|[16 -- Back to England in 1767, where enmity awaits him both from the "Nabobs," and as a "Nabob"]||*NOTES BY VINCENT A. SMITH,
|His second return from Bengal was not, like his first, greeted by the acclamations of his countrymen. Numerous causes were already at work which embittered the remaining years of his life, and hurried him to an untimely grave. His old enemies at the India House were still powerful and active; and they had been reinforced by a large band of allies whose violence far exceeded their own. The whole crew of pilferers and oppressors from whom he had rescued Bengal persecuted him with the implacable rancour which belongs to such abject natures. Many of them even invested their property in India stock, merely that they might be better able to annoy the man whose firmness had set bounds to their rapacity. Lying newspapers were set up for no purpose but to abuse him; and the temper of the public mind was then such, that these arts, which under ordinary circumstances would have been ineffectual against truth and merit, produced an extraordinary impression.||
The hostility to Clive is expressed with intense bitterness in the Life (1775) which bears the name of Caraccioli.
|The great events which had taken place in India had called into existence a new class of Englishmen, to whom their countrymen gave the name of Nabobs. These persons had generally sprung from families neither ancient nor opulent; they had generally been sent at an early age to the East; and they had there acquired large fortunes, which they had brought back to their native land. It was natural that, not having had much opportunity of mixing with the best society, they should exhibit some of the awkwardness and some of the pomposity of upstarts. It was natural that, during their sojourn in Asia, they should have acquired some tastes and habits surprising, if not disgusting, to persons who never had quitted Europe. It was natural that, having enjoyed great consideration in the East, they should not be disposed to sink into obscurity at home; and as they had money, and had not birth or high connection, it was natural that they should display a little obtrusively the single advantage which they possessed. Wherever they settled there was a kind of feud between them and the old nobility and gentry, similar to that which raged in France between the farmer-general and the marquess. This enmity to the aristocracy long continued to distinguish the servants of the Company. More than twenty years after the time of which we are now speaking, Burke pronounced that among the Jacobins might he reckoned "the East Indians almost to a man, who cannot bear to find that their present importance does not bear a proportion to their wealth."||
The allusion is to the state of FRance before the Revolution. The right to collect taxes used to be granted or sold to lessees or farmers-general. Similar arrangements with thikadars were common in India. Marquess, or 'marquis', was a commonly-used French title of nobility.
The Jacobins were the extreme party among the French revolutionists (1791-94). Burke used the term to include all persons of republican opinions and hostile to the upper classes. 'Jacobins' must not be confounded with the 'Jacobites' (see the *note on the Jacobites*). The name came from the Jacobin Club, to which some of the early French leaders belonged. The East Indians here means the retired servants of the Company -- an unusual sense.
|The Nabobs soon became a most unpopular class of men. Some of them had in the East displayed eminent talents, and rendered great services to the state; but at home their talents were not shown to advantage, and their services were little known. That they had sprung from obscurity, that they had acquired great wealth, that they exhibited it insolently, that they spent it extravagantly, that they raised the price of everything in their neighbourhood, from fresh eggs to rotten boroughs, that their liveries outshone those of dukes, that their coaches were finer than that of the Lord Mayor, that the examples of their large and ill-governed households corrupted half the servants in the country, that some of them, with all their magnificence, could not catch the tone of good society, but, in spite of the stud and the crowd of menials, of the plate and the Dresden china, of the venison and the Burgundy, were still low men; these were things which excited, both in the class from which they had sprung and in the class into which they attempted to force themselves, the bitter aversion which is the effect of mingled envy and contempt. But when it was also rumoured that the fortune which had enabled its possessor to eclipse the Lord Lieutenant on the race-ground, or to carry the county against the head of a house as old as [the] Domesday Book, had been accumulated by violating public faith, by deposing legitimate princes, by reducing whole provinces to beggary, all the higher and better as well as all the low and evil parts of human nature were stirred against the wretch who had obtained by guilt and dishonour the riches which he now lavished with arrogant and inelegant profusion. The unfortunate Nabob seemed to be made up of those foibles against which comedy has pointed the most merciless ridicule, and of those crimes which have thrown the deepest gloom over tragedy, of Turcaret and Nero, of Monsieur Jourdain and Richard the Third. A tempest of execration and derision, such as can be compared only to that outbreak of public feeling against the Puritans which took place at the time of the Restoration, burst on the servants of the Company. The humane man was horror-struck at the way in which they had got their money, the thrifty man at the way in which they spent it. The Dilettante sneered at their want of taste. The Maccaroni black-balled them as vulgar fellows. Writers the most unlike in sentiment and style, Methodists and libertines, philosophers and buffoons, were for once on the same side. It is hardly too much to say that, during a space of about thirty years, the whole lighter literature of England was coloured by the feelings which we have described. Foote brought on the stage an Anglo-Indian chief, dissolute, ungenerous, and tyrannical, ashamed of the humble friends of his youth, hating the aristocracy, yet childishly eager to be numbered among them, squandering his wealth on pandars and flatterers, tricking out his chairmen with the most costly hot-house flowers, and astounding the ignorant with jargon about rupees, lacs, and jaghires. Mackenzie, with more delicate humour, depicted a plain country family raised by the Indian acquisitions of one of its members to sudden opulence, and exciting derision by an awkward mimicry of the manners of the great. Cowper, in that lofty expostulation which glows with the very spirit of the Hebrew poets, placed the oppression of India foremost in the list of those national crimes for which God had punished England with years of disastrous war, with discomfiture in her own seas, and with the loss of her transatlantic empire. If any of our readers will take the trouble to search in the dusty recesses of circulating libraries for some novel published sixty years ago, the chance is that the villain or sub-villain of the story will prove to be a savage old Nabob, with an immense fortune, a tawny complexion, a bad liver, and a worse heart.||
The Lord Mayor was the president of the Corporation of the City of London, a personage of great dignity during his year of office.
A stud is a stable-full of horses; the china or porcelain of Dresden in Saxony is very costly; Burgundy is an esteemed wine from the province of Burgundy in France.
In England in each county or shire, equivalent in some respects to the Indian District (zilla), there is a Lord-Lieutenant, who represents the King for certain purposes.
The Domesday Book is a revenue and statistical survey of England made by order of William the Conqueror in 1085-86. It gives full details of the land, tenants, cattle, &c. The phrase to carry the county means to win the election of a member of Parliament for the county.
Turcaret, &c., are characters in histories and plays. Turcaret was the leading character in a play of the same name by Le Sage, a French author (1668-1747). Nero was a wicked Roman emperor (A.D.54-68) of whom Tacitus, the historian, has drawn a terrible picture. Monsieur Jourdain was a character in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, a play by Moliere (1622-73), a French author. Richard III was a king of England (1483-85), the villain of Shakespeare's play, Richard III.
The Puritans were the party in the English Church opposed to the bishop and the ritual of the Prayer-book. They aimed at what they considered to be purity of religion. The name, which first came into use in the sixteenth century, was extended so as to include all persons who professed very strict morals. Oliver Cromwell may be regarded as the typical Puritan. After the Restoration of Charles II (1660) people were tired of Puritan strictness and inclined to go too far in the other direction.
Dilettante, as used here, is an old-fashioned word (Italian) meaning a person who claimed to have specially good taste in matters of fine art, pictures, and so forth. In modern usage the meaning is rather that of 'amateur', a person with only slight knowledge of art.
Maccaroni is an obsolete word (also Italian) meaning a fop, or dandy, a man over-fond of fine clothes. Black-balled means rejected. In England, at elections for clubs and societies, it is customary to put a white ball or bean into the ballot-box to signify a vote favourable to the admission of the candidate, and a black ball or bean to signify a vote for his rejection. A certain number of 'black-balls' excludes the candidate.
Methodists are a Protestant sect, the members of which follow the teaching of John Wesley, and were so named because they performed their religious duties in a regular, methodical manner. The early Methodists were members of the Church of England and sought to restore the religion of Christ to the form which they believed to be primitive, laying great stress on a life of personal holiness. John Wesley died in 1791.
Samuel Foote (1720-77) was an actor and play-writer. One of his plays is entitled The Nabob.
Chairmen were the men (=kahars) who carried the sedan-chairs (a kind of palki) commonly used in England in the eighteenth century, but long since disused. I saw one in Dublin about fifty years ago, which was said to be used by an old lady.
Henry Mackenzie (1745-1831) was an imitator of Sterne and Addison, and author of a tale called The Man of Feeling, besides some poor plays, which are no longer read.
*William Cowper* (1731-1800) was a person of more importance than Foote or Mackenzie, and is still read. He was a poet of considerable merit and an admirable letter-writer. Macaulay alludes to a poem entitled 'Expostulationi'. The loss of her transatlantic empire means the separation of the English colonies in America, now the United States, which declared their independence in 1776.
|Such, as far as we can now judge, was the feeling of the country respecting Nabobs in general. And Clive was eminently the Nabob, the ablest, the most celebrated, the highest in rank, the highest in fortune, of all the fraternity. His wealth was exhibited in a manner which could not fail to excite odium. He lived with great magnificence in Berkeley Square. He reared one palace in Shropshire and another at Claremont. His parliamentary influence might vie with that of the greatest families. But in all this splendour and power envy found something to sneer at. On some of his relations wealth and dignity seem to have sat as awkwardly as on Mackenzie's Margery Mushroom. Nor was he himself, with all his great qualities, free from those weaknesses which the satirists of that age represented as characteristic of his whole class. In the field, indeed, his habits were remarkably simple. He was constantly on horseback, was never seen but in his uniform, never wore silk, never entered a palanquin, and was content with the plainest fare. But when he was no longer at the head of an army, he laid aside this Spartan temperance for the ostentatious luxury of a Sybarite. Though his person was ungraceful, and though his harsh features were redeemed from vulgar ugliness only by their stern, dauntless, and commanding expression, he was fond of rich and gay clothing, and replenished his wardrobe with absurd profusion. Sir John Malcolm gives us a letter worthy of Sir Matthew Mite, in which Clive orders "two hundred shirts, the best and finest that can be got for love or money." A few follies of this description, grossly exaggerated by report, produced an unfavourable impression on the public mind. But this was not the worst. Black stories, of which the greater part were pure inventions, were circulated touching his conduct in the East. He had to bear the whole odium, not only of those bad acts to which he had once or twice stooped, but of all the bad acts of all the English in India, of bad acts committed when he was absent, nay, of bad acts which he had manfully opposed and severely punished. The very abuses against which he had waged an honest, resolute, and successful war were laid to his account. He was, in fact, regarded as the personification of all the vices and weaknesses which the public, with or without reason, ascribed to the English adventurers in Asia. We have ourselves heard old men, who knew nothing of his history, but who still retained the prejudices conceived in their youth, talk of him as an incarnate fiend. Johnson always held this language. Brown, whom Clive employed to lay out his pleasure grounds, was amazed to see in the house of his noble employer a chest which had once been filled with gold from the treasury of Moorshedabad, and could not understand how the conscience of the criminal could suffer him to sleep with such an object so near to his bedchamber. The peasantry of Surrey looked with mysterious horror on the stately house which was rising at Claremont, and whispered that the great wicked lord had ordered the walls to be made so thick in order to keep out the devil, who would one day carry him away bodily. Among the gaping clowns who drank in this frightful story was a worthless ugly lad of the name of Hunt, since widely known as William Huntington, S.S.; and the superstition which was strangely mingled with the knavery of that remarkable impostor seems to have derived no small nutriment from the tales which he heard of the life and character of Clive.||
Berkeley Square still is a fashionable part of London. Claremont is in the county of Surrey.
See the *note on Mackenzie*. The character apparently occurs in one of the author's plays, a work which few persons, except Macaulay, would think of reading, and which I have failed to find in the Bodleian Library.
Spartan temperance was the self-control practised by the people of Sparta, a city in ancient Greece,famous for the strictness of its laws and the simplicity of the citizens' lives.
A Sybarite was an inhabitant of Sybaris, an early Greek colony in Southern Italy, as notorious for its luxury as Sparta was for its temperance.
Sir Matthew Mite was a character in Foote's comedy, The Nabob (1778) (see *the note on Foote*), now almost forgotten. Sir Matthew is described as 'preceded by all the pomp of Asia', and is said to have 'come thundering among us'. 'Your Nabobs,' says one of the characters, 'are but a kind of outlandish creatures that won't pass current with us.'
The celebrated *Samuel Johnson* (1709-1770) was the compiler of the first important Dictionary of the English Language, and author of many works more often read in Macaulay's time than they now are.
Brown was a fashionable landscape gardener in those days employed to lay out noblemen's grounds, and known as 'Capability Brown'.
William Huntington, S.S., is no longer 'widely known'; he was a preacher, and used the initials S. S. to signify that he was a 'sinner saved', who had attained salvation.
|In the meantime, the impulse which Clive had given to the administration of Bengal was constantly becoming fainter and fainter. His policy was to a great extent abandoned; the abuses which he had suppressed began to revive; and at length the evils which a bad government had engendered were aggravated by one of those fearful visitations which the best government cannot avert. In the summer of 1770, the rains failed; the earth was parched up; the tanks were empty; the rivers shrank within their beds; and a famine, such as is known only in countries where every household depends for support on its own little patch of cultivation, filled the whole valley of the Ganges with misery and death. Tender and delicate women, whose veils had never been lifted before the public gaze, came forth from the inner chambers in which Eastern jealousy had kept watch over their beauty, threw themselves on the earth before the passers-by, and, with loud wailings, implored a handful of rice for their children. The Hoogley every day rolled down thousands of corpses close to the porticoes and gardens of the English conquerors. The very streets of Calcutta were blocked up by the dying and the dead. The lean and feeble survivors had not energy enough to bear the bodies of their kindred to the funeral pile or to the holy river, or even to scare away the jackals and vultures, who fed on human remains in the face of day. The extent of the mortality was never ascertained; but it was popularly reckoned by millions. This melancholy intelligence added to the excitement which already prevailed in England on Indian subjects. The proprietors of East India stock were uneasy about their dividends. All men of common humanity were touched by the calamities of our unhappy subjects; and indignation soon began to mingle itself with pity. It was rumoured that the Company's servants had created the famine by engrossing all the rice of the country; that they had sold grain for eight, ten, twelve times the price at which they had bought it; that one English functionary who, the year before, was not worth a hundred guineas, had, during that season of misery, remitted sixty thousand pounds to London. These charges we believe to have been unfounded. That servants of the Company had ventured, since Clive's departure, to deal in rice, is probable. That, if they dealt in rice, they must have gained by the scarcity, is certain. But there is no reason for thinking that they either produced or aggravated an evil which physical causes sufficiently explain. The outcry which was raised against them on this occasion was, we suspect, as absurd as the imputations which, in times of dearth at home, were once thrown by statesmen and judges, and are still thrown by two or three old women, on the corn factors. It was, however, so loud and so general that it appears to have imposed even on an intellect raised so high above vulgar prejudices as that of Adam Smith. What was still more extraordinary, these unhappy events greatly increased the unpopularity of Lord Clive. He had been some years in England when the famine took place. None of his acts had the smallest tendency to produce such a calamity. If the servants of the Company had traded in rice, they had done so in direct contravention of the rule which he had laid down, and, while in power, had resolutely enforced. But, in the eyes of his countrymen, he was, as we have said, the Nabob, the Anglo-Indian character personified; and, while be was building and planting in Surrey, he was held responsible for all the effects of a dry season in Bengal.||
The famine was due to failure of the rains in 1769 and 1770, the latter year corresponding with the Bengal Samvat 1276, so that the famine is known as that of the 'year 76'. Estimates of the deaths vary: some authors reckon that one-fifth of the people perished; others put the loss as high as five-eighths. India had known many awful famines in earlier ages, but none worse than this. See Hunter, Annals of Rural Bengal. [Imperial Gazetteer: *Bengal famine of 1770*]
Engrossing means buying up all the grain cheap in order to sell dear; in modern trade language 'making a corner'.
Guineas were so named because they were coins made of West African or Guinea gold; they have now been replaced by the 'sovereign', but are still used as money of account meaning twenty-one shillings; for instance, a cheque for twenty guineas is worth £21.
*Adam Smith*, a Scotchman, was the author of the Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), the first important treatise on political economy, and a truly great book.
-- on to Section 17 -- "Lord Clive" index page -- Macaulay index page -- Glossary -- fwp's main page --