Robert Clive

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

positive crime.

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

his action.

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

remained alive.

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

contemptuous discourtesy.

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

proposed peace.

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

to her.