Home >> Chamber's Encyclopedia, Volume 4 >> Organs And Process Op to The Railway Clearing House >> Robert Clive

Robert Clive

india, native, english, england, influence and found

CLIVE', ROBERT, Lord, Baron of Plassey, one of the greatest warrior-statesmen of whom England can boast, the founder of British supremacy in India, was b. at Styclie, in Shropshire, 1725. At school he exhibited little aptitude for learning, but was noted for his mischievous propensities and his fearless disposition. The monotony of a clerk ship in the India Civil Service at Madras, where he arrived in 1744, had literally nearly been the death of him; it was with great joy, therefore, that he abandoned the pen for the sword, when, some three years after his arrival, the troubles accumulating upon the English in India gave him an opportunity of doin so. C. had now found his true sphere. The bold, fearless character had now scopillotmOugh for its development; the intellect which, chained to the desk, had seemed of the dullest and most common-place kind, in the freedom of the field became at once quick, comprehensive, and original. When C. grasped the sword, English influence in India was almost extinct ; the French and their allies had scarcely left them even a material footing. Yet, in less than a half a dozen years after, C. had, in Aug., 1751, with 200 English infantry and 300 sepoys, marched out of Fort St. David on his hazardous enterprise to attack Arcot, a city of 100,000 inhabitants, and garrisoned by 1,200 or 1,500 of Chunda Sahib's best troops, amply supplied with artillery, the decisive battle of Plassey had been fought, and Eng lish power established on the ruin of that of France and the native princes. The daring displayed in the capture of Arcot, and the intrepidity and fortitude exhibited in its defence by C. and his little band, reduced to 200 men, against an army of 10,000, was the foundation of England's subsequent greatness and glory in India. C.'s name hence forward was a tower of strength in India, where he was surnamed by the natives Sabot Jung, or " the Daring in War." Victory marched with him alike against native war riors, French, and Mitch. Unscrupulous as to his means, he would undoubtedly have found himself involved in many difficulties had not his questionable actions been inva riably crowned, and thus—in the lax political notions of the time—justified, by success.

Nothing remaining for him to do in India, lie returned to England in 1760, and received the warm thanks of the company and an Irish peerage from the government for his ser vices. His wealth, arising from shares in various spoils, presents, and grants of terri tory from native princes, was enormous. After his departure from India, the com pany's affairs, through the dishonesty of its servants, high and low, fell into a state of the greatest confusion, and C., in 1764, was chosen to set them right. He proved him self as competent an administrator as he was a warrior. Uncompromising and resolute, he bore down every opposition to his plans, all the more sternly that he found it in sonic cases assuming the form of threats. In less than 18 months, he had "restored perfect order and discipline in both the civil and military services, and brought back prosperity to the well-nigh ruined finances of the company." Ile returned to England in 1767. and was received with the distinction to which his important services entitled him. But the energetic way in which lie had righted matters in India, gave offence to those who suffered from the suppression of dishonest practices, many of whom were not without considerable influence in the mother-country. This influence they employed to stir up ill-feeling against C.; and his proceedings in India were made the subject of animadversion in parliament in 1772, and, in the following year, matter for the inquiry of a select parliamentary committee; who, however, failed to find that C. had acquired his great wealth by abuse of power, as his enemies had asserted. The form of acquit tal, however, was not quite satisfactory to C., who never got over the disgrace implied in time trial ; and ended his life by suicide, Nov. 22, 1774.