this friction makes caution
necessary in judging of Clive's actions, since, except from his own
admissions, we have nothing on which absolute reliance can be placed.
He seems to have felt himself overmatched in every way. Certainly he
proceeded with more caution than usual, except in regard to his attack
on Suraj-ud-daula's camp outside the very walls of Calcutta.
Deputies had been sent overnight to interview the Nawab with a view to
negotiation, and had returned in confusion, lightless, by secret
paths, convinced that they were to be assassinated. Huge eunuchs and
attendants, made still more terrific by stuffed coats and monstrous
turbans, had scowled at them--the Nawab had been superciliously
indifferent. Clive had about two thousand men under his command; the
enemy, under Mir-Jaffar, Suraj-ud-daula's general, mustered forty
thousand; but instant assault seemed necessary in face of that
It began at dawn, and though, owing to fog, it was not so decisive as
Clive had hoped, achieved its end, for the very next day the Nawab
Now in this, again, we must read between the lines. The terms of peace
which was duly signed--Clive feeling himself far too weak to continue
war, for a time at any rate--were not acceptable to the Committee, for
Clive refused to allow the claims of "private individuals to stand in
the way of the interest of the Company." The treaty, in fact, was
singularly easy on the Nawab, but it must be remembered that Mr
Holwell, who had himself been in the Black Hole, had exculpated
Suraj-ud-daula from wilful participation in the ordering of it;
indeed, there seems little doubt that it was due to the reckless
indifference of subordinates. Thus we see here an honest endeavour on
Clive's part to deal with Suraj-ud-daula fairly and squarely. He
trusted him, disregarding Admiral Watson's warning that without a good
thrashing first, treaties with natives were of no avail.
His subsequent disgust at finding this warning had been correct must
be admitted in defence of his future actions. After endless
intriguing, difficult to follow, and still more difficult when
followed to understand--for the friction between Clive and his
environment seems to obscure everything--the young colonel (he was
but thirty) seems to have reverted to his desire to dislodge the
French, with which his services had begun, and, war between the
nations being opportunely declared, he attacked and took Chandanagore.
This brought about, however, a complete revelation of the perfidy of
Suraj-ud-daula, who in letters to the French governor (whom he calls
"Zubat-ul-Tujar," the "Essence of Merchants"), abuses "Sabut-Jung"
(the "Daring in War," by which name Clive is still known in India),
and promises his heart-whole support. "Be confident," he writes, "look
on my forces as your own."
Clive, conscious of having acted against general opinion in trusting
the man, resented this personally. Then Suraj-ud-daula was practically
a monster in human form. By twenty, his vices were hoary. So it may
well have been honest disgust which made Clive first consider the
possibility of deposing him in favour of Mir-Jaffar. Pages have been
written inveighing against the enormity of intriguing against a ruler
with whom you have a treaty of peace. And it is mean according to
Western ideals. Still, Clive did not shrink from it; his verdict is
brief: "I am persuaded there can be neither peace nor security while
such a monster reigns."
So he did not reign long. Mir-Jaffar was deliberately nominated; a
treaty, consisting of a preamble and thirteen articles, solemnly and
secretly drawn up. In this Omichand, merchant, moneylender, spy,
informer, a man of infinite influence at Murshidabad, was go-between.
As reward for his services and silence--for otherwise he threatened to
warn his real master Suraj-ud-daula--he insisted on receiving
L200,000. But, in truth, this treaty reads like a huge bill, for in
consideration of being made Nawab, Mir-Jaffar promised the Company to
pay, as damages for the sacking of Calcutta, L1,000,000, to the
English inhabitants thereof L500,000, to the natives L200,000, and to
the Armenians L70,000.
These were immense sums, but they were the result of absurdly
exaggerated estimates of the treasure in Murshidabad, which was
currently reported to be at least L24,000,000.
So the farce of friendship went on with the Nawab. It was a toss-up in
the end whether Mir-Jaffar would be faithful to his master or to the
treaty, and on the very eve of the battle of Plassey, that is to say,
23rd June 1757, Clive was still undetermined whether to attempt the
final blow or to refrain from it. His reputation would have benefited
if he had; for England would have won in the end without subterfuge.
Still, for all this excuse is to be found. Even the fact that Clive,
in common with half the army and navy, was to receive a stipulated
present--in his case a very large one--must not be counted, as it
appears to be at the first blush, bribery and corruption. There was no
law against the taking of douceurs; the employees of the Company,
indeed, were ill paid because of such perquisites, without which they
could not live. So, had he chosen to ask for a million of money, he
could only have been counted extortionate in his demands. But the
trick played upon Omichand with Clive's support and connivance
seems--at least--despicable. Briefly, it comes to this. Englishmen
were afraid of the scoundrel's blabbing, yet they were determined he
should not have the L200,000 for which he stipulated. They therefore
drew up two treaties, one with, one without, the stipulation. The one
they showed to Omichand was forged; the other was really signed.
It seems almost incredible this should have been done by plain English
gentlemen, let alone by one who in many ways was a hero; but so it
To avoid paying L200,000 out of revenues which did not belong to us,
we resorted to fraud and forgery.
There is but one consolation in the case. Clive himself, the
arch-actor, never regretted the act. When arraigned on this charge
before the House of Commons he asserted proudly that he thought "it
warrantable in such a case, and would do it again a hundred times. I
had no interested motive in doing it, but did it with the design of
disappointing the expectations of a rapacious man, for I think both
art and policy warrantable in defeating the purposes of such a
But was Omichand "the greatest villain upon earth" that Clive held him
to be? Even this is doubtful, and our pity is his, no matter what he
was, as we read the story, as told by Orme the historian, of the
conference which was held the day after the battle.
"Clive and Scrafton went towards Omichand, who was waiting in full
assurance of hearing the glad tidings.... Scrafton said to him in the
Indostan language: 'Omichand! the red paper is a trick--you are to
have nothing.' The words overpowered him like a blast of sulphur; he
sank back fainting."
He did not recover the shock, but died a complete imbecile within the
No! Whatever way we look at this incident it offends eye and taste.
For it was so needless. If Omichand was the double-dyed scoundrel he
is said to have been, what more easy than to tell him when all was
over: "Yes! the L200,000 is yours, but you shall not have it."
Clive, at any rate, was strong enough for that.
The incident prevents the remembrance of Plassey being a pure
pleasure. It was victory complete so far as it went, and by the treaty
with Mir-Jaffar Clive's hope "that the Company's estate in these parts
shall be settled in a better and more lasting condition than before"
was fully justified; for not only was Calcutta given to it freehold,
but also the land to the south of the town, as a zemindari subject
to the payment of revenue.
England had a real hold on Indian soil at last, and Clive had given it