We are now entering on a series of events, which, though of little significance at the time, produced the most momentous results, and laid the foundation of European supremacy in India. Up to this time the French and English in India had been engaged only in the pursuits of commerce, and though they were repeatedly at war, during a period of seventy years, in Europe, there was
peace between their factories, lying side by side on the same coast and the same river. But in the war which broke out in 1744, the French ministry determined to extend the conflict to the east, and fitted out an expedition for the destruction of the English factories in India. So little apprehension was entertained in those settlements, at the time, of any hostilities which might affect their security, that the whole amount of the European force at all the Presidencies and forts did not exceed six hundred, of whom more than one-half were untrained recruits. It was in this unexpected emergency, that the English were obliged to take up arms in the defence of their interests; and we have now to trace the steps by which they gradually became involved in hostilities with the native powers, by the irresistible current of circumstances and contrary to their own wishes, till they found themselves in possession of the empire of India.
Labourdonnais, who was the first to break a lance with the English in India, had embarked for the east at the early age of fourteen, and in a long succession of voyages, acquired a complete knowledge of its trade, navigation, and resources. His application to business was indefatigable, and his spirit of enterprize was only strengthened by difficulties. He was a man of large views, and yet personally directed the minutest details. In 1734, he was appointed governor of the Mauritius and Bourbon, which he found a wilderness, and left flourishing colonies. On his return to Europe, seeing the nation on the eve of a war with the English, he persuaded the minister to strike a blow at their commercial prosperity in India, and the command of the armament was judiciously entrusted to him. At the same time the British ministry despatched a squadron, consisting of six men of war, to protect the settlements of the Company on the Coromandel coast. On the morning of the 26th of June, 1746, the French fleet of nine vessels under Labourdonnais, appeared off the coast, and the British commodore brought on an immediate action, which, however, terminated
without any result. The French general, impatient to plant the French flag on the ramparts of Madras, proceeded to Pondicherry to obtain the co-operation of the governor, Dupleix
He was the son of a farmer general, and was sent in his youth to India, where he embarked in an extensive trade with all the ports of the east, and acquired great wealth. Having been appointed governor of Chandernagore, he enriched it by commerce till it became more than the rival of Calcutta, and left two thousand brick buildings as a monument of his enterprising spirit. He was a man of inordinate ambition and egregious vanity, but at the same time of vast energy and resources. He had been employed for four years in fortifying Pondicherry, when Labourdonnais arrived with plenary powers, but instead of co-operating with him to promote the common interests of the nation, a jealousy of the reputation be might acquire, induced Dupleix to thwart all his projects. But the indomitable zeal of Labourdonnais overcame every obstacle, and his fleet was rapidly equipped for a descent on Madras. On the other hand, the English squadron, sent out for the express purpose of protecting the settlements, was unaccountably withdrawn at this critical juncture, and the commodore abandoned them to their fate.
Labourdonnais, finding the coast clear, lost no time in steering for Madras. That settlement had grown up from an insignificant hamlet in 1640 to a town of 250,000 inhabitants in 1746. The territory extended about five miles along the coast, and a little more than a mile inland. After a century of peaceful commerce, undisturbed by the appearance of any enemy by land or by sea, it was ill prepared for the formidable attack now impending. The fortifications, which had never been strong, were now dilapidated, and the store of ammunition was scanty. Of the 300 Europeans in the town, 200 were soldiers, and few of these had ever seen a shot fired in earnest. On the 15th of September, 1746, Labourdonnais appeared off the town with 1,100 Europeans, 400 Malagasees, and 400 sepoys, or native
soldiers, trained and disciplined by Europeans, an expedient which the French were the first in India to adopt. After a bombardment of five days, during which the French did not lose a man, and the English lost only five, and that by the bursting of one of their own bombs, the town and fort were surrendered. The French commander was interdicted by his instructions from retaining any of the settlements he might capture, and he, therefore, held the town to ransom, for the sum of forty-four lacs of rupees, independently of the merchandize, the military and naval stores, and the money belonging to the Company. None of the residents were molested in person or property; and it was agreed that the town should be evacuated by the French troops in three months, and that it should not be again attacked during the war. The success and the moderation of Labourdonnais only served to inflame the animosity of Dupleix, who protested against the ransom, and declared that the town and factory ought to have been razed to the ground.
Labourdonnais was reinforced in a few days by fresh arrivals from France, which raised the number of Europeans under his command to more than 3,000, a force sufficient to have crushed every English settlement in India. But they were happily saved from destruction by the spleen of Dupleix, who obstructed all the projects of Labourdonnais, and by the weather. The monsoon set in with extraordinary violence; and, though the ships freighted with the booty of Madras escaped the typhoon, some of the largest vessels in the squadron were stranded, and the whole of the fleet was disabled. Labourdonnais was constrained to quit the coast and return to the Mauritius, and eventually to Europe. On the voyage home in a Dutch vessel he was forced into an English harbour, and became a prisoner of war. But his great abilities, and his generous conduct after the capture of Madras, were so highly appreciated that he was immediately liberated on his parole. Far different was his reception in his native land. The representations of the envious Dupleix, and other
enemies he had made in India by his energy and patriotism, were favourably received; his great services were overlooked, and he was thrown into the Bastile, where he lingered for three years, and died of a broken heart on his liberation.
On the appearance of Labourdonnais’ army before Madras, the Nabob of the Carnatic, Anwar-ood-deen, sent an agent to Pondicherry to remonstrate on the presumption of the French in attacking a settlement in his dominions which was under his protection. Dupleix endeavoured to pacify him by the promise of delivering the town to him when captured, that he might enrich himself by its ransom. But after its surrender, the Nabob discovered that the promise had been made only to cozen him, and he sent his son with a force of 10,000 men to drive out the French. They advanced with confidence to attack the handful of Europeans, not exceeding a thousand, whom Labourdonnais had left to protect the town. But the field-pieces of the French fired three or four times a minute, while the native artillery thought they did wonders by firing once in a quarter of an hour. This rapid and galling fire staggered the Nabob’s troops, and the resolute advance of the French infantry took all conceit of fighting out of them. The young Nabob, mounted on a lofty elephant which carried the great standard of the Carnatic, was the first to make his escape from the field, and he was followed by the whole army. This dastardly flight of ten thousand Indians before a single battalion of Europeans, is a memorable event in the history of India. It dissolved at once and for ever the spell which had hitherto kept Europeans in dread of native armies. It demonstrated their inherent weakness, however strong in numbers, and it gave the English that confidence in their own valour and strategy which contributed more than anything else to the successive subversion of the native thrones.
On the departure of Labourdonnais, Dupleix made no scruple to annul the treaty and confiscate all the property, private and public, found in
Madras. The governor and the principal inhabitants were declared prisoners of war and marched down to Pondicherry, where, under pretence of doing them honour, they were marched through the streets, amidst the jeers of fifty thousand spectators. Dupleix followed up this act of bad faith by laying siege to Fort St. David, another settlement of the Company on the Coast, about a hundred miles south of Madras, which was at the time defended only by 200 European troops. The English chief solicited the aid of the Nabob of the Carnatic, who was smarting under the disgrace inflicted on his son at Madras, and readily advanced with a large force. A French detachment was unexpectedly attacked by the Nabob’s general, and seized with a panic, and retired in disorder to Pondicherry with considerable loss. Dupleix who had a thorough knowledge of the native character, now set himself to detach the Nabob from the English alliance. The singular departure of the English fleet in the preceding year, and the arrival of four French vessels with reinforcements, enabled him to decry the one, and to extol the resources of the other. An Asiatic prince never considers himself bound by any principle of honour, or even consistency; his own supposed advantage is the only rule of his conduct, and he changes sides without the smallest scruple. Dupleix succeeded in persuading the Nabob that the English were the weaker party, and the Nabob did not hesitate for a moment to abandon them. His son was accordingly sent to Pondicherry to form an alliance with Dupleix, by whom be was received with the greatest ostentation, and loaded with presents. The French now advanced against St. David a second time with a greater force, but a large fleet was descried in the offing, which proved to be an English armament, and the besiegers retreated rapidly to Pondicherry.
This armament, which had been despatched from England for the defence of the Company’s settlements, under the command of Admiral Boscawen, arrived off Fort St. David on the 9th of August, and was
immediately joined by the vessels of Admiral Griffin. The junction of the two squadrons formed the largest maritime force which had ever been seen in the eastern seas. It consisted of more than thirty vessels, none of which were of less than 500 tons, and thirteen of them men of war of the line. The English troops now on the Coast comprised in all 3,720 Europeans, 300 topasses, and 2,000 sepoys, equal to any enterprise. The Nabob still changing sides as the power of the English or the French appeared to predominate, promised the aid of a body of his troops. Every bosom was beating with the hope that the loss of Madras would be avenged by the capture of Pondicherry; but the English were subjected to a bitter disappointment. The army began its march to that settlement on the 8th of August, and the siege was prosecuted for fifty days, but, notwithstanding the valour of the officers and men, it was at length disgracefully raised, after more than a thousand European lives had been sacrificed. Seldom, if ever, has any siege in India exhibited more egregious blunders on the part of the commanders. Dupleix announced the abandonment of the siege as a magnificent triumph of the French arms, to all the various princes of India, not forgetting even the great Mogul, and he received from all quarters the most flattering compliments on his own ability, and the valour of his nation. For the time, the French were regarded as the greatest European power in the Deccan, and the English, who had not only lost their own settlement, but failed to capture that of their rivals, sunk into contempt. Seven days after the retirement of the English force, information was received of the suspension of hostilities in Europe, which ended in the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, and Madras was restored to the East India Company.
This war, of little more than two years’ duration, opens a new era in the politics of India. In 1746, neither the English nor the French were viewed by the native rulers in any other light than as inoffensive traders. By the end of 1748, they had come out as great military powers
whose alliance or opposition was an object of importance to the princes of the country. It might have been expected that on the return of peace both parties would lay aside their armour, and return to the counting-house. But as the eloquent historian of these transactions, who was at the time at Madras, observes, “The war had brought to Pondicherry and Fort St. David, a number of troops greatly superior to any which either of the two nations had assembled in India, and as if it was impossible that a military force which feels itself capable of enterprises should refrain from attempting them, the two settlements, no longer authorised to fight with each other, took the resolution of employing their arms in the contests of the princes of the country; the English with great indiscretion, the French with the utmost ambition.”
The English were the first to take the field. The little principality of Tanjore, seventy miles long and sixty in breadth, with the history of which the reader is already acquainted, was at this time governed by Pretap Sing, the fifth in succession from the Mahratta chieftain who had conquered it. His brother, Sahoojee, who had been deposed for his imbecility, applied to the governor of Madras to reseat him on the throne, engaging to defray all the expenses of the expedition and to cede the town and district of Devi-cotta, at the mouth of the Coleroon. The English had no right to interfere in this foreign quarrel, but their troops were unemployed, and the opportunity was very tempting. This forms, perhaps, the only instance during a century of warfare of an expedition undertaken by them without any plea of necessity. The force which was sent to conquer Tanjore consisted of 430 Europeans and 1,000 sepoys, with eight field pieces and mortars, under the command of Major Stringer Lawrence, the first of that long train of heroes who have rendered the British name illustrious on the plains of Hindostan. The commencement of the siege was inauspicious. The typhoon which ushered in the monsoon, sunk some of the largest of the ships, and inflicted such destruction
on the army as to oblige the Major to retire to Porto Novo to refit. It would be tedious to follow the varied events of the siege, which was our first and most clumsy attempt to take an Indian fort, and which derives its chief interest from the circumstance that it afforded the first opportunity for developing the genius of Clive. The fort was captured after two unsuccessful attacks; but it had now become manifest to the Madras Presidency that the cause of our protegée was unpopular and hopeless. The raja of Tanjore, menaced by Chunda Sahib, offered to defray all the expenses incurred by the Company in war, to cede Devi-cotta with the district around it, and to grant a pension of 50,000 rupees a year to his disinherited brother. These terms were accepted, and the troops returned to Madras.
While the English army was thus wasting its strength on the walls of Devi-cotta, Dupleix was playing a higher game. He had seen a thousand European troops disperse an army of ten thousand native soldiers like a flock of sheep, and he had received the congratulations of the native princes on the success of his arms. He had at his disposal an army capable of any enterprise, and, in Bussy, a general fit to command it. He determined, therefore, to take advantage of the confusion of the times, and the prestige he had acquired, to set up a French empire in the Deccan. Chunda Sahib was considered by the natives of the Carnatic, the ablest soldier in the country, and the only man who could deliver them from the yoke of the hated Anwar-ood-deen, and Dupleix at once perceived how greatly his ambitious projects would be forwarded if Chunda Sahib were placed on the throne of the Carnatic by his instrumentality. He accordingly opened a correspondence with that prince, who had been a prisoner for eight years at Satara, through the medium of his wife who was residing at Pondicherry under the protection of the French government. After much negotiation Dupleix succeeded in obtaining the liberation of Chunda Sahib by the payment of seven lacs of rupees, and he appeared on the
confines of the Carnatic with 6,000 troops whom he had enlisted, when the death of the old Nizam, at Hyderabad, gave a new turn to public affairs.
Towards the end of 1748 Nizam-ool-moolk, the soobadar of the Deccan, the great founder of the kingdom of Hyderabad, closed his long and eventful career at the age of a hundred and four. His eldest son, Ghazee-ood-deen, was at the time high in office at Delhi. His second son, Nazir Jung, who was with his father at the period of his decease and in command of the army, immediately seized the public treasure and the supreme authority, giving out that his elder brother had resigned the office of soobadar to him. But there was a grandson of the old Nizam whom he had cherished with great affection, and who now aspired to this honour. He affirmed that it had been conferred on him by the emperor himself, with the title of Mozuffer Jung, and he assembled an army of 25,000 men with which he hovered on the west of Golconda, watching the opportunity of action. Chunda Sahib, bearing of the position and designs of the young prince, immediately offered him the service of his sword. He was received in the camp with open arms, and his troops were at once taken into the pay of Mozuffer, who was persuaded to appoint him Nabob of the Carnatic, and to march, in the first instance, to the conquest of that province, on the ground that its resources would be invaluable in the struggle with Nazir Jung. A communication was at the same time made to Dupleix, inviting him to join the confederacy, and offering him great advantages for the French Company. The proposal, if it did not originate with Dupleix, was most acceptable to him, and a contingent of 400 Europeans and 2,000 sepoys was immediately sent to join the confederates. Their united force, swelled in its progress to 40,000 men, entered the Carnatic and began to levy contributions. The Nabob, Anwar-ood-deen, advanced to repel the invasion with a force of only half that number, and a battle was fought in July, 1749, at Amboor, fifty miles from Arcot, which decided the fate of
the Carnatic. The army of the Nabob was completely routed, chiefly through the valour of Bussy’s troops; the Nabob himself was shot dead in the action, and his son, Mahomed Ali, fled to Trichinopoly, where the family and the treasures of the deceased Nabob had been deposited.
Mozuffer Jung marched the next day to Arcot, and assumed the state and dignity of soobadar of the Deccan, conferring the government of the Carnatic on Chunda Sahib. From thence they proceeded together to Pondicherry, where Dupleix received them with all the oriental ceremonies due to the rank they had assumed, and was rewarded by the grant of eighty-one villages. Mahomed Ali, on his arrival at Trichinopoly, came to the conclusion that it could not be successfully defended against the victorious army of Chunda Sahib, backed by his French allies, although it was one of the strongest and most important fortresses in the south. He sent, therefore, to implore the assistance of the English governor of Madras, who was, however, without any instructions for such an emergency. The Madras Council had bitterly repented of their wild expedition to Devi-cotta, and were anxious not to involve their masters again in the risk of alliances and disputes with the native powers. At the same time, they could not shut their eyes to the danger arising from the ambitious schemes of Dupleix, and the ascendancy he was acquiring in the Carnatic. But they were incapable of that resolution which the crisis demanded, and they aided Mahomed Ali only with the contemptible force of 120 men, while by an act of incredible fatuity they sent back the fleet with the greater part of the land forces to England. Dupleix urged Chunda Sahib to lose no time in marching against Trichinopoly, where the adherents of the deceased Nabob were maturing their plans, and he placed 800 French troops at his disposal. But Chunda Sahib had an old quarrel to settle with the raja of Tanjore, and was resolved to exact a heavy contribution from him. He immediately marched against that town, and,
after two months had been wasted in the siege, the raja engaged to pay down seventy lacs of rupees to the allies, and to cede more than eighty villages to the French, around their settlement at Carical. With the view of gaining time, he doled out the money in driblets, but before the first instalment had been counted down, Dupleix informed the allies that Nazir Jung was approaching the Carnatic with an overwhelming force; upon which they broke up their encampment in dismay, and retired to the Vicinity of Pondicherry.
The army with which Nazir Jung entered the Carnatic to drive out the two adventurers did not fall short of 300,000 men, one-half of whom consisted of cavalry, and a tenth of mercenary Mahrattas, with 800 guns and 1,300 elephants. He summoned to his standard all the tributaries of Hyderabad, and, among others, the Patan nabobs of Cuddapah, Kurnool, and Savanore. Their ancestors had held those districts under the crowns of Beejapore and of Golconda, and they themselves were at the head of the Patans, who were constantly streaming down from Afghanistan to seek employment and plunder in India. The encampment of Nazir Jung was established at Valdore, about fifteen miles from Pondicherry, and the Governor of Madras sent an English force of 600 Europeans to join it under Major Lawrence. Dupleix, on his part, augmented the French contingent with Mozuffer Jung and Chunda Sahib to 2,000 European bayonets. But on the eve of the day fixed for battle, thirteen French officers, who were dissatisfied with their share of the treasure obtained from the raja of Tanjore, basely deserted their colours and returned to Pondicherry. The soldiers were panic struck, and followed their example. Chunda Sahib fought his way back gallantly to the French settlement, but Mozuffer Jung surrendered himself to his uncle, who took an oath to protect him, and then placed him in captivity.
The ambitious schemes of Dupleix were interrupted
by this reverse, but he showed himself as great an adept in oriental intrigue as if he had been bred a Mahomedan courtier. He immediately opened a negotiation with Nazir Jung, and was allowed to send an envoy to his camp, who had thus an opportunity of ascertaining the precise position of affairs. Though the mission of his emissary was not successful, he discovered that the three Patan nabobs mentioned above were dissatisfied with the proceedings of the Nizam, and ready to revolt. Dupleix established a correspondence with them, and, with the view of securing their confidence and intimidating the Nizam, sent an expedition to Masulipatam, and captured the fort; attacked the camp of Mahomed Ali, and, after a prodigious slaughter, constrained him to fly with only one or two attendants, and then seized on Ginjee, the stronghold of the south, the siege of which had detained Zulfikar Khan nine years. These daring exploits at length roused Nazir Jung from the voluptuous sloth in which he was buried at Arcot, and induced him to send two of his officers to renew the negotiations with Dupleix. But Dupleix, seeing the game in his own hands, rose in his demands, and required the liberation of Mozuffer Jung and the restoration of his estates, together with the acknowledgment of Chunda Sahib as Nabob of the Carnatic, and the cession of Masulipatam and its dependencies to the French.
Nazir Jung, indignant at these audacious proposals, instantly ordered his army to march against the French. Though it had been reduced in number by the dismissal of many detachments, fifteen days were occupied in marching a distance of only thirty miles. Scarcity and disease began to thin its ranks, and the Nabob, weary of a war in which he had wasted a twelvemonth to no purpose, conceded all the demands of Dupleix, and they were embodied in a treaty. But Dupleix had been for seven months in correspondence with the discontented nabobs, and on the
maturity of the scheme, had ordered his commandant at Ginjee to proceed against the camp of Nazir Jung, as soon as he received a requisition from them. Their summons unfortunately reached him before the ratification of the treaty, in total ignorance of which, he marched on the 4th of December, 1749, towards the Nizam’s camp, with 800 Europeans and 3,000 sepoys. After a long and fatiguing march of sixteen miles, he came in sight of it as it stretched over an area of eighteen miles, and immediately commenced the attack. His small force was repeatedly charged by different divisions of the enemy, but his field-pieces shattered their ranks, and by mid-day half their army was in flight. Nazir Jung could not credit the report, that the French with whom he had just concluded a treaty were engaged in attacking his troops; but when he was assured of the fact, he rode up with indignant haste to the three nabobs, who were marching to join the French, and singling out the Nabob of Cuddapah, reproached him with his cowardice and treachery The Nabob lodged two balls in the heart of his unfortunate master, and having caused his head to be struck off, hastened to present it to Mozuffer Jung.
Mozuffer Jung was immediately released from confinement, and saluted Soobadar of the Deccan. “Never,” remarks the great historian of this period, “since the days of Cortez and Pizarro, did so small a force decide the fate of so large a sovereignty.” The new Nizam proceeded to Pondicherry, and was welcomed with a grand display of eastern pomp. The day following his arrival he was installed as Soobadar, and Dupleix, arrayed in the gorgeous robes of a Mahomedan omra, appeared as the chief actor in the pageant. Chunda Sahib was declared Nabob of the Carnatic, and Dupleix was nominated governor on the part of the Mogul, of all the country lying south of the Kistna, Thus had this daring politician, in the brief space of twenty months, outrun even his own large scheme of ambition. He had not only created a Nabob of the Carnatic, but even a
Viceroy of the Deccan, and had obtained the supreme control of a kingdom larger than France.
But Mozuffer Jung was not to enjoy this dignity long. After having made a profuse distribution of the treasures of Nazir Jung, amounting to two crores of rupees among his partisans, he left Pondicherry on his return to Hyderabad on the 4th of January, 1751, accompanied by a French force of 300 Europeans and 2,000 sepoys, under the command of Bussy. He had not proceeded more than sixty leagues, when the three Patan nabobs, who were dissatisfied with the rewards they had received on the occasion of his elevation, broke into open rebellion. Bussy’s force was immediately called forth, and his artillery swept down their battalions; the treacherous Nabob of Savanore was hacked to pieces, and the revolt was quenched in the blood of those who had excited it. But the irritated Nizam, rejecting the sound advice of Bussy, insisted on the pursuit of the fugitives, and was struck dead by the javelin of the nabob of Kurnool, who was in his turn slain in the conflict. The whole camp was thrown into the greatest confusion by this unexpected event, but Bussy never lost his presence of mind. He assembled the bewildered generals and ministers, and, such was the influence he had acquired, that he induced them to confer the vacant dignity on Salabut Jung, the third son of the old Nizam, who was then a prisoner in the camp. Tranquillity was immediately restored, and the army resumed its progress. Leaving it now to pursue its march to the north, we turn to the movements of Chunda Sahib.
Chunda Sahib proceeded from Pondicherry with 8,000 of his own troops and 800 French auxiliaries to Arcot, in February, 1751, to receive homage as Nabob of the Carnatic, and then advanced to the siege of Trichinopoly. Mr. Saunders, now Governor of Madras, felt that a great error had been committed in permitting Dupleix to obtain such a footing in the south, and he resolved to counteract his schemes by a more decisive support of the
cause of Mahomed Ali. A large detachment was accordingly sent to the relief of the small English garrison cooped up in the fort of Trichinopoly, but the troops of our ally scarcely exceeded a tenth of those assembled under the banner of Chunda Sahib. Captain Clive, who accompanied the reinforcement, returned to Madras and urged on the Governor the importance of creating a diversion, and suggested an expedition to Arcot, the capital of the Carnatic.
Clive, the founder of the British empire in India, had gone out to Madras in the civil service of the East India Company in 1744, and was present at the surrender of that town to Labourdonnais, two years after. Following the bent of his genius, he exchanged the pen for the sword, and obtained an ensign’s commission. He distinguished himself in the operations before Devi-cotta, where he attracted the admiration of Major Lawrence. He was also at the abortive and disastrous siege of Pondicherry under admiral Boscawen. Mr. Saunders adopted his advice, and confided the Arcot expedition to his charge, though he was only twenty-six years of age at the time. The only force that could be spared from Madras consisted of 200 Europeans, and 300 sepoys, and eight field pieces. Of the eight officers who accompanied it one-half were civilians, attracted to the expedition by the example of Clive, and six of them had never been in action. But Clive had seen from the ramparts of Madras a mere handful of Europeans defeat and disperse ten thousand native soldiers; and he had confidence in his own powers. During the march of the troops they were overtaken by a violent storm of thunder, lightning, and rain; but they continued their progress with the utmost coolness, and this circumstance impressed the superstitious garrison with so exalted an idea of their prowess, that they were allowed to enter the fort without opposition. The expedition produced the desired effect; Chunda Sahib was obliged to detach a large force to Arcot, and the pressure on the English garrison at Trichinopoly was alleviated.
The fort of Arcot was more than a mile in circumference, with a low and lightly-built parapet; several of the towers were decayed, and the ditch, where not fordable, was dry and choked up. From the day of its occupation, Clive had been incessantly employed in repairing the defences, but the place seemed little capable of standing a siege. Of his eight officers, one had been killed and two wounded in successive encounters with the enemy, and a fourth had returned to Madras. The troops fit for duty had been reduced by casualties and disease to 120 Europeans and 200 sepoys, and it was with this small body that Clive sustained, for seven weeks, the incessant assaults of 10,000 native troops and 150 Europeans. On the last day of the siege the enemy endeavoured to storm the fort, but, during a conflict which lasted more than eighteen hours, they were repulsed on every point, and the next morning were seen to break up their encampment and retire. “Thus ended this memorable siege,” as Orme remarks, “maintained fifty days, under every disadvantage of situation and force, by a handful of men, in their first campaign, with a spirit worthy of the most veteran troops, and conducted by the young commander with indefatigable activity, unshaken confidence, and undaunted courage; and notwithstanding he had at this time neither read books or conversed with men capable of giving him much instruction in the military art, all the resources, which he employed in the defence of Arcot were such as were dictated by the best masters in the art of war.” His character was completely defined in a single expression of the great minister of England, William Pitt, when he styled him the “heaven-born general.”
Chunda Sahib still continued to beleaguer Trichinopoly with a large force, and Mahomed Ali was induced, by his terror, to invite the aid of the regent of Mysore and Morari Rao, the Mahratta chief of Gooty, as well as the general of the Tanjore troops. Clive, on his return from Arcot, proceeded to Trichinopoly, and was
employed in various enterprises of a minor character, which, however, served to mature his military talents. The campaign was brought to an early and successful issue by Major Lawrence, who, in June, 1752, compelled the French commander Law, to surrender at discretion, with all his troops, stores, and artillery. Chunda Sahib, deserted by his own officers, yielded himself up to the Tanjorine general, who appeared to be the least inveterate of his enemies. The general took the most solemn oath to conduct him in safety to a French settlement, but immediately after caused him to be assassinated, at the instigation of Mahomed Ali, who, after feasting his eyes with the sight of his murdered rival, bound his head to the neck of a camel, and paraded it five times round the walls of the city.
The war with Chunda Sahib had no sooner terminated, than the English found themselves involved in hostilities with the allies who had co-operated with them in the cause of Mahomed Ali; so utterly impossible did they find it to shake off their connection with country politics, when once entangled in them. The Mysore regent came forward and claimed possession of Trichinopoly and its dependencies, and the Nabob was constrained to confess that he had secretly contracted to transfer the city, and the territory south of it, to the Mysore prince, as the price of his alliance. It is easy to conceive the disgust of Major Lawrence on finding that the fortress which his own government had drained their treasury to secure for the Nabob, was now to be made over to a native chief who had rendered no assistance, and whose fidelity was exceedingly doubtful. He retired in disgust to Madras taking care, however, to leave Captain Dalton, with 200 Europeans and 1,500 sepoys, to guard the citadel against the artifices of the regent. Meanwhile Dupleix, having received large reinforcements from Europe, proclaimed the son of Chunda Sahib nabob of the Carnatic, and sent a powerful force to renew the siege of Trichinopoly.
But Major Lawrence overtook
the French at Bahoor, inflicted a signal defeat on them, and a second time captured their guns and ammunition.
The Mysore regent, seeing it vain to expect the acquisition of Trichinopoly, or any portion of the sum of eighty lacs of rupees, which he demanded in lieu of it, transferred his alliance, in conjunction with Morari Rao, to the French. The town was regularly besieged by the confederates, who experienced many vicissitudes during the two years the investment lasted. These various actions it is not necessary to detail, and it may be sufficient to state that the French were three times worsted by the superior strategy of Lawrence, and that, on one occasion, the English sustained a memorable reverse. At length Morari Rao, on the receipt of three lacs of rupees from Mahomed Ali, consented to withdraw his force, and not to appear again in the field against the English, the Nabob, or the raja of Mysore. Before his departure, however, he contrived to extort a further sum from the Mysore regent, under the threat of attacking him He was the ablest and the boldest native general of his time, and his little army, composed of Mahrattas, Mahomedans, and Rajpoots, was the most compact and formidable body of native troops in the south. They had stood the assault of European troops, and, what was of more importance, the fire of field-pieces, which were now, for the first time, introduced into Indian warfare, and they had unshaken confidence in each other, and in their chief.
The French and English had now been engaged in mutual hostilities for nearly five years, madly exhausting their resources in the cause of native princes. The Court of Directors were anxious to put an end to this anomalous and wasting warfare, and, in 1753, made an earnest appeal to the ministers of the crown for aid, either to prosecute, or to terminate it. The ministry ordered a squadron and a military force to India, and then remonstrated with the French government on the proceedings of their functionaries
in the East. Anxious to avoid a war between the two countries, the French cabinet despatched M. Godeheu, one of the directors of their East India Company, to India, with orders to supersede Dupleix, to assume the control of their affairs, and bring these hostilities to an immediate close. He lauded at Pondicherry, on the 2nd of August, 1754, and all the schemes of ambition in which Dupleix had been so long engaged, were at once quenched. He immediately laid down his office; but his vanity was soothed by being allowed to retain the emblems of his “Moorish dignity – his flags, and ensigns, and instruments of music, and the dress of his nabob-ship, in which he went, in great pomp, to dine with M. Godeheu on the feast of St. Louis.”
The negotiators, M. Godeheu and Mr. Saunders, agreed upon a suspension of arms at their first meeting. A conditional treaty was soon after signed, the salient points of which were, that both parties should, for ever, “renounce all Moorish government and dignity,” and never interfere in the differences of the native princes; that the possessions held by both nations should eventually be of equal value, but that they should retain all their acquisitions till a final treaty was concluded in Europe. Mahomed Ali was, likewise, to be confirmed as Nabob of the Carnatic. The balance of advantage was on the side of the French. Independently of the Northern Sircars, held by Bussy, they remained in possession of a territory yielding eighteen lacs of rupees a year, while that occupied by the English was not of more value than ten lacs; but, the East India Company was rid of the restless ambition of Dupleix, which outweighed every other consideration. The treaty was, however, little respected by those who made it. The ink was scarcely dry before the Madras government sent an auxiliary force with the army of their Nabob, to subjugate the districts of Madura and Tinnevelly, and the French despatched a body of troops to subdue Terriore. And as to any definitive treaty in Europe, every prospect of it was extinguished
by the war, which soon after broke out between England and France.
Dupleix embarked for Europe in September, 1754. He had expended a sum exceeding thirty lacs of rupees in the public service, partly from his private estate, and partly from funds raised on his own bonds. Godeheu refused to audit his accounts, and referred the adjustment of them to the Directors of the French East India Company, in Paris, who, to their disgrace, basely disallowed the greater portion of the claim, under the pretence that these expenses had been incurred without their sanction. Dupleix was consigned to neglect and poverty – the second instance of national ingratitude towards Indian servants. He merited a different return from his own nation; for, whatever may have been the defects of his character, the French never had an officer more desirous, or more capable, of extending their reputation and power. At a time when Europeans, without exception, entertained a morbid dread of native armies, he boldly encountered them in the field, and demonstrated their weakness; and, if he had been adequately supported from France, he would probably have succeeded in the great object of his life--the establishment of a French empire in India.
Before we follow the career of Bussy, in the north, it is necessary to glance at the progress of Mahratta affairs. Sahoo, the grandson of Sevajee, who had been seated on the Mahratta throne for more than fifty years, and had always been imbecile, now exhibited signs of idiocy – dressing up a favourite dog in gold-brocade and jewels, and placing his own plumed turban on his head in open durbar. All substantial power had long since passed into the hands of the Peshwa; but the wife of Sahoo was his mortal foe, and, at this crisis, endeavoured to weaken him, by persuading her husband, now in his dotage, to adopt his kinsman the raja of Kolapore. But Tara Bye, who had taken no share in Mahratta politics for more than twenty years, since the
death of her son, now came forward and conveyed information to Sahoo, that her daughter-in-law had been delivered of a posthumous child, whose life she had succeeded with great difficulty in preserving, and who was now the nearest heir to the throne. The Peshwa, whether he believed the story or not, determined to support it, and advanced to Satara with a powerful army. Every avenue to the couch of the dying monarch was strictly guarded by his wife; but the Peshwa found the means of access to him, and induced him to affix his seal to a most extraordinary document, by which all the authority in the state was transferred to the Peshwa, on condition that he should maintain the royal title and dignity of the house of Sevajee, in the person of Tara Bye’s grandson. Sahoo died two days after the execution of this document, and the Peshwa dexterously constrained his widow to ascend the funeral pile by giving out that she had announced her intention to do so; and from such an announcement she could not recede without infamy.
Balajee Rao, the Peshwa, immediately proclaimed the adopted prince sovereign of the Mahrattas, under the title of Ram raja. The Mahratta feudatories who had been summoned to the Court, accompanied the Peshwa to Poona – thenceforward the capital of Mahratta power – to confirm and complete the provisions of Sahoo’s testament. Rughoojee Bhonslay received new sunnuds for levying chout in Bengal and Behar; the province of Malwa was divided between Holkar and Sindia, and the old cabinet of Ministers was confirmed in office. These appointments were made in the name of Ram raja, but they served to strengthen the authority of the Peshwa. The year 1750 may, therefore, be considered the period at which the power of the Mahratta state was definitively transferred to his family, and the descendant of Sevajee became a puppet at Satara. But Tara Bye, though seventy years of age, was mortified by this alienation of all power from the regal sceptre, and called to her aid the troops of the Guickwar,
now the substantive ruler of Guzerat. At the same time she urged her grandson to strike for his independence, but he had no spirit for such a task, and she reproached him bitterly with his degeneracy, and then placed him in confinement. The Peshwa, who was then on a distant expedition, hastened to Satara, and, by an act of treachery which has sullied his character, seized on the Guickwar, but left Tara Bye unmolested. He felt that by consigning the legitimate monarch to a prison she was in reality playing his game.
To return to the progress of Bussy. After the defeat of the three Patan nabobs and the elevation of Salabut Jung, he accompanied the army to Golconda, where he and his officers received the most liberal donations. In June the Nizam proceeded with great pomp to the city of Aurungabad, then considered second in magnitude and importance only to Delhi. But Ghazee-ood-deen, the elder brother of Salabut Jung, who held one of the highest posts at the court of Delhi, on hearing of the death of Nola Jung, obtained a patent of appointment as Soobadar of the Deccan, and excited the Peshwa by the promise of large jaygeers to come down and attack Salabut Jung. The Mahrattas employed all the arts of their national warfare against Bussy, to whom the Nizam had confided the management of the campaign, but the superiority of European tactics and valour baffled all their efforts. The French artillery mowed down their ranks; they were routed in every encounter, and chased back to within thirty miles of their capital. The Peshwa now hastened to offer terms of conciliation. Salabut Jung’s army was, moreover, on the verge of mutiny, for want of pay and food, and he adopted the advice of Bussy and rid himself of this troublesome foe, by a cession of territory equivalent to that which Ghazee-ood-deen had promised him. Roghoojee Bhonslay, who had also been incited to attack Salabut Jung and lay waste his territories, was bought off with similar concessions. Meanwhile, Ghazee-ood-deen himself advanced to Aurungabad with an army of 150,000 men, and immediately
dispatched an envoy to Dupleix, offering him the most brilliant advantages if he would detach the corps of Bussy from the interests of his rival and brother. To conciliate Dupleix, he went so far as to send him a sheet of blank paper with the broad seal of the Mogul empire affixed to it, for him to fill up with his own terms. But Salabut Jung cut short all his schemes by inducing his own mother to send him a poisoned dish, which she knew he would partake of, when he found that it had been prepared with her own hands.
The ascendancy which Bussy had acquired at the court of Hyderabad raised him many enemies, and even the minister, who was under the greatest obligations to him, became his determined foe, and plotted his destruction. In January, 1753, Bussy was obliged to visit the coast to recruit his health, and the minister during his absence endeavoured to break up his force by withholding the payment of their allowances, and subjecting them to a variety of insults. Bussy was obliged to return before his health was confirmed, and marched with a body of 4,500 men to Aurungabad, where the court lay. The minister, distracted by the appearance of this force, determined to seek a reconciliation, to which Bussy, who wished to avoid extremities, was not less inclined. But to avoid all future occasion of discord regarding the pay of his troops, which amounted to forty lacs of rupees a year, he obtained the cession of the four districts on the coast, generally known as the Northern Sircars. By this bold stroke the French acquired an uninterrupted line of coast, six hundred miles in extent, yielding a revenue of fifty lacs of rupees a year, which rendered them absolute masters of a greater dominion than had been in the possession of any European power in India, not excepting even the Portuguese. The districts were admirably adapted by the bounty of Providence and the industry of the inhabitants for a large and lucrative commerce; they were protected on one side by a chain of mountains, and on the other by the sea, and they afforded every facility
for the introduction of reinforcements and munitions of war into the Deccan.
The Peshwa, having completed his arrangements in the territory ceded to him by Salabut Jung and terminated his differences with Tara Bye, sent an army to levy contributions in the Carnatic, and the expedition was considered the most profitable he had ever undertaken. Where the villages and towns refused immediate compliance with the demands of the Mahrattas, the local officers were seized, and compelled by threats and sometimes by torture, to make a settlement. Where no ready money could be obtained, bills were exacted from the bankers and forcibly cashed in other parts of the country. When a garrison presumed to offer resistance it was at once put to the sword. On the cessation of the rains, Rogoonath Rao, his fighting brother – the Raghoba of British Indian history – was dispatched to plunder Guzerat. From thence he proceeded to the north with a body of Sindia’s and Holkar’s troops, and after ravaging the territories still belonging to Delhi, exacted heavy payments from the Rajpoots and Jauts.
Bussy, on his return to Hyderabad at the beginning of 1755, found Salabut Jung about to proceed to Mysore, to extort tribute. The Mysoreans then before Trichinopoly were acting in alliance with the French, but Bussy, as a feudatory, was obliged to “attend the stirrup” of his suzerain, though much against his will. The imbecile raja at Seringapatam directed his brother, the Regent, to hurry back with his troops from the Carnatic, and he was obliged to return without receiving the smallest compensation for the heavy expense incurred in the support of 20,000 troops for three years in that luckless expedition. So completely had the treasury been drained by this continued requirement that when the demand of the Nizam had been compromised, through the mediation of Bussy, for fifty-six lacs of rupees, it became necessary to despoil not only the members of the court, female as well as
male, of their jewels and plate, but also the temples of the idols. The next year Salabut Jung marched against the nabob of Savanore, who had refused to acknowledge his authority. Morari Rao had equally resisted the authority of the Peshwa, and the Peshwa and the Nizam marched against their refractory vassals with a combined army of 100,000 men. It was in the presence of this force, the flower of the Deccan soldiery, that Bussy opened fire on the fort of Savanore from his splendid artillery, in such style as to astound the allied princes, and constrain the enemy to send immediate proposals for a surrender; and an accommodation was soon after effected through his good offices.
The superiority which Bussy had exhibited in this expedition served only to inflame the animosity of the Nizam’s minister, and increase his anxiety to rid the Deccan of this foreign influence. It was even determined, if necessary, to assassinate him. As soon, therefore, as peace was concluded with Savanore, Bussy was ordered to quit the territories of the Nizam, who was said to have no farther occasion for his services. He received the message without any feeling of resentment, and immediately began his march back to Masulipatam, but at the same time desired the government of Pondicherry to dispatch every soldier who could be spared to that port without any delay. On the departure of Bussy the minister of the Nizam applied to Madras for a body of English troops to aid in completing the expulsion of the French from the state. The two nations were then at peace, and a convention had been entered into which bound the two Companies to avoid all interference in the quarrels of the native powers. But the bait was too tempting to be resisted, and the government of Madras was on the point of sending a large force to demolish the power of Bussy in the Deccan, when intelligence arrived of the sack of Calcutta, and another direction was given to the expedition. Bussy, while yet two hundred miles from the coast, found his ammunition running short and his military chest
exhausted, and turned aside to Hyderabad, where his influence would more readily procure supplies of every kind. On the 14th of June, 1756, he took up a position at Charmaul, in the neighbourhood of the city. Salabut Jung, whom he had raised from a prison to the throne, summoned every tributary and dependent in the kingdom to his standard, and brought its whole strength down to crush his benefactor. Bussy defended himself with his usual skill and gallantry for nearly two months, but his position was daily becoming more critical, when Law, marching up from the coast with reinforcements through a wild and mountainous track, and baffling a corps of 25,000 men sent to oppose him, succeeded in forming a junction with his chief at Charmaul. Salabut Jung, in a fever of alarm, sent proposals of peace, which Bussy was not unwilling to accept, and his authority became more firmly established in the Deccan than ever.
Towards the close of the year, Bussy proceeded to the districts assigned to him on the coast, to restore his authority, which had been impaired during the recent conflict, and he devoted the next year to the regulation of the government, in which he exhibited not less talent than he had shown in the field. Early in the year, he received a pressing request from the young Nabob of Moorshedabad, to march up and assist him in expelling Clive from Bengal; but, on hearing of the capture of Chandernagore and the imbecility of the Nabob, he resolved not to move out of his province. But, as war had now been declared between France and England, he proceeded to capture Vizagapatam and the other English factories on the coast, but he treated the officers with the utmost liberality. During his absence from the court of Salabut Jung, that helpless prince was threatened with destruction by the machinations of his unprincipled minister, who had taken possession of the fortress of Dowlutabad, and of his own ambitious brothers, one of whom, Nizam Ali, had obtained possession of the royal seal, and usurped the authority of the state. The Mahrattas did
not, of course, fail to throw themselves into the arena, when they saw the prospect of booty. The crown was falling from the head of Salabut Jung, and the country was on the eve of a convulsion, when Bussy started with his army from Rajmundry, and, traversing a country never seen by Europeans, reached Aurungabad, a distance of 400 miles, in twenty-one days. There he found four armies assembled by the different parties to take a share in the struggle for power and plunder. His sudden appearance, with a force which all were obliged to respect, combined with the natural ascendancy of his character, at once extinguished all intrigues. The authority of Salabut Jung was restored; the venomous minister was killed in a tumult provoked by his own devices; Nizam Ali was constrained to fly to Boorhanpore; and Bussy, by a coup d’état, secured the citadel of Dowlutabad, the strongest in the Deccan.
Bussy, who had for seven years exercised the chief influence on the destinies of the Deccan, had now reached the summit of his grandeur. The provinces on the coast, which were governed with great wisdom and moderation, furnished abundant resources for the support of his troops, and he had secured an impregnable stronghold in the heart of the country. He had placed the interests of his nation on a foundation not to be shaken by ordinary contingencies. With a genius which was in every respect fully equal to that of Clive, he had succeeded in establishing the authority of France in the southern division of India, to the same extent as the authority of England had been established in the north; and it appeared, at the time, by no means improbable, that the empire of India would be divided between the two nations. But the power of the one was destined to permanence and expansion, the prospects of the other were swept away by the folly of one man. At the commencement of the war in 1756, Lally was sent out as Governor-General of the French possessions in India, and immediately on his arrival, partly from caprice and partly
from envy, ordered Bussy to repair to Pondicherry, with all the troops not absolutely required for the protection of the maritime provinces. Bussy, who considered obedience the first duty of a soldier, withdrew his garrison from Dowlutabad; and, to the unutterable surprise of the native princes, who trembled at the sound of his name, retired with all his troops from the Deccan, just at the time when he had become arbiter of its fate. He took leave of Salabut Jung on the 18th of June, 1758; and, with his departure, the aim of French prosperity in India sunk, never to rise again.
The command of the armament which the French government fitted out in 1756, to extinguish the British commerce in India, was committed to Count Lally. He was descended from one of those Irish Roman Catholic families who had emigrated to France after the expulsion of James the Second. He inherited that implacable hatred of England which the exiles carried with them, and was, therefore, fitted, as much by his own animosities, as by his military talents, for the mission on which he was sent. He had been more than forty years in military service, and had gained some distinction in the field; but, with all his bravery, he was headstrong, rash, and arrogant. He proceeded to India with a powerful fleet and army, and, after an indecisive action with the English at sea, landed at Pondicherry in April, 1758. Before twenty-four hours had elapsed he was on his march to the English settlement of Fort St. David. It was garrisoned by 870 Europeans and 1,600 sepoys, and, but for the extraordinary incapacity of the commander, might have made an honourable defence; but it was scandalously surrendered after a siege of only a month. The fortifications were immediately razed by Lally.
The government of Madras naturally concluded that Fort St. George would be the next object of the victorious general, and they called in the garrisons from the subordinate stations, and prepared for a vigorous defence. Fortunately for them, Lally was as resolutely
thwarted by the civil authorities at Pondicherry, as Labourdonnais had been in 1746, and his movements were, at the same time, crippled for want of resources. To obtain a supply of money he looked, in the first instance, to Tanjore. Seven years before this time, the raja, pressed by the demands of Mozuffer Jung and Chunda Sahib, had given them a bond for fifty-six lacs of rupees, which, as being of little value, they had made over to their French allies. This document Lally determined now to turn to account, and proceeded with his army to enforce payment. The town was besieged for more than a fortnight, a practical breach had been made in the walls, when an English fleet suddenly appeared on the coast, off the factory of Carical, on which the French army depended for its supplies. Lally, who had only twenty cartridges left for each soldier, and but two days’ provisions in the camp, was obliged to raise the siege and return to Pondicherry, poorer than he had left it. To his infinite chagrin, the French admiral resisted his pressing importunities and sailed away, with the whole fleet, to the Mauritius.
Returning from Tanjore, Lally marched in the first instance to Arcot, which the venal governor surrendered without resistance. Bussy who had now arrived in the French camp from Hyderabad, implored Lally to employ the great resources at his command in strengthening the position which the French nation had acquired in the Nizam’s dominions. But Lally’s head was filled with the magnificent project of driving the English from Madras, and then from Calcutta, and, finally, from the coasts of India. The wise counsel of Bussy was treated with contempt, and Lally scarcely condescended to read his letters. Contrary to the remonstrances of the Council at Pondicherry, he now determined to undertake the siege of Madras. The English governor had taken advantage of the respite gained while Lally was otherwise employed, to strengthen the defences and to lay in a full supply of provisions. The enemy brought up a force of 2,700 Europeans and 4,000
sepoys, with 400 European cavalry, the first ever seen in India. The garrison consisted of 1,750 Europeans and 2,200 sepoys; but they were commanded by the veteran Lawrence, supported by thirteen officers who had been trained under his own eye, in the wars on this coast. Lally sat down before the fort on the 12th of December, 1758, and the siege was prosecuted for two months with the greatest vigour. There was no lack of military skill or courage on either side. But on the 16th of February, when a breach had been made which the French were about to storm, an English fleet appeared in the roads. The French army was seized with a sudden panic, the trenches were abandoned without orders, and Lally was obliged to retreat with precipitation, leaving fifty pieces of cannon behind him.
In the course of the year there was an indecisive action at sea between the English and French fleets, and a variety of movements and counter-movements by land without any definite result. Towards the close of the year the French troops, who were twelve months in arrears, out of provisions, and in rags, unable any longer to bear their privations, broke into open mutiny. Lally succeeded, at length, in quelling the revolt, but was, at the same time, constrained to take the fatal step of dividing his force, and sending a large portion of it to the south in search of money and food. This movement gave a great advantage to the English; but they derived still greater service from the arrival of Colonel Coote, a general second only to Clive, to take the command of the army. He entered upon the campaign with his accustomed energy, and recaptured Wandewash, which the French had occupied in the previous year. In January, 1760, Lally moved up to retrieve this loss, and Coote compelled him to fight, to great disadvantage, in the neighbourhood of the town, which has given its name to the battle. Independently of sepoys, the French brought 2,250 and the English 1,900 Europeans into the field on this occasion. Lally sustained a complete and disastrous defeat, and Bussy
was taken prisoner; but, in consideration of his high character and his generous conduct to the English in the Northern Sircars, was immediately allowed to return to Pondicherry. Victory appeared now to desert the French standard. During the year 1760, Coote succeeded in depriving Lally of all the places he had taken, and Ginjee and Pondicherry were at length the only possessions remaining to the French. Lally’s troops were not only without provisions, stores, or equipments, but without hope of obtaining any. The supplies from Europe had ceased. The settlements of the French, in Africa, in the West Indies, and in Canada, were attacked with such vigour as to leave them no leisure to attend to their affairs in the east. The extinction of the hope they had cherished of establishing an empire in India may thus be traced, indirectly, to those energetic measures by which William Pitt, the great minister of England, defeated their attempts to establish an empire in America.
Coote now prepared for the siege of Pondicherry, when an event occurred which had well nigh marred the prospects of the campaign. The fleet from England brought a new commission to Col. Monson, the second in command, which virtually superseded Coote. Instructions were, it is true, given that the commission should not be acted on during the continuance of the war, but Coote at once yielded the command of the expedition to the man whom the authorities at home had thought fit to put over his head, and retired to Madras. The gallant Lawrence had, in like manner, been superseded on a previous occasion, and this is, unfortunately, not the only instance we shall have to notice in the course of this narrative in which Government has deposed a general from his command in the full tide of victory. In the present case there was at least this excuse for the conduct of the people at home, that they were at the time ignorant of the great merit and brilliant success of Coote. Monson was baffled and wounded in his first independent enterprise, and requested Coote to resume the command of
operations, which he did not hesitate to do. Pondicherry was now subject to a close blockade. The brave garrison held out till, even at the scanty rations to which they had been reduced, provisions were left only for two days. Lally, worn out with fatigue, ill health, and vexation, capitulated on the 14th of January. As the victors marched into the town, their feelings were strongly affected by the skeleton figures to which the noblest forms in the two French regiments had been reduced by long and painful privation. Pondicherry was levelled with the ground. The instructions sent to Lally by his own government to annihilate the English settlements which he might capture had fallen into the hands of the Court of Directors, and they issued orders to retaliate, and in the course of a few months not a roof was left of this once fair and flourishing colony.
Thus ended a war between the English and French for the exclusive possession of commerce and power in India, which, with the exception of less than a twelvemonth, had lasted for fifteen years, and it terminated by leaving the French without an ensign in the country. Their settlements were restored at the Peace of Paris, two years subsequently, but they have never again been able to raise their heads in India. Lally returned to Paris, and was thrown into the Bastile. The French ministry were happy to be able to turn the popular indignation created by the loss of India, from themselves on the unfortunate commander. A charge of high treason was brought against him which deprived him of the benefit of counsel, and he was condemned to death by the Parliament of Paris, drawn through the streets on a dung-cart, and executed the same day: “a murder committed by the sword of justice.” Thus had the French government, in the course of fifteen years, destroyed three of their most eminent citizens, who had laboured with unexampled zeal and the highest patriotism to promote the national interests; and the expulsion of the French Company from the shores of India ceases to raise any emotion of regret
when it is viewed as the just retribution of their iniquitous proceedings.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage