Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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Part 1 of 5

Voltaire Fragments on India
Translated by Freda Bedi, B.A. Hons. (Oxon.)
Contemporary India Publication, Model Town, Lahore, India
February, 1937

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The work, first published in 1773, sees Voltaire returning to the subject of Indian history, which had interested him since the first drafts of the Essay on Morals in the 1740s. Inspired by the prospect of rehabilitating the memory of the executed General Lally, the Fragments sur Inde are in two parts: the first explores recent colonial enterprises in India and the disastrous Pondicherry campaign, which was to cost Lally his life; while the second is a more general meditation on Indian history, religion and customs.

-- Fragments on India, by Voltaire Foundation


-- The Black Hole -- The Question of Holwell's Veracity, by J. H. Little, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XI, Part 1, July-Sept., 1915

-- Full Proceedings of the Black Hole Debate, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XII. Jan – June, 1916

-- A Genuine Narrative of the deplorable Deaths of the English Gentlemen, and Others, who were suffocated in the Black Hole in Fort-William, at Calcutta, in the Kingdom of Bengal; in the Night succeeding the 20th Day of June 1756., In a Letter to a Friend, from India Tracts, by Mr. J.Z. Holwell, and Friends.

-- Important Facts regarding the East India Company's Affairs in Bengal, from the Year 1752 to 1760. This Treatise Contains an Exact State of the Company's Revenues in that Settlement; With Copies of several very interesting Letters Showing Particularly, The Real Causes Which Drew on the Presidency of Bengal the Dreadful Catastrophe of the Year 1767; and Vindicating the Character of Mr. Holwell From Many Scandalous Aspersions Unjustly Thrown Out Against Him, in an Anonymous Pamphlet, Published March 6th, 1764, Entitled, "Reflections on the Present State of Our East-India Affairs.", from India Tracts, by Mr. J.Z. Holwell, and Friends.

-- India Tracts, by Mr. J. Z. Holwell, and Friends.

-- Interesting Historical Events, Relative to the Provinces of Bengal, and the Empire of Indostan. With a Seasonable Hint and Persuasive to the Honourable The Court of Directors of the East India Company. As Also The Mythology and Cosmogony, Facts and Festivals of the Gentoo's, followers of the Shastah. And a Dissertation on the Metempsychosis, commonly, though erroneously, called the Pythagorean Doctrine. Part II. By J.Z. Holwell, Esq.

-- Forging Indian Religion: East India Company Servants and the Construction of ‘Gentoo’/‘Hindoo’ Scripture in the 1760s, by Jessica Patterson

-- French Jesuits in India and the Lettres Edifiantes, by Jyoti Mohan

-- Claiming India: French Scholars and the Preoccupation with India During the Nineteenth Century, by Jyoti Mohan

-- Natural Theology and Natural Religion, by Andrew Chignell & Derk Pereboom

-- The Enlightenment and Orientalist Discourse on the Aryan, Excerpt from Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity, by Dorothy M. Figueira

-- Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century, Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher

-- Holwell's Religion of Paradise, Excerpt from The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App

-- Fort William-India House Correspondence and Other Contemporary Papers Relating Thereto, Vol. I: 1748-1756, Edited by K. K. Datta, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of History, Patna University, Patna

-- Voltaire Fragments on India, Translated by Freda Bedi, B.A. Hons. (Oxon.)


Printed at the Ripon Printing Press, Bull Road, Lahore by Mirza Muhammad Sadiq and Published by Freda Bedi, for Contemporary India Publications, Model Town, Lahore (India)

FOREWORD

It was in 1934 that my husband, studying for his thesis brought home from the Oriental Section of the State Library in Berlin, a small, yellowed, calf-bound volume called Fragments sur l'Inde. It had been printed before the end of the eighteenth century, and was full of discrepancies of text and printing errors. The only indication of its authorship was a pencilled word ‘Voltaire' written on the back fly leaf. Investigation proved that it was a work of Voltaire, but one which had been so much neglected that no bibliography on India could be found containing a reference to it. In French, the book is not easily available in its separate form, and, since few have the energy to search the volumes of a writer’s collected works, it is not generally known. The only scholar I met during the year who knew anything about it was a charming Jesuit Father who had been teaching in Bombay, and he was naturally not enthusiastic since the book, being Voltaire’s, contained some acid references to saints and established religion.

In translating it, I have been animated not so much by a scholarly desire to add to the knowledge of the world, as by a wish to share the book with others who may find it as fascinating as I did. Had I lived in Paris or in London, rather than in the heart of the Land of the Five Rivers, I might perhaps have made a book of more academic value, and had a greater personal satisfaction in so doing. But a hard political and journalistic life does not allow me such luxuries. Instead, I have presented the book in the way I hope it will be read — as an intensely personal and acute summary of Indian affairs in the eighteenth century from the pen of a brilliant Frenchman and a brilliant satirist.

The book is, I believe, not valuable so much because it is new evidence on contemporary history, since Voltaire has used many second-hand sources, and acknowledged them, but because it is an interpretation of Indian events by one of the most acute thinkers and social rebels of his time. He was not a man to be deceived by the usual Imperialist humbug and clap-trap, which was not so very different then from what it is now; to a clear head he added a shrewd knowledge of human psychology and a sort of rebellious common-sense.

One can almost forgive Voltaire his subjective portrayal of India, given the quality of the information culled from travel accounts, missionary letters, “scholarly” works, and “translations.” Although he sought out European accounts that he felt were exempt from sectarian prejudice, he was inexorably drawn to texts glaringly slanted by Protestant anti-Catholic rhetoric, as in the case of La Croze and Niecamp. He studied those Europeans who purported to know Sanskrit, yet knew none. He studied authors who, although they had spent sufficient time in India, were nevertheless woefully ignorant of the culture. Having literally read everything available concerning India, edited and unedited, Voltaire realized only too well the necessity of basing any future discussion of India upon an authentic Sanskrit text. He, therefore, set out to discover one. After having depended so long on secondary sources, he tended to ascribe authenticity to any Sanskrit text that fell into his hands. Time and again, he was deceived by his sources.

-- The Enlightenment and Orientalist Discourse on the Aryan, Excerpt from Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity, by Dorothy M. Figueira


His remarks on the economic basis of Imperialism have an almost modern flavour, if we discount the touches of local colour:

“It is in order to provide the tables of the citizens of Paris, of London, and of other big towns with more spices than used to be consumed at one time at Princes' tables; it is in order to load simple citizens' wives with more diamonds than queens used to wear at their coronation; it is in order to infect their nostrils with a disgusting powder, to drink deep, because the fancy took them, of certain useless liquors unknown to our fathers, that a huge trade was carried on, always disadvantageous to three-quarters of Europe; and it is in order to keep up this trade that the Powers made a war on each other, in which the first cannon shots fired in our climes set fire to all the batteries in America and in the heart of Asia."


Voltaire’s treatment of his characters has a vitality often lacking in a purely historical narrative. His Lalli is a tragic, rather pitiable, figure and he seems to have a literary interest in making us understand the human side of his character. There has been a conscious dramatization of his personality and final death, as though he were the central character of a novel rather than a sober General indicted for his sins. It is this which makes the book what it is — a somewhat inaccurate but fascinating account of the early days of European Imperialism in India. We can forgive his inaccuracies for the sake of his wit!

FREDA BEDI.

MODEL TOWN
LAHORE
February 1937.

CONTENTS:  

• FOREWORD
• CHAPTER I. HISTORICAL PICTURE OP INDIAN TRADE.
• CHAPTER II. THE BEGINNING OP THE FIRST TROUBLES OF INDIA AND THE ENMITIES BETWEEN THE FRENCH AND ENGLISH COMPANIES.
• CHAPTER III. SUMMARY OF THE ACTIONS OF LA BOURDONNAYE AND DUPLEIX.
• CHAPTER IV. THE SENDING OF COUNT LALLI TO INDIA. WHO WAS THIS GENERAL? WHAT WERE HIS SERVICES BEFORE THIS EXPEDITION?
• CHAPTER V. THE STATE OF INDIA WHEN GENERAL LALLI WAS SENT THERE.
• CHAPTER VI. THE HINDUS AND THEIR MOST REMARKABLE CUSTOMS .
• CHAPTER VII. THE BRAHMANS.
• CHAPTER VIII. THE WARRIORS OF INDIA AND THE RECENT REVOLUTIONS
• CHAPTER IX. REVOLUTIONS (continued)
• CHAPTER X. DESCRIPTION OP THE COASTS OF THE PENINSULA, WHERE THE FRENCH AND ENGLISH TRADED AND MADE WAR.
• CHAPTER XI. SURVEY OF THE COAST (continued).
• CHAPTER XII. WHAT HAPPENED IN INDIA BEFORE GENERAL LALLI ARRIVED. THE HISTORY OF ANGRIA; THE ENGLISH DESTROYED IN BENGAL.
• CHAPTER XIII. THE ARRIVAL OF COUNT LALLI; HIS SUCCESSES AND FAILURES. THE ACTIONS OF A JESUIT CALLED LAVOUR.
• CHAPTER XIV. COUNT LALLI BESIEGES MADRAS. HIS MISFORTUNES BEGIN.
• CHAPTER XV. NEW MISFORTUNES OF THE INDIA COMPANY.
• CHAPTER XVI. AN EXTRAORDINARY HAPPENING IN SURAT. THE ENGLISH GAIN A VICTORY.
• CHAPTER XVII. THE CAPTURE AND DESTRUCTION OF PONDICHERRY.
• CHAPTER XVIII. LALLI AND THE OTHER PRISONERS ARE CONDUCTED TO ENGLAND AND RELEASED ON PAROLE. CRIMINAL SUIT AGAINST LALLI.
• CHAPTER XIX. THE END OF THE SUIT AGAINST LALLI. HIS DEATH.
• CHAPTER XX. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE FRENCH COMPANY IN INDIA.

CHAPTER I: HISTORICAL PICTURE OF INDIAN TRADE

Impiger extremos curris, mercator ad Indos,
Per mare, pauperiem fugiens, per faxa, per ignes.

— Hor. Epist. Lib. I. [This passage from Horace's Epistles may be translated thus: “You hasten, as a merchant, to India’s furthest bounds, fleeing from poverty over seas, over rocks, through burning heat." (Trans.)]


As soon as India became a little known to the barbarians of the West and the North, she became the object of their cupidity. This was all the more so when these barbarians, becoming civilized and industrious, created new needs for themselves.

It is well known that the seas surrounding the Equator and the East of Africa were hardly passed than there was fighting against the twenty peoples of India, of whose existence there had before been no knowledge. The Portuguese and their successors were only able to provide pepper and cloth to Europe by means of slaughter.

The peoples of Europe only discovered America in order to lay it waste and sprinkle it with blood, in return for which they obtained cocoa, indigo, and sugar, the canes of which were transported from Europe into the hot climate of this new world. They brought back some other commodities — above all quinine — but they contracted there a disease which is as terrible as it is shameful and universal, and which this bark of a tree in Peru did not cure. [There is a legend that the first explorers brought back venereal disease from South America. (Trans.)]

As for the gold and silver in Peru and Mexico, the people did not gain anything therefrom, because it is just the same whether one procures for oneself the same necessities with a hundred marks, or with one mark. It would even be very advantageous to the human race if it had very little metal which could serve as medium of exchange, because then trade is much easier. This truth is demonstrated with great force. The first possessors of the mines are, truly speaking, richer in the beginning than the others, having more of the medium of exchange in their hands, but the other peoples soon sell them goods at a proportionate price: in a very short time equality is established, and in the end the most industrious people actually become the richest.

Everybody knows what a huge and happy empire the Kings of Spain acquired at the two ends of the earth, without going out of their palaces; how Spain brought gold and silver and precious merchandise into Europe without becoming any richer thereby; and to what point she extended her dominion at the cost of depopulation.

The history of the great Dutch establishments in India is known, as is also that of the English colonies which stretch to-day from Jamaica to Hudson’s Bay — that is to say, from the neighbourhood of the tropics to that of the Pole.

The French who came in late at the partition of the two worlds lost, in the war of 1756 and the peace, all their territorial acquisitions in North America, where they possessed an area fifteen hundred leagues in length and seven to eight hundred leagues in breadth. This huge and poor country was a great burden on the State, and its loss was even more disastrous.

Almost all these vast domains, these extravagant establishments, all these wars undertaken to maintain them, were the result of the love of ease in the towns and the greed of the merchants, even more than of the ambition of rulers.

It is in order to provide the tables of the citizens of Paris, of London and of other big towns with more spices than used to be consumed at one time at Princes’ tables; it is in order to load simple citizens’ wives with more diamonds than queens used to wear at their coronation; it is in order to infect their nostrils with a disgusting powder [I.e., Snuff. (Trans.)] to drink deep, because the fancy took them, of certain useless liquors unknown to our fathers, that a huge trade was carried on, always disadvantageous to three-quarters of Europe; and it is in order to keep up this trade that the Powers made a war on each other, in which the first canon shots fired in our climes sets fire to all the batteries in America and in the heart of Asia. We always complain of taxes, and often very rightly, but we have never considered how the greatest and the harshest tax is that which we impose on ourselves by our new delicacies of taste which have become needs, and which are in reality a ruinous luxury, although they have not been given the name of luxury.

It is very true that, since Vasco de Gama who rounded for the first time the Cape of the land of the Hottentots, it is the merchants who have changed the face of the world.

The Japanese, who have experienced the turbulent and greedy restlessness of some of our European nations, were fortunate and powerful enough to close to them all their ports, and only admit each year one ship of a minor nation, whom they treat with such harshness and scorn [It is absolutely true that at the beginning of the 1738 revolution the Dutch, like others, were compelled to walk on the crucifix. (V.)] that only this small nation is able to bear it, although it is very powerful in Eastern India. The inhabitants of the vast Indian peninsula have not had this powder, nor have they had the good fortune of keeping themselves, like the Japanese, safe from foreign invasions. Their maritime provinces have been, for more than two hundred years, the theatre of our wars.

The successors of the Brahmans, of these inventors of so many arts, of these lovers and arbiters of peace, have become our agents, our paid negotiators. We have laid waste their country, we have manured it with our blood. We have shown how much we surpass them in courage and in wickedness, and how inferior we are to them in wisdom. Our European nations have killed themselves in this very land where we went only to get rich, and where the early Greeks only travelled for knowledge.

The Dutch India Company was already making rapid progress, and that of England was being formed, when in 1604 Henry the Great gave, in spite of the advice of the Duc de Sulli, the exclusive right of trading in India to a company of merchants more selfishly interested than rich and incapable of supporting themselves by their own efforts. They were only given Letters Patent, and they remained inactive.

Cardinal Richelieu created in 1642 a sort of India Company, but it was ruined in a few years. These attempts seemed to show that the French character was not as fitted for these enterprises as the alert and economical character of the Dutch, or the daring, enterprising and persevering character of the English.

Louis XIV, who sought the glory and the gain of his country by all methods, founded in 1664, at the instance of the immortal Colbert, a powerful India Company, to which he granted the most useful privileges, and which he aided with four millions from his exchequer, which would be equivalent to eight millions to-day. But, from year to year, the capital and the credit of the Company declined. The death of Colbert destroyed practically everything. The town of Pondicheri, on the Coromandel coast, was taken by the Dutch in 1693. A colony established in Madagascar was completely ruined.

The principal cause, it was believed, of the complete destruction of trade before the loss of Pondicheri was the greed of some of the administrators in India, their continual jealousies, the selfish interests which are always in conflict with the common weal, and the vanity which prefers, as it used to be said, "the appearance to the reality” — a fault often held against our nation.

We have seen with our own eyes in 1719 with what amazing prestige a new Company was born again from the ashes of the old. The fantastic system of Lass, which ruined everybody, and which brought the greatest misfortunes to France, did however revive the spirit of trade. The edifice of the India Company was re-built with the debris of this system. It seemed at first to be as flourishing as the Batavia Company; but it was only actually so in big preparations, in magazines, in fortifications, in expensive apparatus, either in Pondicheri or in the town and the port of the East in Brittany, which was conceded to it by the French Ministry, and which corresponded to its capital in India. It had an imposing appearance, but as for real profit, made by trade, it never made any. It did not give back in sixty years a single dividend in return for its goods. It did not pay any of its employees or any of its debts in France except the nine millions that the King gave yearly for the farming of tobacco: so that it was really the King who paid for it.

There were a few military officers in this Company, a few industrious agents who acquired riches in India: but the Company was ruining itself spectacularly while individuals were amassing treasure. It is not human nature to exile oneself, to travel to a people whose customs are quite the contrary to our own, whose language is difficult to learn and impossible to speak well, to expose one’s health to a climate to which one is not born; in short to work for the fortune of the merchants in the capital, without having the strong desire to make one’s own. This has been the reason of many disasters.

CHAPTER II. THE BEGINNING OF THE FIRST TROUBLES OF INDIA AND THE ENMITIES BETWEEN THE FRENCH AND ENGLISH COMPANIES

Trade, this first link between men, having become an object of warfare and a reason for devastation, the first mandatories of the English and French Companies, paid by their employers under the name of Governors, soon became Army Generals of a kind, — they would have been taken in India for Princes, for they made war as much on each other as with the Sovereigns of these provinces.  

GOVERNMENT OF THE MOGHUL.

Everyone who is quite well-informed knows that the Moghul government was, since Ghenghiz Khan and possibly a long time before that, a feudal government — almost the same as that in Germany, the same as remained for long with the Lombards, with the Spanish, as it was in England as well as France, and in practically all the States of Europe: it is the ancient administration of all the conquering Scythians and Tartars who have poured forth their invading hordes into the world. One cannot understand how the author of “The Spirit of Laws” [Montesquieu. (Trans.)] could say that feudalism is an event which happened once on this earth and which will perhaps never happen again.” Feudalism is not an event; it is a very ancient form of government, which exists in three-quarters of our hemisphere with different administrations. The Grand Moghul is like the German Emperor. The Soubaidars are the Princes of the Empire become sovereigns each in their separate provinces. The Nawabs are the possessors of big under-fiefs. These Soubaidars and Nawabs are of Tartar origin and Muslim religion. The Rajas, who also enjoy big fiefs, are for the most part of Indian origin, and of the ancient religion of the Brahmans. These Rajas possess provinces less important in character and have far less power than the Nawabs and the Soubaidars. All stories from India confirm this fact.

These Princes were seeking to destroy each other, and everything was in turmoil in these lands since the year 1739 of our era, that memorable year in which Nadir Shah, having first of all protected the Emperor of Persia, his master, and then having afterwards pulled out his eyes, came to ravage the North of India and seize the very person of the Grand Moghul. We shall speak in its place of this big revolution. Then it was a question as to who would pounce upon the provinces of this vast Empire, which were falling into dissolution themselves. All these Viceroys, Soubaidars, and Nawabs were quarrelling over the ruins; and these Princes, who had before disdained in their pride to admit French negotiators into their presence, now had recourse to them. The French and English India Companies, or rather their agents, were turn by turn the allies and the enemies of these Princes. The French had at first striking success under Governor Dupleix, but soon after the English had a more lasting one. The French could not consolidate their prosperity, and in the end the English abused theirs. This is a summary of what happened.

CHAPTER III. SUMMARY OF THE ACTIONS OF LA BOURDONNAYE AND DUPLEIX.

In the War of the Austrian Succession of 1741, rather like the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701, the English soon took the side of Maria Theresa, the Queen of Hungary, later Empress. As soon as the rupture broke out between France and England, they had to fight with each other, as was always the case, in America and in India.

Paris and London are rivals in Europe; Madras and Pondicheri are even more so in Asia, because these two trading towns are nearer one another, both situated in the same province, called Arcot, eighty thousand paces one from the other, both carrying on the same commerce, but divided by religion, by jealousy by interests, and by a natural antipathy. This poison, brought from Europe, grows more widespread and stronger on the shores of India.

Those Europeans who go naturally to destroy themselves in climates such as these, always do it with only the smallest means. Their armies are rarely as much as fifteen hundred effectives, come from France or England— the remainder is composed of Indians who are called Sepoys, and of blacks, former inhabitants of the Islands, transplanted since time immemorial on the Continent, or bought a little while ago in Africa. Paucity of resources often acts as a spur to genius. Enterprising men, who would have died unknown in their fatherland, find places and positions for themselves in these far countries, where industry is rare and necessary. One of these daring geniuses was Mahe de la Bourdonnaye, a native of Saint Malo, the Duguetrouin of his time, superior to Duguetrouin in intelligence and his equal in courage. He had been useful to the India Company on more than one journey, and even more to himself. One of the Directors asked him how he had carried on his own business better than that of the Company. “It is,” he said, ‘‘because I have followed your instructions in the things concerning you, and when my own interests were involved, I only followed my own.” Having been nominated by the King Governor of the Ile de Bourbon, with full powers, although in the name of the Company, he armed ships at his own cost, made sailors, raised soldiers, disciplined them, traded successfully at the point of the sword — in a word, he created the Ile de Bourbon. He did more. He dispersed an English squadron in the Indian Ocean, a thing which only he has been able to do, and which has not been repeated since.

LA BOURDONNAYE TAKES MADRAS IN SEPT. 1746.

In the end, he laid siege to Madras, and forced this important town to capitulate. The definite instructions of the French Ministry were not to keep any conquest in actual land. He obeyed. He allowed the conquered to buy back their town for about nine million francs, and so served the King his master, and the Company. In these parts, nothing was ever more useful or more full of glory. One may add that, for the honour of La Bourdonnaye, during this expedition he treated the vanquished with a politeness, a gentleness, and a magnanimity which the English praised. They respected and loved their conqueror. We are only repeating what the English said who came back from Madras, and they had no interest in disguising the truth. When foreigners respect an enemy, it seems that they tell their compatriots to render him justice.

The Governor of Pondicheri, Dupleix, condemned this restoration; he dared to nullify it by a resolution of the Council of Pondicheri and kept Madras, in spite of the integrity of treaties and the laws of every nation. He accused La Bourdonnaye of treachery: he painted him to the French Court and the Directors of the Company as a prevaricator who had demanded too small a ransom and received presents which were too big. Directors and shareholders joined their complaints to these accusations
. Men in general are like dogs who bark when they hear other dogs barking in the distance.

IMPRISONED IN THE BASTILLE AS A REWARD

At last, the Ministry of Versailles, having been stirred to action by the cries of Pondicheri, the conqueror of Madras, the only man who had upheld the honour of the French flag, was imprisoned in the Bastille by lettre de cachet. He languished in this prison for three years and a half, without being able to enjoy the consolation of seeing his family. At the end of this time, the Commissioners of the Council who were given to him as judges were forced by evidence of the truth, and out of respect for his great deeds, to declare him innocent. M. Bertin, one of his judges, who has since become Minister of State, was the man whose fairness was the principal cause of his life being saved. A few enemies, still provoked by his fortune, his deeds and his ability, wanted his death. They were soon satisfied: he died on leaving the prison of a cruel disease that the prison had caused. This was the reward of memorable service rendered to his country.

Governor Dupleix excused himself in his memoirs as having received secret orders from the Ministry. But he could not have received six thousand leagues away orders concerning a victory just won, and which the French Ministry could never have foreseen. If these disastrous orders were given prophetically, they were contradictory in form to those which La Bourdonnaye had brought. The Ministry would have had to reproach itself not only with the loss of nine millions, of which France was deprived when the restoration of the town was revoked, but also with the cruel treatment with which it rewarded the genius, the courage and the magnanimity of La Bourdonnaye.

DUPLEIX SAVES PONDICHERI IN 1748.

M. Dupleix made amends for his terrible mistake and this public misfortune by defending Pondicheri for forty-two days in open trenches against two English Admirals assisted by a local Nawab. He acted as general, engineer, artillery man, and munition manager; his care, his activity and his industry coupled with the intelligence and bravery of M. de Bussy, a distinguished officer, saved the town on this occasion. M. de Bussy was serving at that time in the forces of the Company, as a member of the India Battalion. He had come from Paris to find glory and a fortune on the Coromandel coast. He found them both. The French Court rewarded Dupleix by decorating him with the Grand Cordon Rouge and the title of Marquis.

The French and English faction, the former having kept its trading capital, the latter having lost it, became more and more intimate with these Nawabs and these Soubaidars of whom we have spoken. We have said that the Empire had become chaotic. These Princes, being always at war against one another, divided themselves between the French and the English. There was a succession of civil wars in the Peninsula.

We shall not enter here into the details of their enterprises; enough has been written of their quarrels, the treacheries of Nasir Jung’s followers, and those of Muzaffar Jung, [Or, as Voltaire writes, "Nazerzingues, Mouzaferzing.”] their intrigues, their battles, and their assassinations.

UNIQUE ACTION OF AN OFFICER CALLED LA TOUCHE

We have the diaries of the sieges of twenty places unknown in Europe, badly fortified, badly attacked and badly defended: that is not our object. But we cannot pass over in silence the action of a French officer named de la Touche, who with only three hundred soldiers, penetrated at night into the camp of one of the biggest princes in these parts, killed twelve hundred of his men without losing more than three soldiers, and by this unheard-of success dispersed an army of nearly sixty thousand Indians, reinforced by some English troops. Such a happening shows us that the inhabitants of India are not any more difficult to conquer than were those of Mexico and Peru. It shows us how easy it was to conquer this country for the Tartars and those who had subjugated it before that time.

1748

Old manners and customs have been preserved in these parts as has also clothing: everything is different from us, there nature and art are not the same. Among us, after a big battle, the conquering soldiers do not have a penny increase in their pay. In India, after a short battle, the Nawabs gave millions to the European troops who had taken their side. Chanda Sahib, [According to Voltaire, "Chandazaeb.”] one of the princes under the protection of M. Dupleix, made a present to the troops of about two hundred thousand francs, and land bringing in nine to ten thousand pounds in income to their Commander, the Comte d’Auteuil. The Soubaidar Muzaffar Jung on another occasion had twelve hundred and fifty thousand pounds distributed to the little French army, and gave the same amount to the Company. M. Dupleix had also a pension of a hundred thousand rupees (two hundred and forty thousand French pounds) which he did not enjoy for long. A workman earns three sous per day in India: a noble has enough to scatter profusely.

DUPLEIX, VICEROY IN INDIA IN 1749.

After this, the assistant-manager of a trading Company received from the Grand Moghul the little of Nawab. The English maintained that this title was fictitious, and that it was a false pandering to vanity in order to over-awe European nations in India. If the French Governor had played such a trick, he would have done it in common with more than one Nawab and Soubaidar. False diplomas were bought at the Court in Delhi, and were received afterwards in ceremony from a man put there as a so-called Commissioner of the Emperor. But whether the Soubaidar Muzaffar Jung and the Nawab Chanda Sahib had really obtained this Imperial title for the Governor of Pondicheri, or whether it was fictitious, he made use of it openly. An agent of a trading society had become a sovereign, with sovereigns under his command! We know that Indians often treated him as King and his wife as Queen. M. de Hussy, who had distinguished himself in the defence of Pondicheri, had a dignity which cannot be better expressed than by the title of General of the Cavalry of the Grand Moghul. He made war and peace with the Maharattas, [Voltaire says Marates.] a warlike people of whom we shall write more, who sold their services, sometimes to the English, sometimes to the French. He made secure the thrones of the Princes created by M. Dupleix.

Recognition was proportionate to service rendered. Riches as well as honours were the reward. The greatest sovereigns in Europe have neither as much power nor as much splendour: but this fortune and this brilliance soon passed away. The English and their allies beat the French on more than one occasion. The immense sums of money given to the soldiers by the Soubaidars and the Nawabs were partly dissipated in debauchery and partly lost in the fights, and the exchequer, the munitions and the provisions of Pondicheri were exhausted.


HIS MISFORTUNE

The small army remaining in French hands was commanded by Major Lass, nephew of the famous Lass who had done so much ill to the country, but to whom the India Company owed its being. This young Scot fought bravely against the English, but, deprived of help and food, his courage was unavailing. He took the Nawab Chanda Sahib away to an island formed by rivers, called Sri Rangam, belonging to the Brahmins. It is perhaps useful to note here that the Brahmins were the rulers of this island. We have many similar examples in Europe. One could even assert that there are examples the world over. The old Brahmins [Voltaire makes a distinction between the Bracmanes (translated "Old Brahmins”) and Brames (translated "Brahmins") which seems to be unintelligible.] used to be, in former times, so they say, the first rulers of India. The Brahmins, [Voltaire makes a distinction between the Bracmanes (translated "Old Brahmins”) and Brames (translated "Brahmins") which seems to be unintelligible.] their successors, have only kept very little of their old power. Whatever the case may be, the little French army, led by a Scot, and billetted in an Indian monastery, had neither food, nor money to buy it with. M. Lass has kept for us the letter in which M. Dupleix ordered him to take everything that it was proper to take. Only two ornaments remained, reputed to be sacred, — they were two sculptured horses, covered in silver leaf. They were taken and sold, and the Brahmins did not complain or make any protest. But the proceeds of this sale did not prevent the French troops from giving themselves up as prisoners of war to the English. They captured the Nawab Chanda Sahib for whom Major Lass was fighting, and the English Nawab, the rival of Chanda Sahib, had his head cut off. M. Dupleix accused of this barbarism the English Colonel, Lawrence, who defended himself as if it was a crying slander.

1752

As for Major Lass, released on parole and back in Pondicheri, the Governor put him in prison, because he had been as unfortunate as he had been brave. He even dared to bring a criminal suit against him, which he dared not follow up.

Pondicheri remained in want, dejection and fear, while gold medals struck in honour and in the name of the Governor were being sent to Paris. He was called back in 1753, left in 1754, and came to Paris in despair. He lodged a case against the Company. He demanded from it millions, which were contested and which it would not have been able to pay if it had owed them. We have a memoir of his in which he breathed spite against his successor, Godeheu, one of the directors of the Company. Godeheu replied to him bitterly. The memoirs of these two titled agents are more voluminous than the history of Alexander. These tedious details of human weakness are scanned over for a few days by those who are interested, and are forgotten in a short time for new quarrels, which are in their turn blotted out by others. At last Dupleix died of chagrin, caused by his greatness, his fall from power, and above all, the sad necessity of soliciting judges after having ruled. Thus the two big rivals, who had gained renown in India, La Bourdonnaye and Dupleix, both died in Paris a sad and premature death.


Those who were, by their knowledge, fitted to judge their worth, said that La Bourdonnaye had the qualities of a sailor and a warrior; and Dupleix those of an enterprising and politic prince. An English author who had written the wars of the two companies until 1755, speaks of them in this way.

M. Godeheu was as wise and peaceful a negotiator, as his predecessor had been daring in his projects and brilliant in his administration. The former Governor had only thought of gaining fame in war. The second had orders to maintain himself by peaceful means -- and to come back and render an account of his deeds when a third Governor was established in Pondicheri.


It was above all necessary to raise the spirits of the Indians, exasperated by the cruelties meted out to some of their compatriots, who were dependents of the Company. A man from Malabar, called Naina, the Banker of La Bourdonnaye, had been thrown into a dungeon because he had not given evidence against him. Another man complained that money had been exacted from him. The children of another Indian, called Mondamia, ruler of a neighbouring district, ceaselessly demanded justice for the death of their father who had been tortured to death in order to extort money from him. A thousand complaints of this nature were making the name of France hated. The new Governor treated the Indians with humanity, and negotiated a compromise with the English. He and Mr. Saunders, then Governor of Madras, established a truce in 1755, and made a conditional peace.
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Part 2 of 5

PEACE BETWEEN THE FRENCH AND THE ENGLISH

The first article was that both Companies should forego Indian titles; the other articles contained rules for peaceful trade.

The truce was not rigidly observed. There are always underlings who want to wreck everything in order to make themselves necessary. Moreover, since the beginning of 1756, a new war was predicted in Europe: it was necessary to prepare for it. It is claimed that, in this interval, the greed of certain individuals reaped profit at the public expense, and that the colony of Pondicheri was like a dying man whose furniture is taken away before he is dead.

CHAPTER IV. THE SENDING OF COUNT LALLI TO INDIA. WHO WAS THIS GENERAL? WHAT WERE HIS SERVICES BEFORE THIS EXPEDITION?

In order to stop these abuses, and to forestall the English, whose enterprises were even more frightening, the King of France sent money and troops to India. France and England were then re-starting the war of 1576, on the pretext that an old peace treaty was very badly made. The Ministers had forgotten in this treaty to specify the boundaries of Arcadie, a miserable ice-bound country near Canada. As they were fighting in the northern deserts of America, it was also necessary to cut each other's throats in the Torrid Zone of Asia. The French Ministry nominated Count Lalli for this enterprise. He was an Irish nobleman whose ancestors had followed in France the fortune of the Stuarts, the most unfortunate house that has ever borne a crown.

SERVICES OF COUNT LALLI.

This officer was one of the bravest and most loyal in the service of the King of France. He bore himself bravely in the presence of the King at the Battle of Fontenoy. The King knew that he hated the English irreconcilably, as they had dethroned his former masters, and that he had saved many English officers, some of whom he had wounded. So much courage and generosity touched him. He gave him on the battle-field the Irish Regiment of Dillon, whose colonel had been killed on this memorable day; and this regiment bore from that time the name of Lalli. The Dillons and the Lallis were allies. These two houses, long the victims of their dethroned kings, always shed their blood for France.

At the very time when Louis XV reassured his nation at the battle of Fontenoy, Charles Edward, the grandson of James the Second, was attempting a daring enterprise which he had kept secret from Louis XV himself. He crossed St. George's Channel with only seven officers to aid him, a few arms and two thousand golden louis which he had borrowed with the intention of going to rouse Scotland in his favour merely by his presence, and making a new revolution in Great Britain. He landed in Scotland on the 15th June 1745, about a month after the battle of Fontenoy. This enterprise which finished so unhappily began with unhoped for victories. Count Lalli was the first who planned to send an army of ten thousand Frenchmen to his aid. He communicated his idea to the Marquis of Argenson, Minister for Foreign Affairs, who seized on it eagerly. Count d'Argenson, brother of the Marquis and Minister for War opposed it, but soon consented. The Duke of Richelieu was appointed general of the army which was to disembark in England at the beginning of 1746. Ice held up the sending of munitions and cannons which were being transported by canal in French Flanders. The project failed but Lalli’s zeal won him regard in the Ministry, and by his courage he was judged capable of doing big things. The man who wrote these memoirs speaks with knowledge of what he is saying; he worked with him for two months by order of the Minister and found in him courage of a headstrong kind, coupled with a gentleness of manners which his misfortunes afterwards transformed and changed into a terrible violence.

Count Lalli was decorated with the Grand Cordon of Saint Louis and made Lieutenant-General of the armies when he was sent to India. The delays which one experiences always in the smallest enterprises as well as the big ones, did not allow the squadron of Count d'Ache, which was to carry the General and help to Pondicheri, to set sail from the port of Brest before the 20th February 1757.

Instead of the three millions which M. de Sechelles, the Controller-General of Finances had promised, M. de Moras, his successor, could only give two, and even that was a good deal in the state of crisis in which France was at that time.

Of the three thousand men who were due to embark with him, they were obliged to cut down more than a thousand, and Count d'Ache only had two war ships in his squadron instead of three, with a few ships of India Company.

While the two generals Lalli and d'Ache are sailing towards their destination, it is necessary to tell readers, who wish to learn, what the state of India was at this juncture, and what were the European possessions in these parts.

CHAPTER V: THE STATE OF INDIA WHEN GENERAL LALLI WAS SENT THERE

This huge country on either side of the Ganges is forty degrees in latitude from the Malacca islands to the borders of Kashmir, and the big Bokhara, and ninety degrees in longitude, from the boundaries of Zablistan [Voltaire writes “Iles Moluques, Cachemire, Boukarie and Sablestan.”] to those of China, which comprises states whose full extent surpasses that of France ten times, and thirty times that of England, properly speaking. [I.e. without Scotland and Ireland. (Trans.)] But this England which is ruler to-day over the whole of Bengal, whose possessions extend in America from the fifteenth degree right beyond the Polar Circle, which has produced Locke and Newton, and finally has preserved the advantages of liberty with those of Royalty, is, in spite of all its abuses, as superior to the peoples of India as Greece was superior to Persia in the time of Miltiade, of Aristides and of Alexander. The part over which the Grand Moghul rules or rather seems to rule, is without doubt the largest, the most populated, the most fertile and the richest. In the Peninsula, it is on this side of the Ganges that the French and the English quarrelled over spices, muslins, painted cloths, perfumes, diamonds and pearls, and that they had dared to make war on the rulers.

These Sovereigns who are, as we have already said, the Soubaidars, the premier feudal sovereigns of the Empire, only enjoyed independent authority on the death of Aurangzeb, called the Great, who was in actuality the biggest tyrant of the princes of his time, the poisoner of his father, the assassin of his brothers, and, most horrible of all, a pious man or a hypocrite, or convinced, like so many perverse individuals of all times and of all places, that the biggest crimes can be committed with impunity if expiated by the lightest show of penitence and austerity.

The provinces in which the Soubaidars reign, and where the Nawabs reign under them in their big districts, are governed very differently from the northern provinces nearer to Delhi, Agra, and Lahore, the residences of the Emperors.

We admit with regret that while wishing to find out the true history of this nation, its government, its religion and its customs, we have found no help in the compilations of our French authors. Neither the writers who have written out stories for booksellers, nor our missionaries, nor our travellers have told us the truth — with few exceptions. It is a long time since we dared to refute these authors on the basis of Indian Government. It is something which is of importance to every nation in the world. They believed that the Emperor was the master of the property of all his subjects and that no man, from Kashmir to Cape Cormorin, had any private property.

VERY UNTRUE THAT THERE IS NO PRIVATE PROPERTY IN INDIA

Bernier, philosopher though he was, wrote this to the Controller-General, Colbert. It would have been an imprudent and dangerous thing to speak thus to the administrator of an absolute monarch, if the King and the Minister had not been generous and wise. Bernard was mistaken like the Englishman, Thomas Roe. Both were dazzled by the pomp of the Grand Moghul and his despotism, and imagined that all lands belonged to him personally because that Sultan gave away fiefs for life. It is just the same as saying that the Grand Master of Malta is the proprietor of all the Commanderships to which he nominates followers in Europe: it is the same as saying that the Kings of France and Spain are the owners of all the lands they govern, and that all the ecclesiastical benefices are theirs. This same mistake which is prejudicial to the human race has been repeated a hundred times about the Turkish Government, and emanated from the same source. There has been confusion between the military benefices given and taken back by the Grand Ruler, and the father’s property. It was enough that a Greek monk said it first: a hundred writers have repeated it.

In our sincere desire to find out the truth, and to be a little useful, we thought that the best thing we could do would be to refer to Mr. Holwell, who lived for so long in Bengal, and who not only knew the language of the country, but also that of the ancient Brahmans;...

John Zephaniah Holwell has received the eulogy of modern writers for his gallant defence of Calcutta in 1756 after the desertion of Governor Drake and his chief officers. He was the principal survivor of the Black Hole tragedy and wrote a narrative of his sufferings. When Clive left India in February 1760, Holwell succeeded him as Governor of Calcutta, but in August was superseded by Vansittart. His great achievement as Governor was to work up a case, in a most unscrupulous manner, against Nawab Mir Jafar. He prepared a memorial3 [The memorial may be found in Holwell's India Tracts and also in Vansittart’s Narrative Vol. 1 pp. 46-63.] on the state of the affairs of the province for the new Governor who was on his way to Calcutta. In this memorial he laid at the door of Mir Jafar all the evils under which the country was suffering; he charged him with treacherous dealings with the Dutch in the previous year, although Major Caillaud pointed out to him that this was never clearly proved, and even if it had been proved the fault had been condoned by Clive; he charged him with corresponding with the Shahzada, although Warren Hastings declared that the document was a forgery4 [The letters of Major Caillaud and Warren Hastings are given in India Tracts, but the writer has mislaid the exact reference.]; he charged him with the murder of persons who were alive when Mir Jafar himself was dead5 [See infra.] and he got £30,000 for himself when his scheme was successful.6 [Malcolm's Life of Clive (1836) Vol. 2, p. 289. See Bengal P. & P. Vol. VIII pp. 214-219.] The dethronement of Mir Jafar, condemned by Clive,7 [Malcolm's Life of Clive, Vol. 2, p. 255.] protested against by seven of the Company’s servants in Bengal who asserted that if the President had consulted the whole Council the measure would have been rejected,8 [Holwell’s India Tracts (1774) p. 107.] approved by the Court of Directors in such hesitating terms that Warren Hastings did not venture to translate the despatch to the new Nawab,9 [Hastings to Vansittart, July 14, 1762. (Vansittart’s Narrative Vol. 2, p. 69.)] was carried out by Governor Vansittart in October, and Mir Kasim was installed in his place.

Holwell was a man of great ability which he used unscrupulously to secure his own ends. Clive condemns him in the strongest terms: “Mr. Holwell is a specious and sensible man, but from what I have heard and observed myself I cannot be persuaded he will ever make use of his abilities for the good of the Company.”10 [Clive to William Mabbot, 31 Jan. 1757, (Hill’s Bengal in 1756-57 Vol. 2, p. 186)] He trembled to think of the fatal consequences if he were succeeded by such a mercenary man. “Mr. * * * has talents, but I fear wants a heart, therefore unfit to preside where integrity as well as capacity are equally essential.”11 [Malcolm's Life of Clive Vol. 2, p. 137 and p. 139. Asterisks are placed for the name but it is quite clear that Holwell is the man.] It seems ungenerous to add that when Siraj-ud-daula besieged Calcutta Holwell would have run away with the others if he had been able. But the statement was made at the time. Ives mentions it without condemnation12 [A Voyage from England to India in the year 1754 etc. (1773) p. 93. Ives was surgeon to Admiral Watson.] and Clive believed it. “I am well informed," he wrote, “there is no merit due to him for staying behind in the fort, nothing but the want of a boat prevented his escape and flight with the rest.”13 [In the letter quoted above. So Mr. William Lindsay who left the fort by permission on the 19th June. “It was much against his inclination being there, two gentlemen having carried away the budgerow he had waiting for him. I mention this as I understand he made a merit in staying when he found he could not get off." Letter to Mr. Robert Orme from Fulta July 1756. Hill’s Bengal in 1756-57, Vol. 1, p. 168.]

As a historian Holwell enjoys a reputation which is quite undeserved. To qualify himself to write on the history of India Holwell asserts that he “studiously perused all that has been written of the empire of Indostan, both as to its ancient as well as more modern state; as also the various accounts transmitted to us, by authors in almost all ages (from Arrian, down to the Abbé de Guyon) concerning the Hindoos, and the religious tenets of the Bramins.” He proceeds “to pronounce them all very defective, fallacious, and unsatisfactory to an inquisitive searcher after truth.”14 [Holwell's Interesting Historical Events, Part 1, p. 5.] Holwell may have been right, for all his reading did not save him from making the elementary blunder of declaring that Prince Nicosir, a pretender to the Empire in 1709, was a son of the great Akbar who died in 1605!15 [Holwell’s Interesting Historical Events, Part 1, p. 37.] If Holwell is correct in his history of the Mughal Empire from the death of Aurungzeb to the reign of Muhammad Shah then Elphinstone’s History of India needs revision for that period. If the Seir Mutaqherin approximates to history then Holwell’s account of the Transactions in Bengal from 1717 to 1750 is romance.

Here the reader may object: “Granted (though we should require better proof than you have brought forward) that Holwell was an inaccurate historian, that does not prove that he was a dishonest man." The latter point will now be established by showing (1) that Holwell fabricated a speech and fathered it on the Nawab Alivardi Khan; (2) that he brought false charges against the Nawab Mir Jafar; (3) that he fabricated a whole book and called it a translation from the ancient sacred writings of the Hindus.

(1) In a letter to the Court of Directors, dated Fulta, 30 November 1756,16 [Hill's Bengal in 1756-1757 Vol. 2, p. l.] Holwell is at pains to prove that the protection given by the Company’s servants to subjects of the Nawab was not the cause, as had been alleged, of Siraj-ud-daula’s attack on Calcutta. He asserts that Alivardi Khan “had long meditated to destroy the forts and garrisons of the Europeans,” and in support of this statement he quotes “verbatim, the last discourse and council which Mahabut Jung (Alivardi Khan) gave his grandson (Siraj-ud-daula) a few days before his death,” which, he adds, "I had from very good authority at Murshidabad, after my releasement.” Then follows the speech from which the following extract may be made:—“Keep in view the power the European nations have in the country. This fear I would also have freed you from if God had lengthened my days—The work, my son, must now be yours ....... ..Think not to weaken all three together. The power of the English is great; they have lately conquered Angria, and possessed themselves of his country; reduce them first; the others will give you little trouble, when you have reduced them. Suffer them not, my son, to have fortifications or soldiers: if you do, the country is not yours.”17 [Hill's Bengal in 1756-1757, Vol. 2, p. 16.]

This speech called forth some very plain language. Matthew Collet, second at Cassimbazar, contemptuously dismissed it with the words:—“As to Alliverde Cawn's last dying speech to his nephew, I look on it as a specious fable.”18 [Letter from Collet to Council, Fort William (Hill, Vol. 2, p. 129).] Richard Becher, chief of the Company’s factory at Dacca remarks:—“Mr. Holwell will excuse me if I do not admitt Alliverdee Cawn's speech as genuine till better proofs are brought to support it than any I have yet seen. Such advice if really given, it is reasonable to imagine had few or no witnesses, so that it appears very improbable Mr. Holwell in his distressed situation at Muxadavad should have been able to unravell the mysterries of the Cabinet and explore a secret never yet known to any one but himself.”19 [Letter from Becher to Council, Fort William (Hill, Vol. 2, p. 162).] William Watts, chief of the factory at Cassimbazar, observes:—“The last dying speech of Mahabut Jung or Alliverdi Cawn to his grandson neither he, or I believe, any of the gentlemen of the factory, ever heard of; neither have I since from any of the country people; it seems an imitation of the speech of Lewis XIV. to his grandson, and appears as Mr. Collet aptly terms it only a specious fable.”20 [Letter from Watts to Court of Directors, (Hill, Vol. 3, p. 336).]

Holwell replied to what (in his own words) was a charge of imposing on the Court of Directors a forgery that had no foundation but in his own invention. After quoting the words of Messrs. Collet, Becher and Watts he proceeds:—"That Mr. Becher should not believe the speech genuine I do not much wonder at, as he seems fully resolved that nothing shall drive him from his adopted principal cause of our misfortunes, the detention of the Nabob’s subjects, in confutation of which I have said sufficient; but the reasons this gentleman gives for his believing the speech not genuine had been better omitted for his own sake. The speech might probably enough have been a secret whilst it was necessary it should be so; but when I obtained it that necessity had long vanished, and Mr. Becher might have observed I say I had it from good authority, after my releasement, which was more than three months after the period it was uttered, and was no longer to be deemed a mystery of the cabinet, but might be judiciously enough divulged and circulated as an apology for and in support of Surajud Dowla's proceedings against the English, &c. Mr. Becher's opinion, “that I was unable to explore a secret, never yet known to any one but myself,” I would explain and reply to, could I possibly understand him. Shall only add, for Your Honours’ satisfaction, and in vindication of my own veracity, that I was released the 16th of July, and continued at the Tanksall, and the Dutch and French factories, until the 19th at night; during which period I had frequent conferences with the principal Armenians, and some the immediate servants of the late and present Suba, from whence I had the speech literally as I have given it; and notwithstanding the ingenious ridicule it meets from Messieurs Watts and Collet to cover their deficiency in matters which ought to have been known to them, I will not despair of giving Your Honours yet more convincing proofs of its being genuine.” The only proof that Holwell produces is a copy of a letter written by William Forth, surgeon at Cassimbazar, who relates that he was attending the Nawab fifteen days before his death when Siraj-ud-daula entered the room and charged the English with plotting to set up a rival to him in the succession. Alivardi Khan questioned Forth and at the end of his examination declared “he did not believe a word of the report he had heard.”21 [Letter from Holwell to Court of Directors, (Hill, Vol. 3, pp. 355, 356, 357.] How this helps Holwell it is difficult to see.

Holwell’s reply is as feeble as it could possibly be. Why did he not produce names with the date and hour of the conferences? He dared not. Watts and Collet were stationed close to Murshidabad and could have bowled him out. The only other remark of Holwell’s worthy of the slightest notice is his statement that the secret might have been circulated as an apology for the Nawab’s proceedings against the English. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Manningham, in his evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons said that “it was impossible to give any rational account of the origin of the Troubles”; that he was in Murshidabad with Clive in July 1757 and “enquiry was then made with all possible attention, but without success, into the motives of Surajah Dowla’s conduct from his principal officers, and likewise from the officers of his predecessor, from the Seats, and every other person from whom information was likely to be obtained.22 [First Report, (Hill, Vol. 3, p. 284).] Scrafton says the same. “I have made it my study since our intercourse with the great men at court, to penetrate into the cause of this event, but could never obtain anything satisfactory .... Perhaps it is a vain research to trace the motives of a capricious tyrant."23 [Scrafton, Reflections on the Government, &c., of Indostan (1763) p. 55.] Finally, on the main point we have the evidence of a relation24 [Hill, Vol. I Introduction, p. xxviii, foot note.] of Alivardi Khan’s—the author of the Seir Mutaqherin—who states:—“He (Alivardi Khan) used to compare the Europeans to a hive of bees, of whose honey you might reap the benefit, but that if you disturbed their hive they would sting you to death.” On another occasion, when his General, Mustafa Khan, supported by his nephew, Sayyid Ahmad, represented the ease with which the Europeans might be deprived of their immense wealth, he exclaimed: “My child, Mustapha Khan is a soldier, and wishes us to be constantly in need of his service, but how come you to join in his request? What have the English done against me that I should use them ill? It is now difficult to extinguish fire on land; but should the sea be in flames, who can put them out? Never listen to such advice as his, for the result would probably be fatal."25 [All this is borrowed from Hill’s Bengal in 1756-57 Vol I, Introduction p. xxxi.] Commenting on the inconsistency of these words with Holwell’s speech Dr. Busteed suggests that probably Alivardi Khan modified these views later on.26 [Echoes from Old Calcutta (2nd edition) p. 5 footnote.] Undoubtedly he did, or Holwell is guilty of forgery. Let the reader judge.

(2) With respect to the second charge against Holwell the reader will probably be disposed to accept the judgment of Clive and his Council who in 1766 considered it their duty to acquaint the Court of Directors in an official despatch that the “horrible massacres” with which Holwell had charged Nawab Mir Jafar were “cruel aspersions on the character of that prince" and had not the least foundation in truth. The persons who, according to Holwell, had been put to death by Mir Jafar “are all now living, except two, who were put to death by Meeran, without the Nawab’s consent or knowledge.“27 [Long's Selections from Unpublished Records of Government, p. 428.]

(3) Holwell asserts that the leisure hours of his thirty years’ residence in India were spent in collecting materials relative to the history and religion of the inhabitants of the country. Many curious Hindu manuscripts came into his possession and among them “two very correct and valuable copies of the Gentoo Shastah" procured with great labour and at great expense. He spent eighteen months in translating the Sastra.28 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 1, p. 3.] In one year more he would have completed the work but the catastrophe of 1756 intervened and when Calcutta was captured he lost manuscript and translation. By an unforeseen and extraordinary event “that possibly I may hereafter relate” (he never does so) he recovered some of his manuscripts.29 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 1, p. 4.] Hence he was able to give to the world an account of what he calls the “Chartah Bhade of Bramah,” the oldest and purest of the sacred writings of the Hindus. In Holwell’s time only three or four families were capable of reading and expounding it from the Sanskrit character.30 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 2, p. 15.] He obtained his information concerning it not from ordinary learned Brahmans who, in spite of their knowledge of the truth, pandered to the corrupt beliefs of the mob, but from those “whose purity of principle and manners and zeal for the primitive doctrines of Bramah’s Shastah sets them above disguising the truth."31 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 2, p 9 and p. 21.] Holwell gives an account of the doctrines contained in the “Chartah Bhade of Bramah”32 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 2, pp. 9 to 21.] and a translation of the first book and a section of the second. This version of the most ancient sacred book of the Hindus will make Sanskrit scholars stare and gasp. But what condemns the whole thing as a colossal fraud is the fact that Holwell has retained some words of the original in his translation which he explains in footnotes, and from these words it appears that his manuscript of the “Chartah Bhade” which only a few Brahman families were capable of reading and expounding from the Sanskrit character, was written in a mixture of Colloquial Bengali and Hindustani33 [Holwell starts his translation with the words "God is one" which according to a footnote are a translation of "ekhummesha" (ek, one hamesha, always?) pure Hindustani (Interesting Historical Events, Part 2 p. 31). The other words of the Sanskrit (?) original given in the translation or in footnotes are:—Debtah, angels; logue, a people, multitude or congregation; debtah-logue, the angelic host (p. 35); hazaar par hazaar (Hindustani), thousands upon thousands (p. 42); mahah surgo, supreme heaven; onderah (Hindustani) intense darkness (p. 44) dooneah or dunneah (Hindustani) the world; dunneahoudah, the worlds or the universe; boboons, regions or planets (p. 48) ghoij, the cow; ghoijal, cows; ghoijalbarry, a cowhouse; mhurd (Hindustani) the common name of man, from murto, matter or earth; jhoale, water, fluid; oustmaan (Hindustani) the air (p. 56) jogues, ages (p. 56); pereeth logue, purified people (p. 103); munnoo logue, people of contemplation, from mun or mon, thought, reflection (p. 104); modoo, discord, enmity; kytoo, confusion, tumult (p. 106); surjee, the sun; chunder, the moon (p. 110). (The meanings and derivations are Holwell’s).] —the latter apparently predominating. The fourth “sublime book" of the “Chartah Bhade" which “must lie in oblivion, until some one, blessed with opportunity, leisure, application, and genius, brings them to light" was according to Holwell, commonly called by Hindus “Bramah Ka Insoff (insaf) Bhade”! or “Bramah's Book of Justice." Such was the barefaced fraud foisted by Holwell on a Europe totally ignorant of Sanskrit, and it was for this that Voltaire gratefully thanked him.34 [Quoted in Busteed's Echoes from Old Calcutta, p. 38 (2nd edition).]

Three outrageous frauds have thus been brought home to Holwell, and we now proceed to reveal a fourth. Let us examine what he calls “a genuine Narrative of the deplorable deaths of the English gentlemen and others who were suffocated in the Black Hole in Fort William, at Calcutta."


-- The Black Hole -- The Question of Holwell's Veracity, by J. H. Little


... to consult Mr. Dow who had written of the revolutions of which he was a witness; ...

In 1768 another Company servant, Alexander Dow, offered three alternative texts, which he said formed the core scriptures of the ‘Hindoo’ religion: the Dirm Shashter, the Bedang Sashter and the Neadrisen Shaster. The first contained the unifying doctrines of the religion. In a section provided by Dow this took the form of a dialogue between Narud, who was taken to be representative of ‘human reason’, and Birmha, the allegorical depiction of ‘Wisdom’ and the ‘genitive of case of Birmh’, which Dow takes to be ‘one of the thousand names of God’...

Despite the intricate detail presented in both offerings, however, these ‘extracts’ have proved difficult to trace. Holwell's Shastah has been thought by a number of scholars to have been a forgery, the evidence for which has been outlined most extensively by Urs App. Dow's texts are also dubious in origin. The original manuscript which Dow claimed as the Dirm Shashter, for example, is currently in the British Library and consists of fragments in Sanskrit (which he could not read) and Bengali (which he could), and do not appear to be a coherent text And yet both Holwell and Dow claimed to have achieved an unprecedented degree of insight into the mysteries of Brahminical philosophy. Moreover, this claim was widely accepted by their readership. In the 1760s, when both accounts were published, the idea of an indigenous and ancient Indian religion was greeted with interest by Enlightenment thinkers. Finding themselves with privileged access to Indian languages and advisers, British East India Company servants became instrumental in delivering information about South Asian religions to European audiences. While the knowledge produced by Company Orientalists has been most closely associated with Sir William Jones (1746‐1794), the works of Holwell and Dow were the first to circulate to a significant European reception. Holwell was hailed by Moses Mendelssohn as the first author ‘to see through the eyes of a native Brahmin’. Dow was similarly highly regarded by Voltaire, who cited him as an authority in a number of works. This article considers the construction of Indian theology that these readers were met with more critically, suggesting that Holwell's and Dow's accounts, including their translations of ancient texts, were compiled from a number of different intellectual sources, not the least of which was their own creative licence.


-- Forging Indian Religion: East India Company Servants and the Construction of ‘Gentoo’/‘Hindoo’ Scripture in the 1760s, by Jessica Patterson


... and above all to believe that brave officer Mr. Scrafton [Luke Scrafton], who unites love of letters with liberty, and who has served a great deal with Clive during his conquests.

In August the news of the fall of Calcutta reached Madras, and excited the fiercest and bitterest resentment. The cry of the whole settlement was for vengeance. Within forty-eight hours after the arrival of the intelligence it was determined that an expedition should be sent to the Hoogley, and that Clive should be at the head of the land forces. The naval armament was under the command of Admiral Watson. Nine hundred English infantry, fine troops and full of spirit, and fifteen hundred sepoys, composed the army which sailed to punish a Prince who had more subjects than Lewis the Fifteenth or the Empress Maria Theresa. In October the expedition sailed; but it had to make its way against adverse winds, and did not reach Bengal till December....

Clive had commenced operations with his usual vigour. He took Budgebudge, routed the garrison of Fort William, recovered Calcutta, stormed and sacked Hoogley. The Nabob, already disposed to make some concessions to the English, was confirmed in his pacific disposition by these proofs of their power and spirit. He accordingly made overtures to the chiefs of the invading armament, and offered to restore the factory, and to give compensation to those whom he had despoiled.

Clive's profession was war; and he felt that there was something discreditable in an accommodation with Surajah Dowlah. But his power was limited. A committee, chiefly composed of servants of the Company who had fled from Calcutta, had the principal direction of affairs; and these persons were eager to be restored to their posts and compensated for their losses. The government of Madras, apprised that war had commenced in Europe, and apprehensive of an attack from the French, became impatient for the return of the armament. The promises of the Nabob were large, the chances of a contest doubtful; and Clive consented to treat, though he expressed his regret that things should not be concluded in so glorious a manner as he could have wished.

With this negotiation commences a new chapter in the life of Clive. Hitherto he had been merely a soldier carrying into effect, with eminent ability and valour, the plans of others. Henceforth he is to be chiefly regarded as a statesman; and his military movements are to be considered as subordinate to his political designs. That in his new capacity he displayed great ability, and obtained great success, is unquestionable. But it is also unquestionable that the transactions in which he now began to take a part have left a stain on his moral character.

We can by no means agree with Sir John Malcolm, who is obstinately resolved to see nothing but honour and integrity in the conduct of his hero. But we can as little agree with Mr. Mill, who has gone so far as to say that Clive was a man "to whom deception, when it suited his purpose, never cost a pang." Clive seems to us to have been constitutionally the very opposite of a knave, bold even to temerity, sincere even to indiscretion, hearty in friendship, open in enmity. Neither in his private life, nor in those parts of his public life in which he had to do with his countrymen, do we find any signs of a propensity to cunning. On the contrary, in all the disputes in which he was engaged as an Englishman against Englishmen, from his boxing-matches at school to those stormy altercations at the India House and in Parliament amidst which his later years were passed, his very faults were those of a high and magnanimous spirit. The truth seems to have been that he considered Oriental politics as a game in which nothing was unfair. He knew that the standard of morality among the natives of India differed widely from that established in England. He knew that he had to deal with men destitute of what in Europe is called honour, with men who would give any promise without hesitation, and break any promise without shame, with men who would unscrupulously employ corruption, perjury, forgery, to compass their ends. His letters show that the great difference between Asiatic and European morality was constantly in his thoughts. He seems to have imagined, most erroneously in our opinion, that he could effect nothing against such adversaries, if he was content to be bound by ties from which they were free, if he went on telling truth, and hearing none; if he fulfilled, to his own hurt, all his engagements with confederates who never kept an engagement that was not to their advantage. Accordingly this man, in the other parts of his life an honourable English gentleman and a soldier, was no sooner matched against an Indian intriguer, than he became himself an Indian intriguer, and descended, without scruple, to falsehood, to hypocritical caresses, to the substitution of documents, and to the counterfeiting of hands.

The negotiations between the English and the Nabob were carried on chiefly by two agents, Mr. Watts, a servant of the Company, and a Bengalee of the name of Omichund. This Omichund had been one of the wealthiest native merchants resident at Calcutta, and had sustained great losses in consequence of the Nabob's expedition against that place. In the course of his commercial transactions, he had seen much of the English, and was peculiarly qualified to serve as a medium of communication between them and a native court. He possessed great influence with his own race, and had in large measure the Hindoo talents, quick observation, tact, dexterity, perseverance, and the Hindoo vices, servility, greediness, and treachery.

The Nabob behaved with all the faithlessness of an Indian statesman, and with all the levity of a boy whose mind had been enfeebled by power and self-indulgence. He promised, retracted, hesitated, evaded. At one time he advanced with his army in a threatening manner towards Calcutta; but when he saw the resolute front which the English presented, he fell back in alarm, and consented to make peace with them on their own terms. The treaty was no sooner concluded than he formed new designs against them. He intrigued with the French authorities at Chandernagore. He invited Bussy to march from the Deccan to the Hoogley, and to drive the English out of Bengal. All this was well known to Clive and Watson. They determined accordingly to strike a decisive blow, and to attack Chandernagore, before the force there could be strengthened by new arrivals, either from the south of India, or from Europe. Watson directed the expedition by water, Clive by land. The success of the combined movements was rapid and complete. The fort, the garrison, the artillery, the military stores, all fell into the hands of the English. Near five hundred European troops were among the prisoners.

The Nabob had feared and hated the English, even while he was still able to oppose to them their French rivals. The French were now vanquished; and he began to regard the English with still greater fear and still greater hatred. His weak and unprincipled mind oscillated between servility and insolence. One day he sent a large sum to Calcutta, as part of the compensation due for the wrongs which he had committed. The next day he sent a present of jewels to Bussy, exhorting that distinguished officer to hasten to protect Bengal "against Clive, the daring in war, on whom," says his Highness, "may all bad fortune attend." He ordered his army to march against the English. He countermanded his orders. He tore [up] Clive's letters. He then sent answers in the most florid language of compliment. He ordered Watts out of his presence, and threatened to impale him. He again sent for Watts, and begged pardon for the insult. In the meantime, his wretched maladministration, his folly, his dissolute manners, and his love of the lowest company, had disgusted all classes of his subjects, soldiers, traders, civil functionaries, the proud and ostentatious Mahommedans, the timid, supple, and parsimonious Hindoos. A formidable confederacy was formed against him, in which were included Roydullub [Roy Dullob], the minister of finance, Meer Jaffier, the principal commander of the troops, and Jugget Seit, the richest banker in India. The plot was confided to the English agents, and a communication was opened between the malcontents at Moorshedabad and the committee at Calcutta.

In the committee there was much hesitation; but Clive's voice was given in favour of the conspirators, and his vigour and firmness bore down all opposition. It was determined that the English should lend their powerful assistance to depose Surajah Dowlah, and to place Meer Jaffier on the throne of Bengal. In return, Meer Jaffier promised ample compensation to the Company and its servants, and a liberal donative to the army, the navy, and the committee. The odious vices of Surajah Dowlah, the wrongs which the English had suffered at his hands, the dangers to which our trade must have been exposed, had he continued to reign, appear to us fully to justify the resolution of deposing him. But nothing can justify the dissimulation which Clive stooped to practise. He wrote to Surajah Dowlah in terms so affectionate that they for a time lulled that weak prince into perfect security. The same courier who carried this "soothing letter," as Clive calls it, to the Nabob, carried to Mr. Watts a letter in the following terms: "Tell Meer Jaffier to fear nothing. I will join him with five thousand men who never turned their backs. Assure him I will march night and day to his assistance, and stand by him as long as I have a man left."

It was impossible that a plot which had so many ramifications should long remain entirely concealed. Enough reached the ear of the Nabob to arouse his suspicions. But he was soon quieted by the fictions and artifices which the inventive genius of Omichund produced with miraculous readiness. All was going well; the plot was nearly ripe; when Clive learned that Omichund was likely to play false. The artful Bengalee had been promised a liberal compensation for all that he had lost at Calcutta. But this would not satisfy him. His services had been great. He held the thread of the whole intrigue. By one word breathed in the ear of Surajah Dowlah, he could undo all that he had done. The lives of Watts, of Meer Jaffier, of all the conspirators, were at his mercy; and he determined to take advantage of his situation and to make his own terms. He demanded three hundred thousand pounds sterling as the price of his secrecy and of his assistance. The committee, incensed by the treachery and appalled by the danger, knew not what course to take. But Clive was more than Omichund's match in Omichund's own arts. The man, he said, was a villain. Any artifice which would defeat such knavery was justifiable. The best course would be to promise what was asked. Omichund would soon be at their mercy; and then they might punish him by withholding from him, not only the bribe which he now demanded, but also the compensation which all the other sufferers of Calcutta were to receive.

His advice was taken. But how was the wary and sagacious Hindoo to be deceived? He had demanded that an article touching his claims should be inserted in the treaty between Meer Jaffier and the English, and he would not be satisfied unless he saw it with his own eyes. Clive had an expedient ready. Two treaties were drawn up, one on white paper, the other on red, the former real, the latter fictitious. In the former Omichund's name was not mentioned; the latter, which was to be shown to him, contained a stipulation in his favour.

But another difficulty arose. Admiral Watson had scruples about signing the red treaty. Omichund's vigilance and acuteness were such that the absence of so important a name would probably awaken his suspicions. But Clive was not a man to do anything by halves. We almost blush to write it He forged Admiral Watson's name.


All was now ready for action. Mr. Watts fled secretly from Moorshedabad. Clive put his troops in motion, and wrote to the Nabob in a tone very different from that of his previous letters. He set forth all the wrongs which the British had suffered, offered to submit the points in dispute to the arbitration of Meer Jaffier, and concluded by announcing that, as the rains were about to set in, he and his men would do themselves the honour of waiting on his Highness for an answer.

Surajah Dowlah instantly assembled his whole force, and marched to encounter the English. It had been agreed that Meer Jaffier should separate himself from the Nabob, and carry over his division to Clive. But, as the decisive moment approached, the fears of the conspirator overpowered his ambition. Clive had advanced to Cossimbuzar; the Nabob lay with a mighty power a few miles off at Plassey; and still Meer Jaffier delayed to fulfil his engagements, and returned evasive answers to the earnest remonstrances of the English general.


Clive was in a painfully anxious situation. He could place no confidence in the sincerity or in the courage of his confederate; and, whatever confidence he might place in his own military talents, and in the valour and discipline of his troops, it was no light thing to engage an army twenty times numerous as his own. Before him lay a river over which it was easy to advance, but over which, if things went ill, not one of his little band would ever return. On this occasion, for the first and for the last time, his dauntless spirit, during a few hours, shrank from the fearful responsibility of making a decision He called a council of war. The majority pronounced against fighting; and Clive declared his concurrence with the majority. Long afterwards, he said that he had never called but one council of war, and that if he had taken the advice of that council, the British would never have been masters of Bengal. But scarcely had the meeting broken up when he was himself again. He retired alone under the shade of some trees, and passed near an hour there in thought. He came back determined to put everything to the hazard, and gave orders that all should be in readiness for passing the river on the morrow.

The river was passed; and, at the close of a toilsome day's march, the army, long after sunset, took up its quarters in a grove of mango-trees near Plassey, within a mile of the enemy. Clive was unable to sleep; he heard, through the whole night the sound of drums and cymbals from the vast camp of the Nabob. It is not strange that even his stout heart should now and then have sunk, when he reflected against what odds, and for what a prize, he was in a few hours to contend.

Nor was the rest of Surajah Dowlah more peaceful. His mind, at once weak and stormy, was distracted by wild and horrible apprehensions. Appalled by the greatness and nearness of the crisis, distrusting his captains, dreading every one who approached him, dreading to be left alone, he sat gloomily in his tent, haunted, a Greek poet would have said, by the furies of those who had cursed him with their last breath in the Black Hole.

The day broke, the day which was to decide the fate of India. At sunrise the army of the Nabob, pouring through many openings of the camp, began to move towards the grove where the English lay. Forty thousand infantry, armed with firelocks, pikes, swords, bows and arrows, covered the plain. They were accompanied by fifty pieces of ordnance of the largest size, each tugged by a long team of white oxen, and each pushed on from behind by an elephant. Some smaller guns, under the direction of a few French auxiliaries, were perhaps more formidable. The cavalry were fifteen thousand, drawn, not from the effeminate population of Bengal, but from the bolder race which inhabits the northern provinces; and the practised eye of Clive could perceive that both the men and the horses were more powerful than those of the Carnatic. The force which he had to oppose to this great multitude consisted of only three thousand men. But of these nearly a thousand were English; and all were led by English officers, and trained in the English discipline. Conspicuous in the ranks of the little army were the men of the Thirty-Ninth Regiment, which still bears on its colours, amidst many honourable additions won under Wellington in Spain and Gascony, the name of Plassey, and the proud motto, Primus in Indis.

The battle commenced with a cannonade in which the artillery of the Nabob did scarcely any execution, while the few field-pieces of the English produced great effect. Several of the most distinguished officers in Surajah Dowlah's service fell. Disorder began to spread through his ranks. His own terror increased every moment. One of the conspirators urged on him the expediency of retreating. The insidious advice, agreeing as it did with what his own terrors suggested, was readily received. He ordered his army to fall back, and this order decided his fate. Clive snatched the moment, and ordered his troops to advance. The confused and dispirited multitude gave way before the onset of disciplined valour. No mob attacked by regular soldiers was ever more completely routed. The little band of Frenchmen, who alone ventured to confront the English, were swept down the stream of fugitives. In an hour the forces of Surajah Dowlah were dispersed, never to reassemble. Only five hundred of the vanquished were slain. But their camp, their guns, their baggage, innumerable waggons, innumerable cattle, remained in the power of the conquerors. With the loss of twenty-two soldiers killed and fifty wounded, Clive had scattered an army of near sixty thousand men, and subdued an empire larger and more populous than Great Britain.

Meer Jaffier had given no assistance to the English during the action. But, as soon as he saw that the fate of the day was decided, he drew off his division of the army, and, when the battle was over, sent his congratulations to his ally. The next morning he repaired to the English quarters, not a little uneasy as to the reception which awaited him there. He gave evident signs of alarm when a guard was drawn out to receive him with the honours due to his rank. But his apprehensions were speedily removed, Clive came forward to meet him, embraced him, saluted him as Nabob of the three great provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, listened graciously to his apologies, and advised him to march without delay to Moorshedabad.

Surajah Dowlah had fled from the field of battle with all the speed with which a fleet camel could carry him, and arrived at Moorshedabad in little more than twenty-four hours. There he called his councillors round him. The wisest advised him to put himself into the hands of the English, from whom he had nothing worse to fear than deposition and confinement. But he attributed this suggestion to treachery. Others urged him to try the chance of war again. He approved the advice, and issued orders accordingly. But he wanted spirit to adhere even during one day to a manly resolution. He learned that Meer Jaffier had arrived, and his terrors became insupportable. Disguised in a mean dress, with a casket of jewels in his hand, he let himself down at night from a window of his palace, and, accompanied by only two attendants, embarked on the river for Patna.

In a few days Clive arrived at Moorshedabad, escorted by two hundred English soldiers and three hundred sepoys. For his residence had been assigned a palace, which was surrounded by a garden so spacious that all the troops who accompanied him could conveniently encamp within it. The ceremony of the installation of Meer Jaffier was instantly performed. Clive led the new Nabob to the seat of honour, placed him on it, presented to him, after the immemorial fashion of the East, an offering of gold, and then, turning to the natives who filled the hall, congratulated them on the good fortune which had freed them from a tyrant. He was compelled on this occasion to use the services of an interpreter; for it is remarkable that, long as he resided in India, intimately acquainted as he was with Indian politics and with the Indian character, and adored as he was by his Indian soldiery, he never learned to express himself with facility in any Indian language. He is said indeed to have been sometimes under the necessity of employing, in his intercourse with natives of India, the smattering of Portuguese which he had acquired, when a lad, in Brazil.

The new sovereign was now called upon to fulfil the engagements into which he had entered with his allies. A conference was held at the house of Jugget Seit, the great banker, for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements. Omichund came thither, fully believing himself to stand high in the favour of Clive, who, with dissimulation surpassing even the dissimulation of Bengal, had up to that day treated him with undiminished kindness. The white treaty was produced and read. Clive then turned to Mr. Scrafton, one of the servants of the Company, and said in English, "It is now time to undeceive Omichund." "Omichund," said Mr. Scrafton in Hindostanee, "the red treaty is a trick, you are to have nothing." Omichund fell back insensible into the arms of his attendants. He revived; but his mind was irreparably ruined. Clive, who, though little troubled by scruples of conscience in his dealings with Indian politicians, was not inhuman, seems to have been touched. He saw Omichund a few days later, spoke to him kindly, advised him to make a pilgrimage to one of the great temples of India, in the hope that change of scene might restore his health, and was even disposed, notwithstanding all that had passed, again to employ him in the public service. But from the moment of that sudden shock, the unhappy man sank gradually into idiocy. He who had formerly been distinguished by the strength of his understanding and the simplicity of his habits, now squandered the remains of his fortune on childish trinkets, and loved to exhibit himself dressed in rich garments, and hung with precious stones. In this abject state he languished a few months, and then died....

Omichund was not the only victim of the revolution. Surajah Dowlah was taken a few days after his flight, and was brought before Meer Jaffier. There he flung himself on the ground in convulsions of fear, and with tears and loud cries implored the mercy which he had never shown. Meer Jaffier hesitated; but his son Meeran, a youth of seventeen, who in feebleness of brain and savageness of nature greatly resemble the wretched captive, was implacable. Surajah Dowlah was led into a secret chamber, to which in a short time the ministers of death were sent. In this act the English bore no part; and Meer Jaffier understood so much of their feelings that he thought it necessary to apologise to them for having avenged them on their most malignant enemy.

The shower of wealth now fell copiously on the Company and its servants. A sum of eight hundred thousand pounds sterling, in coined silver, was sent down the river from Moorshedabad to Fort William. The fleet which conveyed this treasure consisted of more than a hundred boats, and performed its triumphal voyage with flags flying and music playing. Calcutta, which a few months before had been desolate, was now more prosperous than ever. Trade revived; and the signs of affluence appeared in every English house. As to Clive, there was no limit to his acquisitions but his own moderation. The treasury of Bengal was thrown open to him. There were piled up, after the usage of Indian princes, immense masses of coin, among which might not seldom be detected the florins and byzants with which, before any European ship had turned the Cape of Good Hope, the Venetians purchased the stuffs and spices of the East. Clive walked between heaps of gold and silver, crowned with rubies and diamonds, and was at liberty to help himself. He accepted between two and three hundred thousand pounds.


-- Lord Clive, by Thomas Babington Macaulay, January 1840


Here are the true words of this worthy citizen: they are decisive.

“I see with surprise very many authors assert that possession of land is not hereditary in this country and that the Emperor is the universal inheritor. It is true that there are no Acts of Parliament in India, no intermediate power which can hold the imperial authority legally within its limits, but the sacred and invariable custom of all the courts is that every man inherits from his father. This unwritten law is more rigidly observed than in any monarchical state. [P. 26 Scrafton’s book.]


We may dare to add that if the people were the slaves of a single man (which has been claimed, and which is impossible) the land of the Moghul would soon have been deserted. There are there about one hundred and ten million inhabitants. Slaves do not multiply like this. Look at Poland. The cultivators and most of the middle classes have been until now glebe serfs, slaves of the nobles. There is one noble whose lands are completely depopulated.

In the Moghul’s domains, distinction must be made between the conquering people and the conquered, even more than must be made between the Tartars and the Chinese. For the Tartars, who have conquered India up to the Kingdom of Ava and Pegu, who have preserved the Muslim religion; while the other Tartars who subjugated China, have adopted the laws and customs of the Chinese.

All the old inhabitants of India have remained faithful to the cult and customs of the Brahmins; customs consecrated by time and which are, without doubt, the most ancient thing we know of on this earth.  
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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Part 3 of 5

OLD ARABS IN INDIA

There is also another race of Muhammadans in India; it is that of the Arabs who, about two hundred years after Muhammad, reached the coast of Malabar. They conquered with ease this land which from Goa to Cape Comorin is a garden of delights, inhabited then by a peaceful and innocent people, equally incapable of doing violence or of defending themselves. They crossed the mountains which separate the Coromandel district from that of Malabar and which are the cause of the monsoons. It is that chain of mountains which is to-day inhabited by the Maharattas.

These Arabs who soon penetrated as far as Delhi, gave a race of Sovereigns to a large part of India. This race was subjugated by Tamerlaine, as well as the original inhabitants of the country. It is believed that a part of these Arabs settled down then in the province of Kandhar and mingled with the Tartars. This Kandhar is the old country called Parapomise by the Greeks, who never called any people by their right name. It is through this route that Alexander entered India. The Orientals claimed that he founded the town of Kandhar. They say that it is an abbreviation of Alexander, whom they called Iscandar. We always find that this unique man founded more towns in seven or eight years than other conquerors have destroyed; that he went however from victory to victory, and that he was young.

It is also through Kandhar that Nadir passed in our times — a shepherd, a native of Khorasan, who became King of Persia, and after ravaging his country came to ravage the north of India.

These Arabs of whom we speak to-day are known by the name of Pathans, because they founded the town of Patna near Bengal.

Our European merchants who were very ignorant, called all these Muhammadan peoples vaguely “Moors”. This mistake arises from the fact that the first whom we have known in the past were those who came from Morocco [Voltaire says "Mauritanie."] to conquer Spain, a part of the southern provinces of France, and some districts in Italy. Almost all peoples from China to Rome, victors and vanquished, robbers and robbed, have mingled with each other.

We call the real Indians “Gentous”, [I.e., "Hindus." (Trans.)] from the old word Gentiles, Gentes, [Latin "Races." (Trans.)] which the first Christians called the rest of the world who were not of their secret religion. Thus all names and all things have always changed. The customs of the conquerors have changed in the same way. The Indian climate has enervated nearly all of them.

CHAPTER VI: THE HINDUS AND THEIR MOST REMARKABLE CUSTOMS

Those ancient Indians whom we call Hindus are in Moghul domains about one hundred millions in number (Mr. Scrafton assures us). This huge multitude is a fatal proof that a big number is easily dominated by a small. These uncountable flocks of peace-loving Hindus who gave up their liberty to a few bands of brigands did not, however, give up their religion and their customs. They have preserved the ancient cult of Brama. It is so, they say, because the Muhammadans have never cared to direct their souls and have been content to be their masters.

Their four ancient castes still exist in all the rigour of a law which separates them one from another and with all the force of first prejudices strengthened by many centuries. It is known that the first is the Brahman caste who used to govern the Empire long ago; the second are the Warriors; the third are the Agriculturists; the fourth the Merchants. Those called the Hallacores (Untouchables) or Parias, given the most degraded work, are not counted. They are regarded as impure; they themselves think they are, and would never dare to eat with a man of another caste, or touch him, or even approach him.

It is probable that the institution of these four castes was imitated by the Egyptians; because it is really quite probable, or rather certain, that only a long time after India could Egypt have been peopled and cultured in a small way. Centuries were necessary to control the Nile, to divide it into canals, to raise buildings above its floods; while the land of India spread out before man all the help necessary for life, as we have said and proved elsewhere.


CHAPTER VII. THE BRAHMANS

All the grandeur and all the misery of human existence unfolds itself in the story of the old Brahmans, and the new Brahmans, their successors. On one side, there is a persevering goodness of soul, maintained by a rigorously abstemious life; a sublime philosophy, though a fantastic one, veiled by ingenious allegories; a horror of the shedding of blood; a constant kindliness towards man and beast. On the other side, there is the most despicable superstition. This fanaticism, although peaceful, has led them to encourage, for innumerable centuries, the voluntary death of many young widows who have thrown themselves on the blazing funeral pyres of their husbands. This horrible excess of religion and greatness of soul still exists side by side with the famous profession of faith of the Brahmans that God desires of us charity and good works. The whole world is ruled by contradictions.

Mr. Scrafton adds that they are of the opinion that God wished that different nations should have different religious cults. This opinion might lead to indifference; they have, however, just as much enthusiasm for their religion as if they believed it to be the only true one, and the only one given by God himself.

The majority of them live an easy life of apathy. Their big maxim, drawn from their old books, is that it is better to sit than to walk, better to lie than to sit, better to sleep than to be awake, and better to die than to be alive. There are, however, many to be seen on the Coromandel coast who rise out of this lethargy in order to throw themselves into an active life. Some take the part of the French, others take the part of the English: they learn the language of these foreigners and act as their interpreters and courtiers. There is hardly a big merchant on this coast who has not got his Brahman as he has his banker. On the whole, they are found to be faithful, but sharp-witted and cunning. Those who have had no tradings with the foreigners have kept it is said the pure goodness of soul that is attributed to their ancestors.

THE AMAZING LEARNING OF THE BRAHMANS AT THE TIME OF THEIR DECADENCE

Mr. Scrafton and others have seen, in the hands of some Brahmans, astronomical tables made by themselves in which eclipses are calculated for many millions of years. There are therefore in their midst good mathematicians and learned astronomists; but at the same time they practice a ridiculous "legal" astrology, and they push this extravagant belief as far as the Chinese and the Persians. The man who wrote these memoirs has sent to the king’s library the “Cormovedan,” an old commentary on the Vedas. It is filled with predictions for every day of the year, and of religious principles for every hour. We should not be surprised about it: only two hundred years ago the same madness possessed all our princes and the same charlatanism was affected by our astronomers. The Brahmans, who possessed these tables, must be very learned. They are philosophers and priests, like the old Brahmans; they say that the people needs to be deceived and needs to be ignorant. As a result, they say that the knots of the moon in which eclipses occur, and which the old Brahmans designated by heiroglyphics of the head and the tail of a dragon, are really the efforts of a dragon who attacks the moon and the sun. The same inept version is believed in China. There are in India millions of men and women who bathe in the Ganges during an eclipse and who make a huge noise with all kinds of instruments in order to make the dragon loosen his hold. It is like this, more or less, that the earth has been governed for a long time, and in every way.

Moreover, more than one Brahman has negotiated with the missionaries in the interest of the East India Company, but the question of religion has never risen between them.

Other missionaries (it must be mentioned) have hastened on their arrival in India to write that the Brahmans worshipped the Devil, but that soon they would all be converted to the Christian faith. It is said that these monks from Europe have never tried to convert even a single Brahman, and that no Indian ever worshipped the Devil, whom he did not know. The orthodox Brahmans conceived an inexpressible horror of our monks, when they saw them eating meat, drinking wine, and holding confession with young girls at their knees. If their customs seem to us ridiculous aspects of idolatry, our customs appears crimes to them. [One of the big Jesuit missionaries, called Lalane, wrote in 1709: One cannot doubt that the Brahmans are not real idolaters, since they worship strange gods. (Book 10, page 14 of the Lettres Edifiantes.) And he says (page 15): Here is one of their prayers that I have translated word for word: "I adore the Being who is not subject either to change or inequity; the Being whose nature is indivisible; the Being whose perfect spirituality does not admit of being composed of qualities; the Being who is the origin and the cause of all beings, and who surpasses them all in excellence, the Being who is the upholder of the Universe and who is the source of the Triple Power." That is what a missionary calls idolatry!


What ought to be even more astonishing to us is that in no book of the old Brahmans, any more than in those of the Chinese, nor in the fragments of the Sanconiaton, nor in those of Berose, nor in the Egyptian Manethon, nor with the Greeks, nor with the Tuscans, is to be found the least trace of the sacred History of the Jews which is our sacred history. Not a single word about Noah, whom we hold to be the saviour of the human race, not a single word about Adam, whom we believe to be the father of it; nothing of his first descendents. How was it possible that nobody should have handed down to posterity a single action or a single word of these ancestors? Why have so many ancient nations remained in ignorance about it, and why does a little and new nation know of it? This miracle will require some attention if we have the hope of elucidating it. The whole of India, China, Japan, Tartary and three quarters of Africa do not yet know that Cain existed, or Canaan, Jared or Methusalah who lived nearly a thousand years. And other nations only became familiar with these names after Constantine. But these questions which belong to the realm of philosophy are strangers to history.

CHAPTER VIII: THE WARRIORS OF INDIA AND THE RECENT REVOLUTIONS

The Hindus, as a whole, do not appear to be any more made for war, in their lovely climate, and in their religious principles, than the Laplanders in their frozen country and the “primitives” called Quakers, by the principles they have made for themselves. We have seen that the race of the conquering Muhammadans has nothing Tartar in it, and has become Indian with the passage of time.

NADIR SHAH OVERTURNS THE INDIAN POLITICAL SYSTEM

These descendants of the conquerors of India, with a huge army, could not resist Nadir Shah when he came in 1739 to attack, with an army of forty thousand fierce brigands from Kandhar and Persia, more than six hundred thousand men whom Muhammad Shah pitted against him. Mr. Cambridge tells us who these six hundred thousand warriors were. Every horseman, accompanied by two servants, wore a light and trailing robe of silk. The elephants were decorated as though for a festival. A huge number of women followed the army. There was in the camp as big a number of shops and goods as in Delhi. The very sight of Nadir Shah's army was enough to disperse this ridiculous pomp and show. Nadir bathed Delhi in blood and fire: he carried away to Persia all the treasures of this powerful and wretched emperor, and despised him sufficiently to leave him his crown.

Certain stories tell us, and certain historians tell us again from these stories, that a Fakir stopped the horse of Nadir Shah on his march to Delhi, and that he cried out to the Prince ‘‘If you are God, take us as your victims; if you are man, spare us as men, and that Nadir Shah replied “I am not God, but he whom God has sent to chastise the nations of the earth. [A story like this was told of Fernand Cortes, of Tamerlaine, of Attila, who according to the historians, called himself “the scourge of God." Nobody ever called himself a “scourge." The Jesuits used to call Pascal “the door of hell," but Pascal replies to them in his “Letters” that his name is not the door of hell. Most of these adventures and these replies, attributed through the ages to so many famous men, were first of all products of the imagination of writers who wished to brighten up their novels, and are still repeated to-day by those who write histories from collected Gazettes”. All these so-called "witticisms", and all these legends grow with recounting. One can amuse oneself with them, but not believe them.]

The treasure, with which Nadir contented himself, and which was of no use to him, as he was assassinated a short time afterwards by his nephew, amounted, we are told, to more than fifteen hundred millions in French money, according to the present value of our currency. What became of these immense riches? Some may have passed into other hands, as new plundering took place; the rest may have been hidden by the fearful and the avaricious in some hole or other: Persia and India have both been the most unfortunate countries on earth, since man has always striven to change into dreadful calamities all the bounties that nature has bestowed on him. Persia and India were no more, after the victory and the death of Nadir Shah, than lands of blood and anarchy. They were both torrents of revolution.

CHAPTER IX: REVOLUTIONS (continued)

A YOUNG Persian valet, who had served as mace-bearer in the household of Nadir Shah, made himself a highway robber as his master had been.

A HIGHWAY ROBBER BECOMES SOVEREIGN

He got information of a convoy of three thousand camels bearing arms, provisions, and a great amount of gold carried away from Delhi by the Persians. He killed the escort, captured the convoy, levied troops, and took possession of a whole kingdom North-East of Delhi. This kingdom used to be at one time a part of Bactriane; [This kingdom is called Ghisni. We have not found this name either in the maps of Vaugondi, or in our dictionaries: it did, however, exist, and is to-day dismembered.] its boundaries stretch on one side to the mountains of the lovely province of Kashmir, and on the other side to Kabul.

This brigand, called Abdali, was once a big Prince, a hero, who marched towards Delhi in 1746, and aimed at nothing short of conquering the whole of India. It was exactly at this time that la Bourdonnaye took Madras.

The old Mogul, Mahmoud, whose destiny it was to be oppressed by thieves, either kings or those wishing to be kings, first sent against him his Grand Vizier, under whom his grandson Ahmed Shah made his first attempts at arms. A battle was fought at the gates of Delhi. The result was indecisive, but the Grand Vizier was killed. It is said that the Umras, the commanders of the Emperor's troops, strangled their master, and spread the rumour that he had poisoned himself.

His grandson, Ahmed Shah, succeeded him on this tottering throne — a prince who has been painted as brave but weak, [We are only looking for the truth, we do not claim to paint the portrait... either of princes or of statesmen who lived six thousand leagues away, as people take it into their heads every day to draw for us, down to the least details of character, the sovereigns, who lived two thousand years ago, and the ministers, who reigned under them or over them. The charlatanism, which is rampant everywhere, varies these pictures in a thousand ways; they make these men say things that we know they never said, harangues are attributed to them, which they have never delivered, as well as actions which they have never done. We should find it very hard to paint a true portrait of the princes we have seen near to us, and some people want to give us those of Numa and Tarquin!] voluptuous, indecisive, untrustworthy, changeable, destined to be more unfortunate than his grandfather. A Raja called Gasi, who helped him and betrayed him by turns, took him prisoner and had his eyes taken out. The Emperor died as a result of this torture. The Raja Gasi, not being able to make himself Emperor, put in his place a descendent of Tamerlaine: that Alumgir, who has not been happier than the others. The Umras, like the Aghas of the Janissaries, want the race of Tamerlaine always to be on the throne, as the Turks only want a Sultan of the Ottoman race; it does not matter to them who reigns, if he is efficient or bad, provided he is a member of the family. They depose him, they gouge out his eyes, they kill him on a throne that they hold sacred. They have done it since the time of Aurengzeb.

We can imagine during these storms, how the Soubeidars, the Nawabs and the Rajas of Central India, quarrelled among themselves over the provinces they evacuated, and how the French and English factions made efforts to share the booty.

We have shown how a small band of Europeans took part in the combat or dispersed the Hindu armies. These soldiers from Visapour, from Arcot, from Tanjor, from Golconda, from Orissa, and from Bengal, from Cape Cormorin right to the Promontary and the mouth of the Ganges, are doubtless bad soldiers: they have no military discipline, no patience in work, no loyalty to their leaders,— they are solely concerned with their pay which is always much above the salary of labourers and workmen, according to a custom directly contrary to that of Europe; neither they nor their officers ever worry themselves about the interest of the Prince they serve, they only worry about the money-bags of his treasurer. But, after all, Indians do fight Indians, and their strength or weakness is equal; their bodies which can rarely bear fatigue face death. Quails fight and kill themselves as well as bulldogs.

MAHRATTAS

An exception to these weak troops are those mountain people called the Mahrattas, who have stronger constitution, like all inhabitants of hilly country. They are hardier, more courageous, have a greater love of liberty than the inhabitants of the plains. These Mahrattas are precisely what the Swiss were in the wars of Charles VIII and Louis XII: whosoever could overcome them was sure of victory, and their services were highly paid. They chose a leader for themselves whom they only obey during the war, and, though they obeyed him very badly, the Europeans called this captain of the brigands “king" -- such is the misuse of this word. Sometimes they fought for the Emperors; sometimes against them. They served, turn by turn, Nawab against Nawab, and French against English.

However, one should not believe that these Mahratta Hindus, although of the Brahman religion, observe its rigorous rites; they and nearly all the soldiers eat meat and fish; they even drink strong liquors when they find them. In every country people make their religion fit in with their desires.


These Mahrattas prevented Abdali from conquering India. Without them, he would have been a Tamerlaine or an Alexander. We have just seen the grandson of Mahmud put to death by one of his subjects. His successor, Alumgir, experienced the same revolutions in his short life and had the same fate. The Mahrattas, having declared war on him, entered Delhi, and devastated it for seven days. Abdali came back and intensified the confusion and disaster in 1757. The Emperor Alumgir, become insane, ruled and ill-treated by his Vizier, implored the protection of this very Abdali; the indignant Vizier put his master in prison and soon afterwards cut off his head. This last catastrophe happened a few years afterwards. Our memoirs, which agree on fundamentals, disagree on dates: but what does it matter to us in what month and year an effeminate Mogul was killed in India, when so many kings were being assassinated in Europe?

This heap of crimes and disasters, which follow each other without interruption, in the end disgusts the reader: the number of them and the distance of the places mentioned lessen the pity inspired by such calamities.


CHAPTER X: DESCRIPTION OF THE COASTS OF THE PENINSULA, WHERE THE FRENCH AND ENGLISH TRADED AND MADE WAR

After having shown who were the Emperors, the important men, the peoples, the soldiers, and the priests with whom General Lalli had to fight and negotiate, we must describe the condition of the English, against whom he was pitted, and begin by giving an idea of the establishments founded by so many European nations on the western and eastern coasts of India.

It is unfortunate that we cannot at this point put a geographical map before the eyes of the reader: it is not convenient for us to do it, neither have we the time, but whosoever wants to read these memoirs with advantage can easily consult one. If one cannot be found, he can imagine the whole coast of the Indian peninsula covered with establishments of European merchants, founded either by concessions from the inhabitants themselves or by force of arms.

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1924 India Map


STORIES OF CAMBAY

Begin on the North-East. You find first of all that you are on the coast of the Cambay peninsula, where it is claimed that men lived a communal life for two hundred years. If that were so, it must have possessed that “water of perpetual life" which has been the subject of Asian novels, or that “fountain of Youth” known in the novels of Europe. The Portugese have kept here Deo [Voltaire writes " Diu (or Diou)’’ (Trans.). one of their former conquests.

SURAT

At the end of the Cambay gulf is Surat, a town at present under the rule of the Grand Mogul, in which all the nations of the earth had their trading centres, and above all the Armenians are the agents of Turkey, Persia and India.

The coast of Malabar, properly speaking, begins with a little island, which belongs to the Jesuits; it still bears their name and in strange contrast, the island of Bombay, which follows, belongs to the English. This Isle of Bombay is the most unhealthy place in India, and the worst. It is, however, to preserve this island that the English fought the Nawab of Deccan who claims the sovereignty over these coasts. They must find it profitable to keep up such a sorry establishment, and we shall see how this place served as a background for one of the most amazing happenings, which have made the English respected in India.


GOA

Lower down is the little island of Goa. Every sailor says that there is no more beautiful port in the world: those of Naples or Lisbon are neither bigger nor better. The town is still a monument to the superiority of Europeans over Indians — or rather of the cannon, which these people do not know. Goa is unfortunately celebrated for its inquisition equally contrary to humanity and opposed to commerce. The Portugese monks affirmed that these people worshipped the Devil, and it was they themselves who served him.

If you go southwards, you will find Cananor which the Dutch took from the Portugese, who had seized it from its owners.

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Map of India to Illustrate the History of Mysore


CALICUT

After that we find the ancient kingdom of Calicut which cost so much blood to the Portuguese. The kingdom is about twenty of our leagues in length and breadth. The ruler of this country called himself Zamorin, the King of Kings; and the Kings who were his vassals each possessed about five or six leagues. It was the seat of the most important trade, but now it is no longer so, and merchants do not frequent it. An Englishman, who has travelled for a long time on all these coasts, confirms that this district is the most pleasant in Asia, and the climate is the healthiest; that all the trees there are evergreens and that the land is always covered with flowers and fruits. But human greed does not send merchants to India to breathe sweet air and gather flowers.

WRITTEN LIES

A Portuguese monk wrote long ago that when the king of this country marries, he first of all asks the youngest priests to sleep with his wife; that all the women and the queen herself can each have seven husbands; that children do not inherit, but nephews; and finally that all the inhabitants there make elaborate sacrifices to the Devil. These ridiculous absurdities are repeated in twenty histories, in twenty books of geography, and in la Martiniere himself. One gets angry with this crowd of historians, who write down so many stupid things of every kind in cold blood, as if it was nothing to deceive men. [The famous Jesuit Tachard relates that he was told that the women of noble birth in Calicut could have many as many as ten husbands at a time (volume 3 of the “Lettres Edifiantes", page 158). Montesquieu quotes this stupid remark as if it were an article of the customs of Paris, and, what is worse, he assigns a reason for this law. The writer of these fragments, having with a few friends sent a ship to India, very carefully collected information as to whether this amazing law exists in Calicut. People replied by shrugging their shoulders and laughing. Actually, how can we imagine that the most cultured people on the coast of Malabar could have a custom so contrary to that of all their neighbours, to religious laws, and to human nature? How can we believe that a well-born man, or a soldier, could content himself with being the tenth favourite of his wife? To whom would the children belong? What a terrible amount of quarrels there would be, and continual murders! It would be less ridiculous to say that there is a courtyard where ten cocks share peacefully one hen. This story is as absurd as that with which Herodotus amused the Greeks when he said that all the ladies of Babylon were obliged to go to the temple to sell their favours to the first stranger who wanted to buy them. A member of Paris University wanted to justify this stupidity: he did not succeed.]

We regard it as our duty to repeat here that the first Brahmans, having invented sculpture, painting, hieroglyphics, as well as arithmetic and geometry, represented “Virtue” with the symbol of a woman, to whom they gave ten arms to fight ten monsters, who are the ten sins to which man is most subject. It was these allegorical figures that the sailors, ignorant, deceived and deceiving, took for statues of Satan and Beelzebub, old Persian names which were never known in the Peninsula. [See the chapter on Brahmans.] But what would the descendents of those Brahmans say, the first teachers of the human race, if they had the curiosity to see our country, so long uncivilized, just as we have the mad desire to go to their land for the sake of avarice!


TANOR  

Tanor, which follows, is still called a kingdom by our geographers; it is a little land, four leagues by two, a house of pleasure, situated in a delightful place, to which the neighbouring people go to buy certain precious things.

CHANGANOR

Immediately afterwards comes the kingdom of Changanor, of about the same size. Most accounts say that this district is as full of kings as we see Marquises in Italy and France without the Marquisates, Counts without their “Comtes” and in Germany Barons without their Baronies.

If Changanor is a kingdom, Quilon, which is next to it, can call itself a huge Empire; because it is roughly twelve leagues by three. The Dutch, who expelled the Portugese from the capitals of these States, established in Changanor a trading centre of which they have made a fortress impregnable against all these kings united together. They do an immense trade at Changanor which is, so they say, a garden of delights.

Going always towards the equator on the coast of this peninsula, which gets narrower and narrower, the Dutch also took from the Portugese their fortress in the kingdom of Cochin, a little province, which was under the sway at one time of this "King of Kings" Zamorin of Calicut. It was nearly three centuries ago that these kings saw armed merchants from Europe establish themselves in their territories, expel each other, and take possession turn by turn of all the trade of the country, without the inhabitants of three hundred leagues of coastline ever being able to stop them.

TRAVANCORE

Travancore is the last land which ends the point of the peninsula. One is surprised at the weakness of the travellers and the missionaries who have taken out of this Kingdom the little country of Travancore, as well as these other groups of rich "villages" that we have just passed.

Even if these kingdoms had only occupied each fifty leagues along the coast, there would have been twelve hundred leagues from Surat to Cape Cormorin; and if they had converted a hundredth part of the Indians among whom there is not a single Christian, there would be more than a million. [A Jesuit called Martin tells in the fifth volume of his "Lettres Curieuses et Edifiantes" that it is a custom near Travancore to collect a fund and distribute it every year. An Indian, it is said, made a vow to Saint Francis Xavier to give a sum of money to the Jesuits if he won in this kind of lottery. He won the biggest prize. He made a second vow, and won for the second time. However, adds the Jesuit Martin, this Indian, as well as all his compatriots, retained an unconquerable horror for the religion of the French, which they call “Franguinism”. He was ungrateful. Let us add to all these things of which the “Lettres Curieuses” are full, the miracles attributed to Saint Francis Xavier, his sermons in all the dialects of India and Japan, delivered as soon as he embarked in these countries, the nine dead that he brought to life, the two ships in which he found himself at the same time although they were a hundred leagues from one another, and which he saved from a tempest; his crucifix which fell into the sea and which was brought back by a sea crab; and let us judge if such a sacred religion as ours ought to be continually mingled with such stories. This same Martin who lived however a long time in India dares to say that there is a small people called the Kolaris, whose law is that, in their quarrels and their law-suits, the opposing party is forced to do everything that the other does. If one loses his eye, the other is forced to extract his. If a Kolari cuts his wife’s throat and eats her, his opponent immediately assassinates and eats his. Mr. Orme, a learned Englishman who has seen a lot of these Kolaris, assures us in clear words, that these diabolical customs are absolutely unknown, and that Father Martin was not telling the truth.]

THE FENNEL TREE: A UNIQUE PHENOMENON IF IT IS TRUE

Before leaving Malabar, although it is not our plan to write the natural history of this delightful country, may we be permitted to admire the cocoanut trees and the fennel tree. The cocoanut tree, it is well known, provides man with everything necessary for him: food and pleasant drink, clothing, house and furniture. It is the finest present of nature. The fennel tree, which is less known, produces fruits which swell and bounce under the hand which touches them. Our fennel herb, also unexplainable, has far fewer properties. This tree if we are to believe certain naturalists, reproduces itself in whatever way it is cut. It has not, however, been put in the ranks of those “Zoophyte ” animals, as Leuvenhoek has put those little rushes called fresh water Polyps, which grow in some marshes, and about which many tales have been told and too easily believed. One looks for the miraculous, and it is everywhere, for the least works of nature are inexplicable. There is no need to add legends to these real mysteries which strike our eyes and which we tread under our feet.

CHAPTER XI: SURVEY OF THE COAST (continued)

At last, we go round this famous Cape Cormor, or Cormorin known to the ancient Romans since the time of Augustus and then we reach this “Pearl coast” which is called the “fishery." It is from there that Indian divers provided pearls to the East and the West. There were still many to be found when the Portuguese discovered and invaded this coast in the sixteenth century. Since that time, this huge branch of commerce has decreased every day, either because more easterly seas produce pearls of finer water, or because the material which makes them has changed on the shore of this Indian promontory, just as many gold and silver mines and those of other metals have been worked out in many countries.

THE FAMOUS ISLAND OF CEYLON

Next you go a little to the north of the eighth degree from the equator, where you are, and you see on your right Trapobane (or Taprobane) as the ancients knew it, called later Serindib by the Arabs and finally Ceylon. [Or, more usually, Saradep.] To describe it we will only say, that the King of Portugal, Emmanuel, asked one of his ship’s captains who was returning from there if it merited its reputation. The officer answered him: “I saw there a sea sown with pearls, coasts covered with ambergris, forests of ebony and cinnamon, mountains of rubies, caverns of rock crystal — and I am bringing them to you in my ship.” What a reply! and he was not exaggerating.

The Dutch did not fail to expel the Portuguese from this island of treasures. It seemed as though Portugal had only undertaken so many difficult voyages and conquered so many kingdoms in the heart of Asia for the sake of the Dutch. The latter, having made themselves masters of all the coasts of Ceylon, forbade everyone to land there. They made the ruler of the island their vassal; and it never occurred to the Rajas, the Nawabs and the Soubeidars in India even to attempt to dispossess them.

Leaving the coast of Malabar, which we have surveyed, you come to the coasts of Coromandel and Bengal, the theatres of wars between the princes of those countries, and between France and England.

We shall not speak any more here of Monarchs and Zamorin “King of Kings”; instead we shall speak of the Soubeidars, the Nawabs, and the Rajas. This Coromandel coast is inhabited by Europeans, as is that of Malabar. First we come across the Dutch at Negapatam, which they have made, it is said, into quite a flourishing town.

Higher up is Tranquebar, a small territory which the Danes have bought, and where they have founded a little town more lovely than Negapatam. Near Tranquebar, the French had a trading centre and fort at Caricul. Above this the English had Goudelour and St. David.

PONDICHERRY

Quite near Fort St. David, in an arid plain without a port, the French bought, like the others, from the Soubeidar of the Deccan province, a small piece of land where they built a station, which they later made into a town of considerable importance, — the Pondicherry of which we have already spoken. At first, it was merely a trading centre surrounded by a thick hedge of acacias, palms, cocoanut trees, and aloes, and it was called “the boundary hedge."

MADRAS

Thirty leagues north is Madras, as we have seen before, — the chief English commercial centre. The town is partly built of the ruins of Mylapore, which had been changed by the Portugese into St. Thome, in honour of St. Thomas Dydime, the apostle. One still finds in these parts the remains of Syrians, called at first "Christians of Thomas,” because Thomas, a Syrian merchant, came to settle there with his agents in the sixth century of our era! Soon afterwards, people became certain that it was St. Thomas himself. One sees everywhere traditions that grow from public opinion; monuments and customs founded on similar misinterpretations. The Portuguese believed that St. Thomas had come on foot from Jerusalem to the Coromandel coast as a carpenter to build a magnificent palace for the king Gondaser. The Jesuit Tachard has seen near Madras an opening that St. Thomas made in the middle of a mountain in order to escape through this hole from the hands of a Brahman who was following him with spear blows — although the Brahmans have never given spear blows to anybody. English Christians and French Christians have killed each other in our days with cannons on this same ground that Nature did not seem to have made for them. The so-called Christians of St. Thomas were at least peaceful merchants.

Farther off, is the little fort of Palicate belonging to the Dutch. From that place they go to buy diamonds from the Nawab of Golconda's territory.

MASULIPATAM

Fifty leagues to the North, the English and the French were quarrelling over Masulipatam, where the loveliest printed fabrics are made and where all nations traded. M. Dupleix obtained from the Nawab the complete establishment. The foreigners, it may be noticed, have shared out all this coast, and the Indians have not kept anything for themselves of their own land.

After passing the Coromandal coast, we arrive on the heights of Golconda, where are to be found diamond mines, the object of the greatest greed. The Nawabs had for a long time prevented foreign countries from making any fixed establishments in this province. First of all, the agents of the English and Dutch came to buy diamonds which they sold in Europe.


CALCUTTA

The English possessed in the north of Golconda the little town of Calcutta built by them on the Ganges in Bengal, a province which is considered the most beautiful, the richest, and the most delightful country in the world.

CHANDERNAGOR

As for the French, they had Chandernagor and another small trading centre on the Ganges. It is at Chandernagor that M. Dupleix began to amass his huge fortune, which he later lost. He had equipped there on his own account fifteen ships which used to go to all the ports of Asia, before he was nominated Governor of Bengal.

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Map of India 1805


HOOGLI [Ougli, according to Voltaire.]

The Dutch have the town of Hoogli between Calcutta and Chandernagor. It is interesting to note that in all the recent wars which have upset India, which have started England down the slope of ruin, and which have destroyed the French, the Dutch have never openly taken sides; they have not exposed themselves, and have peacefully enjoyed their commercial advantages without attempting to make empires. They possessed quite a good one in Batavia. They have been seen fighting against the Spanish and the Dutch, but in these latter wars have behaved like clever negotiators.

Let us note specially that, although so many European peoples had big armed warships on all the coasts of India, it is only the Indians who have not had any, if we except just one pirate. Is it weakness and ignorance of Government? Is it softness, is it confidence in the bounty of their vast and fertile lands which have no need of our gifts? It is all these things put together.

Chapter XII: What happened in India before General Lalli arrived. The history of Angria; the English destroyed in Bengal.

Having now described as well as we can the shores of India which are so interesting to the trading nations in Europe and Asia, we shall next tell about a service which England did to the world.

WHO WAS ANGRIA?

It was a hundred years ago that a Mahratta called Conoge Angria, who had captained several of the ships of his nation against those of the Emperor of India, became a pirate, and having retreated towards Bombay, robbed indifferently his compatriots, his neighbours, and all the traders who sailed in that sea. He had easily gained possession of some small islands on this coast, which were no more than unapproachable rocks. He fortified one of them by digging ditches in the rock. His fortress was supported by walls ten to twelve feet thick, surmounted by cannons. It was there that he hid away his booty. His son and grandson continued with the same work and with even greater success. An entire province behind Bombay was under the sway of this last Angria. Thousands of Mahratta vagabonds, Indians, Christian renegades, and negroes had come to swell the numbers of this Brigand Republic, which was very like that of Algiers. The Angria family proved conclusively that the earth and the sea belong to those who make an attempt to capture them. We see, each in their turn, two robbers form great kingdoms for themselves in the North and South of India. One is Abdala [Voltaire, most probably, means Ahmad Shah Abdali.] in Kabul, the other Angria in Bombay. How many big Powers have had no better beginnings!

The English had to arm two fleets one after the other against these new conquerors. Admiral James began this war (and it deserved the name of war) in 1755, and Admiral Watson brought it to a close. Captain Clive, afterwards so famous, gave proof of his military talent there. All the refuges of these notorious thieves were taken in succession. In the rock which acted as their stronghold were found huge piles of merchandise, two hundred cannons, arsenals containing arms of every kind, the value of one hundred and fifty million French francs in gold, diamonds, pearls and perfumes: things the like of which could hardly be found on the Coromandel coast or Peru were hidden there. Angria escaped. Admiral Watson took his mother, wife and children prisoners. He treated them well, as one can well imagine. The youngest child, hearing that they had not been able to find Angria, threw his arms round the Admiral’s neck and said to him: “Then it will be you who will be my father.” Mr. Watson had these words translated to him through an interpreter. He was moved to tears by them, and he actually became a father to the whole family. This happy action, so worth remembering, were rewarded in the chief English station in Bengal by an even greater disaster.

THE ENGLISH EXTERMINATED

A quarrel arose between their Calcutta station on the Ganges and the Soubeidar of Bengal. This Prince thought that the English had a big garrison at Calcutta because they had taken possession of the town. The town, however, only contained a Merchants’ Council and about three hundred soldiers. The biggest prince in India marched against them with sixty thousand soldiers, three hundred cannons, and three hundred elephants.

A QUAKER GOVERNOR, 1756

The Governor of Calcutta, called [Roger] Drake, was very different from the famous Admiral Drake. It is said that he belonged to the simple Nazarene religion, followed by those respectable Pennsylvanians whom we know by the name of Quakers. These simple folk, whose native land is Philadelphia in the New World, and who ought to make us blush for shame, have the same horror of war as the Brahmins. They look upon war as a crime. Drake was a very clever merchant, and a good man. Until then, he had kept his religion a secret. When he declared it, the Council sent him to the Ganges to hide him.

Roger Drake was a British administrator in the East India Company. He served as President of Fort William in Bengal between 1752 and 1756 and was later reprimanded for his actions during the Siege of Calcutta in 1756.

Drake was the nephew of financier Roger Drake, of the firm Drake and Long based in Leadenhall Street and prominent director of the East India Company. Drake joined the service of the East India Company and arrived in Bengal on 26 May 1737. He rose through the ranks and became President of Fort William on 8 August 1752 following the death of William Fytche.

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William Fytche (1716 – 10 August 1753) was an administrator of the English East India Company. He served as President of Bengal in the mid-eighteenth century. He was one of the last administrators before the Battle of Plassey allowed the company to firmly establish its rule in India.

Fytche was the youngest son of William Fytche, Member of Parliament for Maldon, and his wife Mary, daughter of Robert Corey of Danbury. He became a member of the Calcutta council of merchants in 1746. In 1749 he went to Murshidabad, to take charge of the factory at Cossimbazaar there. He became President (Governor) on 8 January 1752. According to the Gentleman's Magazine in 1794, he had been in India for 21 years.

Fytche married Lucia Beard on 25 February 1744 at Fort St George, Madras, where he was before being sent to Bengal...

Fytche died of dysentery at the age of 35.

-- William Fytche, by Wikipedia


In April 1756, Siraj Ud Daulah became Nawab of Bengal and sought to reprimand the company for abusing their privileged trading rights. He wrote a letter to both the French and British Company's requesting that they remove all fortifications at Chandannagore and Calcutta. The French replied tactfully claiming they were merely repairing existing structures whilst Drake replied that he was improving the defences in case of war with France. Siraj Ud Daulah was angered by Drake's perceived insolent response and tone and began plotting to punish the company. On 16 June 1756, Siraj Ud Daulah approached Calcutta with an army numbering 30,000 and within four days the town and Fort were captured. During the siege Drake controversially abandoned his post and with a handful of fellow officers sought refuge with the women and children on ships moored nearby Later, eye-witnesses reported that his ship was fired on by the men he deserted as he sailed away down the river. In his absence, [url=x]John Zephaniah Holwell[/url] was placed in charge and led the defence until their capitulation in the evening of 20 June. Calcutta was subsequently sacked and the remaining Europeans were held captive in the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Drake was disgraced by his actions in the Siege and an inquiry was held to investigate his actions. He was officially removed from his post by the company on 13 November 1757. He was succeeded as Governor by Robert Clive, who would re-capture Calcutta following the Battle of Plassey and firmly establish Company rule in India. Despite his disgrace, Drake benefited from Mir Jafar's payment of compensation and damages following the Battle of Plassey, and in 1759 returned to England with eight fellow Company officials and a considerable fortune.

-- Roger Drake (colonial administrator), by Wikipedia


Who could imagine that the Moghuls lost twelve thousand men at the first attack? Reports tell us so. If it is true, nothing could better confirm the superiority of Europe. But they could not hold out for long, The town was taken, and everyone imprisoned. There were among the captives one hundred and forty-six English officers and agents, who were put into a prison called the Black Hole. They had a terrible experience in that hot and enclosed air, or rather in that vapour, continuously exhaled from every body which has been given the name of “air and element." [Voltaire writes: le nom d'air et d'element.] One hundred and twenty-three men died of it in a few hours. Boerhave, in his Chemistry, recounts an even stranger example — that of a man who fell down in a state of decay in a sugar refinery the minute the door was closed. This strength in vapours shows the necessity of ventilators, above all in hot climates, and the fatal dangers that threaten human bodies not only in prisons but at public gatherings where the crowd is thick. Above all, they are necessary in churches where they have the wretched custom of burying the dead, and from which comes a disease-bringing stench. [In Saulieu in Burgandy, in June 1773, sixty children had assembled in the church for their first communion, and just at that time it was decided that they should dig a grave in the church in order to bury a corpse there that very evening. Such a bad smell rose up from this grave, where there were several other old corpses, that the priests, forty children and two hundred parishioners who had entered the church died of it, if we can believe the public newspapers. Will this terrible warning not to meddle with the temples of dead bodies still be futile in France? How long will this horrible act be looked upon as a sign of piety? (V.)]

Mr. Holwell, the Deputy Governor in Calcutta, was one of those who escaped this sudden contagion. They led him with twenty-two dying officers to Maksudabad [Old name for Murshidabad. Voltaire says Maxadabad.] in Bengal. The Soubeidar took pity on them and had their irons taken off. Holwell offered him a ransom. The Prince refused it saying that he had already suffered too much without being obliged to pay for his liberty.


HOLWELL THE ONLY EUROPEAN WHO HAS UNDERSTOOD THE BELIEFS OF THE BRAHMINS

It is this Holwell who learnt not only the language of the modern Brahmins but also that of the old Brahmins. [It is not that we have a blind faith in everything that Mr. Holwell tells us -- we should not have that kind of belief in anyone -- but at least he has shown us that the dwellers of the Ganges (Gangandes) had written a mythology, whether good or bad, five thousand years ago, just as the learned and wise Jesuit Parennin has shown us that the Chinese were a united people about that time. And, if they were like that then, they must have been like it before; big nations do not grow in a day. It is therefore not for us, who were only barbarians and savages when these people were polished and wise, to question their antiquity. It is possible, in the number of revolutions which have changed everything on the earth, that Europe knew the arts and the sciences before Asia, but no trace of them remains and Asia is full of old monuments. (V).] It is the same man who afterwards wrote such valuable memoirs on India, and who has translated wonderful pieces from the first religious books written in the sacred language, and some more ancient than those from the Sanconiaton of Phoenicia, the Mercury of Egypt and the first law-givers of China. The learned Brahmins of Benares attribute an age of five thousand years to these books.

We thankfully take this opportunity of acknowledging what we owe to a man who only travelled in order to increase his knowledge. He has revealed to us things which had been hidden for many centuries: he has done more than Pythagoras and the Apollonius of Thiane. We beg of all people who wish to gain knowledge as he did to read with care these old fables and allegories, the primitive source of all the fables which have passed for truths in Persia, Chaldea, Egypt, and Greece, among the smallest and most poverty-stricken tribes as well as among the most prosperous nations. These subjects are more worthy of the study of the wise man than the quarrels of a few employees for muslins and printed fabrics, about which we shall be forced, in spite of ourselves, to talk in the course of this book.

To come back to the revolution in India, the Soubeidar, who was called Siraj-ud-Dowla [Surana-Doula according to Voltaire.] was by origin a Tartar. It was said that, following the example of Aurangzeb, his plan was to take possession of the whole of India. There is no doubt that he was very ambitious, because he had the opportunity of being so. It is also reported that he despised the hard-hearted, weak-minded emperor who was indolent and cowardly, and that he hated equally the foreign merchants who came to profit by the troubles of the Empire and increase them. As soon as he had taken the English fort, he threatened those of the French and the Dutch, but these were re-purchased for sums of money which were quite reasonable for this country— the French for about six hundred thousand pounds, the Dutch for about twelve hundred thousand francs because they are richer. The Prince therefore was not at all concerned with destroying them.
He had in his army a rival with the same ambitions as himself, his relation and a relation of the Grand Moghul, who was more to be feared than a group of merchants. However, Siraj-ud-Dowla thought like more than one Turkish Vizir and more than one Sultan of Constantinople who have wished to drive out at one time or another ambassadors of the Princes of Europe and all their agents, but who finally have made them pay dearly for the right to reside in Turkey.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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Part 4 of 5

THE ENGLISH AVENGED

As soon as the news of the danger to the English on the Ganges was received in Madras, all the armed men they could gather together were sent by sea to help them.

M. de Bussi, who was there with some troops, took advantage of this occasion and with M. Lass took possession of all the English stations beyond Masulipatam, on the coast of the big province of Orissa, between Golconda and Bengal. This success somewhat strengthened the Company which was soon to collapse.

In the meantime Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive, the conquerors of Angria and saviours of the Malabar coast, were also coming to Bengal by the Coromandel sea. On the way they learnt that the only way to get back to their town Calcutta was by fighting, and they hurried there with full sails. So there was war in a very short time from Surat right to the mouth of the Ganges, in territory one thousand leagues in length, just as it often happens in Europe between so many Christian Princes whose interests clash and change continually and cause so much unhappiness to mankind.

When Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive arrived at the coast of Calcutta, they found the good Quaker Governor of Calcutta and those who had escaped with him, hiding on dilapidated boats on the Ganges. They had not been followed. The Soubeidar had a hundred thousand soldiers, cannons, and elephants, but no ships. The English, expelled from Calcutta, were patiently waiting on the Ganges for the help coming from Madras. The Admiral gave them the food they required. The Colonel, helped by the officers of the Fleet, and the sailors who swelled his little army, hurried to attack all the forces of the Soubeidar, but he only met a Raja, a Governor of the town, who came to him at the head of a considerable body of men. He put him to flight. This strange Governor instead of going back to his place went to take the alarm to the camp of his Prince and told him that the English that he had met were of a very different kind from those who had been captured in Calcutta.


SINGULAR LETTER OF COLONEL CLIVE TO A PRINCE

Colonel Clive confirmed the Prince in this idea by writing to him these very words (if we are to believe the public papers and memoirs of the time): “An English Admiral, who commands an invincible fleet, and a soldier whose name is well enough known to you, have come to punish you for your cruelties. It is better for you to give us satisfaction than to await our vengeance.” He knew how to use this audacious and oriental style of expressing himself. The Soubeidar knew quite well that his rival, of whom we have already spoken, a very powerful Prince with his army, who could not stop him, was already secretly negotiating with the English. He only replied to this letter by fighting a battle. It was indecisive, and fought between an army of about eighty thousand combatants and one of about four million, half English and half Sepoys. Then they negotiated and it was a question as to who could be the cleverest. The Soubeidar gave up Calcutta and the prisoners, but he was negotiating secretly with M. de Bussi, and Colonel, or rather General Clive, was negotiating on his side secretly with the rival of the Soubeidar. This rival was called Jaffer; he wanted to ruin his relation, the Soubeidar, and dethrone him. The Soubeidar wanted to destroy the English by means of his new friends, the French, so that in the end he would be able to destroy his friends as well. These are the terms of the strange treaty that the Moghul Prince Jaffer signed in his tent:

A Kingdom sold away and sworn on the Koran

“In the presence of God and his Prophet, I swear I will abide by this treaty as long as I live. I, Jaffer, etc., etc.”

“The enemies of the English shall be my enemies, etc.”

"In order to indemnify them for the loss that Levia-Oda [This is most probably a French name for Seraj-ud-Daula. This belief is confirmed by the Government of India publication, The Indian Record Series, Bengal, 1856-57, Vol. II, 1905 edition. On pp. 383-84 of this book are given the agreement between Jafar Ali Khan Bahadur and the Honourable East India Company. This agreement was accepted, signed and sworn to by Mir Jafar on June 3, 1757. Article four of the agreement runs thus: “In consideration of the heavy losses the English Company sustained by the destruction of Calcutta by Serajah Dowlat, and also on account of war they shall receive the sum of [one hundred lack of sicca rupees. (Trans).] has made them suffer, I shall give them a hundred lakhs (that is, twenty-four million pounds in our currency).

“For the other inhabitants, fifty more lakhs (twelve millions).”

“For the Moors and the Hindus in the service of the English, twenty lakhs (four millions eight hundred thousand pounds).”

“For the Armenians, who trade in Calcutta, seven lakhs (sixteen hundred and eighty thousand). The whole making about forty-two millions, four hundred and eighty thousand.”

"I shall pay in cash without delay all these sums as soon as I am made Soubeidar of these provinces.”

“The Admiral, the Colonel and four other officers (whom he names) can dispose of this money as they like.”

“This was stipulated in order to save them from all blame.”


***

Besides these presents, the Soubeidar, guided by Colonel Clive, extended the lands of the Company to a very great extent. M. Dupleix had not obtained anywhere near the same concessions when he created Nawabs.

It is not reported that the English soldiers swore this treaty on the Bible — perhaps they had not got one. Moreover, it was more a note to a messenger than a treaty.

The Soubeidar Siraj-ud-Dowla on his side sent real help in money to M. de Bussi and M. Lass, while his rival Jaffer only gave promises. He wanted to get Jaffer killed, but that Prince had guarded himself too well. Both of them, in their great hate and defiance of one another, swore inviolable friendship on the Koran.

THE VICTORY OF CLIVE

The Soubeidar, deceived and wanting to deceive, led Jaffer against the English force, that we dare to call an army. At last, on the 30th of June there was a decisive battle between him and Colonel Clive. The Soubeidar lost it. His cannons, his elephants, his goods and his artillery were taken from him. Jaffer was at the head of a separate camp. He did not fight. It was the prudence of a treacherous man ...if the Soubeidar had been the victor, he would have united with him; if the English had gained the victory, he would have marched with them. The conquerors followed the Soubeidar and entered after him into Maksudabad and his capital. The Soubeidar fled and wandered about miserably for some days. Colonel Clive greeted Jaffer as Soubeidar of three provinces: Golconda, Bengal and Orissa, comprising one of the finest kingdoms on earth.

Siraj ud-Dowla, the dethroned Prince, was fleeing alone and without hope. He learnt that there was a grotto where a holy Faqir was living (a sort of monk, or Muslim hermit) and he took refuge in his cave. He was amazed when he recognized the Faqir as a scoundrel whose ears and nose he had had cut off long ago. The Prince and the Saint came to an agreement by means of some money, but, in order to earn more, the Faqir exposed the whereabouts of the runaway to his conqueror.


SOVEREIGN CONDEMNED TO DEATH

Dowla was taken prisoner and condemned to death by Jaffer. His prayers and tears did not save him, and he was executed without pity after they had thrown water on his head, according to a strange ceremony, honoured since time immemorial on the banks of the Ganges, where the people have always attributed singular properties to the water. It is a kind of purification which has since been copied in Egypt, and is the origin of lustral water with the Greeks and the Romans. In the papers of this unhappy Prince were found all his letters to M. de Bussi and Lass.

THE FRENCH LOSE CHANDERNAGORE

It is during this expedition that General Clive rushed to conquer Chandernagore, at that time the most important station owned by the French in India, which was full of an immense quantity of goods, and defended by a hundred and sixty cannons, five hundred French soldiers, and seven hundred negroes.

Clive and Watson had only four hundred more men, but at the end of five days they had to surrender. The treaty of capitulation was signed by the General and the Admiral on the one hand, and on the other by the officers Fournier, Nicolas, la Potiers and Caillot, on the 23rd of March 1757. These commissioners demanded that the conquerors should leave the Jesuits in the town. Clive replied “The Jesuits can go wherever they like except where we are staying."

In another interview, he said: “Nobody can challenge my honour with impunity: my judges should keep theirs. "Almost all the principal agents of the English company acted in the same way. Their liberality equalled their wealth. The shareholders lost but England gained, since at the end of a few years everyone comes back to his fatherland to spend what he has been able to amass on the banks of the Ganges and on the coasts of Coromandel and Malabar. In just the same way, the huge treasure won by Admiral Anson when he made a tour of the world, and the fortunes acquired by so many other admirals in their conquests, swelled the riches of the nation.

Grand buildings replete with turrets, picture windows and kitchen gardens. Perfectly manicured lawns. And hundreds of rooms stuffed with antiques and objet d'arts from across the globe.

Few things are as quintessentially English as a stately home. Tourists love them. And they're a guaranteed box office draw, as "Downton Abbey" and "Pride and Prejudice" can attest.

But there's a more disturbing side.

Many of these country estates are indelibly linked to brutal legacies of slavery and colonialism. And while their grim origins may have been previously overlooked, they're now facing a new level of scrutiny that -- amid raging debates over how Britain reckons with its imperial past -- has exploded into its own cultural conflict.

At the center of the controversy is a new report into the matter by the National Trust, a heritage body created in 1895 to preserve places of natural beauty and historic interest across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Published this month, the report identifies 93 places, roughly one third of all of its properties, that it says were built, benefited from or connected to the spoils of slavery and colonialism.

They include Chartwell, Winston Churchill's former home in the southeastern county of Kent, Devon's spectacular Lundy Island, where convicts were used as unpaid labor and Speke Hall, near Liverpool, whose owner, Richard Watt traded rum made by slaves and purchased a slave ship in 1793 that trafficked slaves from Africa to Jamaica.

Some 29 properties were found to have benefited from compensation after owning slaves was abolished in Great Britain in 1837, including Hare Hill in Cheshire, where the owners, the Hibbert family, received the equivalent of £7 million ($8.8 million) to make up for the loss of slaves.

The National Trust says it's chosen now to highlight this issue because of rising public awareness that, in the UK, hit the headlines with the divisive tearing down of an 18th-century slave trader's statue in the port city of Bristol.

"At a time when there's an enormous interest around colonialism more broadly and indeed slavery more specifically, it felt very appropriate, given that we care for so many of these places of historical interest, to commission a report that looks right across them and try to assess the extent of those colonial legacies still reflected in the places we look after today," says John Orna-Ornstein, the National Trust's director of culture and engagement...


-- The grim truth behind Britain's stately homes, by Joe Minihane, CNN


The goods that they found in the shops were sold for one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds sterling (about two million eight hundred and sixty thousand francs). All the successes of the English in this part of India were principally due to the good offices of this famous Clive. His name was respected at the court of the Grand Moghul, who sent him an elephant loaded with magnificent presents and the title of Raja. The King of England created him a Peer of Ireland. It is he who replied, during the recent debates which arose on the subject of the East India Company, to those who wanted him to render account of the millions that he had amassed with his glory: "I gave one to my secretary, two to my friends, and the rest I kept for myself."

Since the victories of Lord Clive, the English have reigned in Bengal, and the Nawabs who wanted to attack them have been repulsed. But in spite of this, in London it was feared that the Company would perish from excessive happiness, just as the French Company was destroyed by discord, want, the paucity of the help which came too late, and the continual changing of ministers, who only had confused and false ideas on India, and who changed without rhyme or reason the orders blindly given by their predecessors.

All the misfortunes of the state naturally fell on the Company. They could not be effectively helped when there was fighting in Germany, when Canada was being lost, with Martinique, Guadeloupe in America, Goree in Africa, and all the colonies at Senegal— when all the ships had been captured, and when finally the King and the citizens of France were selling their plate to pay the soldiers (a slender resource in such a big catastrophe!)

CHAPTER XIII: THE ARRIVAL OF COUNT LALLI: HIS SUCCESSES AND FAILURES. THE ACTIONS OF A JESUIT CALLED LAVOUR.

It was in these circumstances that General Lalli, the chief of d’Ache’s squadron, after having stayed in the Isle of Bourbon, came to the coast of Pondicherry on April 28, 1758. The ship, called the “Count of Provence”, which carried the General was saluted by the firing of cannon with real shot, which damaged it very badly. This strange mistake, or this malice of some subordinates, was looked upon as a bad omen by the sailors, who are always superstitious, and even by Lalli, although he was not superstitious by nature.

This Commander had the baton of a Marshal of France in view. He thought he could obtain it if he managed a big revolution in India, and rehabilitated the honour of the French armies, at that time poorly maintained in other parts of the world. His second passionate desire was to humiliate the pride of the English whom he bitterly hated.

LALLI BEGINS BY BESIEGING THREE PLACES AND TAKING THEM.

As soon as he arrived, he besieged three places: one was Kudalur, [Old name for Cuddalore. Voltaire says Goudalour.] a little fort three miles from Pondicherry; the second was Saint David, a much bigger fortress; the third Devikota, [Voltaire says Divicotey.] which surrendered as he approached. It was flattering for him to have under his orders, in these first expeditions, a Count d’Estaing, descendant of that d’Estaing who saved the life of Philip Augustus at the battle of Bovine, and who transferred to his family the arms of the kings of France; a Constans, whose family was so old and famed, a La Fare, and many other officers of the first rank. It was not customary to send out young men of big families to take service in India. It would certainly have been necessary to have more troops and money with them. However, the Count d' Estaing had taken Kudalur in a day; and the day after, the General, followed by this flower of manhood, had gone to lay siege to the important station of St. David.

A NAVAL BATTLE BETWEEN ADMIRAL POCOCK AND ADMIRAL D'ACHE: 29th APRIL 1758

Not a minute was lost between the two rival nations. While Count d’Estaing was taking Kudalur, the English Fleet, commanded by Admiral Pocock, was attacking that of Comte d'Ache on the coast of Pondicherry. Men wounded or killed, broken masts, torn sails, tattered rigging, were the sole results of this indecisive battle. The two damaged fleets remained in those parts, equally unable to injure one another. The French was the worst treated — it had only forty dead, but five hundred men had been wounded, including Comte d’Ache and his captain, and after the battle, by bad luck, a ship of seventy-four cannons was lost on the coast. But a palpable proof that the French Admiral [We give the name of admiral to the chief of a squadron because it is the title of the English chiefs of squadrons. The "Grand Admiral” is in England what the admiral is in France. (V.)] shared with the English Admiral the honour of the day, is that the Englishmen did not attempt to send help to the besieged Fort St. David.

Everything was opposed in Pondicherry to the enterprise of the General. Nothing was ready to second him. He demanded bombs, mortars, and utensils of all kinds, and they had not got any. The siege dragged along; people began to fear the disgrace of abandoning it; even money was lacking. The two millions brought by the fleet and given to the treasury of the Company were already spent. The Merchants’ Council of Pondicherry had thought it necessary to pay their immediate debts in order to revive their credit, and had issued orders to Paris that, if help of ten millions was not forthcoming, everything would be lost. The Governor of Pondicherry, the successor of Godeheu, on behalf of the Merchants’ administration, wrote to the General on the 24th May this letter, which was received in the trenches:

“My resources are exhausted and we have no longer any hope left unless we are successful. Where shall I find resources in a country ruined by fifteen years of war, enough to pay the expenses of your army and of a squadron from which we were hoping for a great deal of help. On the contrary, there is nothing.”


This single letter explains the cause of all the disasters which had been experienced and of all those that followed. The more the want of necessary things was felt in the town, the more the General was blamed for having undertaken the siege of Fort St. David.

In spite of so many defeats and obstacles, the General forced the English commander to yield. In St. David were found one hundred and eighty cannons, all kinds of provisions which were lacking in Pondicherry, and money of which there was a still greater lack. There was three hundred thousand pounds in coin, which was all forwarded to the treasury of the Company.
We are only noting here facts on which all parties agree.

THE 2ND JULY 1758. LALLI PUTS THIS COMBAT ON THE 3RD OF AUGUST IN HIS MEMOIRS. IT IS A MISTAKE.

Count Lalli demolished this fortress and all the surrounding small farms. It was an order of the Minister: an ill-fated order which soon brought sad reprisals. As soon as Fort St. David had been taken, the General left to conquer Madras. He wrote to M. de Bussi who was then in the heart of the Deccan: “As soon as I become the master of Madras, I am going to the Ganges, either by land or sea. My policy can be summarized in these five words: 'No more English in the Peninsula.'” His great zeal was unquenchable, and the fleet was not in a fit condition to back him up. It had just attempted a second naval battle in sight of Pondicherry, which was even more disastrous than the first. Comte d'Ache received two wounds, and, in this bloodthirsty fight, he had resisted the attacks of a naval army, twice as strong as his own, with five dilapidated ships. After this conflict, he demanded masts, provisions, rigging and crew from the Town Council. He got nothing. The General on the sea was no more helped by this exhausted Company than the General on the land. He went to the Ile de France near the coast of Africa to find what he had not been able to discover in India.

At the beginning of the Coromandel coast is quite a beautiful province called Tanjore. The Raja of this land, whom the French and the English called “King”, was a very rich prince. The Company claimed that this prince owed them about thirteen millions in French money.

THE ACTIONS AND LETTERS OF THE JESUIT LAVOUR

The Governor of Pondicherry, on behalf of the Company, ordered the General to demand this money again with his sword in his hand. A French Jesuit, named Lavour, the head of the Indian Mission, told him and wrote to him that Providence blessed this project in an unmistakable manner. We shall be forced to speak again of this Jesuit who played an important and tragic part in all these happenings. All we need say at present is that the General, on his journey, passed over the territory of another small prince, whose nephews had a short time before offered four lakhs of rupees to the Company in order to obtain their uncle's small state and expel him from the country. This Jesuit eagerly persuaded Count Lalli to do this good work. This is one of his letters, word for word:

”The law of succession in those countries is the law of the strongest. You must not regard the expulsion of a prince here as on the same level as in Europe.”


He told him in another letter:

You must not work simply for the glory of the King’s arms. A word to the wise ...”


This act reveals the spirit of the country and of the Jesuit.

The Prince of Tanjore sought the help of the English in Madras. They got ready to create a diversion, and he had time to admit other auxiliary troops into his capital which was threatened by a siege. The little French army did not receive from Pondicherry either provisions or the necessary ammunition, and they were forced to abandon the attempt. Providence did not bless them as much as the Jesuit had foretold. The Company received money neither from the Prince nor from the nephews who wished to dispossess their uncle.

GENERAL LALLI IN A PECULIAR KIND OF DANGER

As they were preparing to retreat, a negro of those parts, the commander of a group of negro cavalry men in Tanjore, came and presented himself to the advance guard of the French Camp followed by fifty horsemen. He said that they wanted to speak to the General and enter his service. The Count was in bed, and came out of his tent practically naked with a stick in his hand. Immediately the negro captain aimed a sword blow at him, which he just managed to parry, and the other negroes fell on him. The General's guard ran up instantly and nearly all the assassins were killed. That was the sole result of the Tanjore expedition.

CHAPTER XIV: COUNT LALLI BESIEGES MADRAS. HIS MISFORTUNES BEGIN.

At last, after useless expeditions and attempts in this part of India, and in spite of the departure of the French fleet, which was believed to be threatened by the English, the General recommenced his favourite project of besieging Madras.

“You have too little money and too few provisions”, people said to him: he replied “We shall take them from the town”. A few members of the Pondicherry Council lent him thirty-four thousand rupees. The farmers of the village or aldees [Aldee is an Arab word, preserved in Spain. The Arabs who went to India introduced there many terms from their language. Well-proved etimology often serves as a proof of the emigration of peoples.] of the Company advanced some money. The General also put his own into the fund. Forced marches were made, and they arrived in front of the town which did not expect them.


MADRAS TAKEN ON THE 13TH DECEMBER 1758.

Madras, as is well known, is divided into two parts, very different from one another. The first, where Fort St. George is, is well fortified, and has been so since Bourdonnaye’s expedition. The second is much bigger and is inhabited by merchants of all nations. It is called the “Black City”, because the “Blacks” are most numerous there. It occupies such a large space that it could not be fortified; a wall and a ditch formed its defense. This huge, rich town, was pillaged.

It is easy to imagine all the excesses, all the barbarities into which rushes the soldier who has no rein on him, and who looks upon it as his incontestible right to murder, violate, burn, rape. The officers controlled them as long as they could, but the thing that stopped them the most was the fact that as soon as they entered the town, they had to defend themselves there. The Madras garrison fell on them; a street battle ensued; houses, gardens, Hindu, Muslim and Christian temples became battlefields where the attackers, loaded with booty, fought in disorder those who came to snatch away their spoils. Count d’Estaing was the first to attack English troops who were marching on the main road. The Lorraine batallion, which he was commanding, had not yet fully reassembled, and so he fought practically alone and was made a prisoner. This misfortune brought more in its wake, because, after being sent by sea to England, he was thrown at Portsmouth into a frightful prison: treatment which was unworthy of his name, his courage, our customs and English generosity.

The capture of Count d’Estaing, at the beginning of the fight, was likely to cause the loss of the little army, which, after having taken the “Black City” by surprise, was taken by surprise itself in return. The General, accompanied by all the French nobility of which we have spoken, restored order. The English were forced back right to the bridge built between Fort St. George and the "Black City”, The Chevalier of Crillon rushed up to this bridge, and killed fifty English there. Thirty-three prisoners were made and they remained masters of the town.


The hope of taking Fort St. George soon, as La Bourdonnaye had done, inspired all the officers, but the most strange thing of all was that five or six million inhabitants of Pondicherry rushed up to the expedition out of curiosity, as if they were going to a fair. The force of the besiegers numbered only two thousand seven hundred European infantry, and three hundred cavalry men. They had only ten mortars and twenty cannons. The town was defended by sixteen thousand Europeans in the infantry and two thousand five hundred sepoys. Thus the besieged were stronger by eleven thousand men. In military tactics, it is agreed that ordinarily five besiegers are required for one besieged. Examples of the taking of a town by a number equal to the number defending it are rare: to succeed without provisions is rarer still.

What is most sad is the fact that two hundred French deserters went into Fort St. George. There is no other army where desertion is more frequent than the French army, from a natural uneasiness in the nation or from hope of being better treated elsewhere. These deserters appeared at times on the ramparts, holding a bottle of wine in one hand and a purse in the other. They exhorted their compatriots to imitate their example. For the first time, people saw a tenth of the besieging army taking refuge in the besieged town.

The siege of Madras, light-heartedly undertaken, was soon looked upon as impracticable by everybody. Mr. Pigot, the representative of the English Government and Governor of the town, promised fifty thousand rupees to the garrison if it defended itself well and he kept to his word. The man who pays in this way is better served than the man who has no money. Count Lalli had no other option but to try an attack. But, at the very time when this daring act was being prepared, in the port of Madras appeared six warships, part of the English fleet which was then near Bombay. These ships were bringing reinforcements of men and munitions. On seeing them, the officer commanding the trench deserted it. They had to raise the siege in great haste and go to defend Pondicherry, which was even more vulnerable to the English than Madras.

ANGER AGAINST THE GENERAL

There was no longer any question of making conquests near the Ganges. Lalli took his small army, decimated and discouraged, into Pondicherry, which was even more despairing. He only found there personal enemies who harmed him more than the English could. Almost all the Council and all the employees of the Company were angry, and insulted him about his misfortune. He brought their hatred upon himself by the bitter, violent reproaches he rained on them, and by abusive letters, which were the result of the vexation he felt at being inadequately seconded in his enterprises. Not that he did not know well enough that every Commander with a limited amount of power ought to rule the Council which shares it, and that if energetic action is necessary, he must use gentle words. But perpetual contradictions were embittering him, and the very position that he held brought on him the ill-will of almost the entire colony whom he had come to defend.

One is always filled with bitterness, almost without being conscious of it, at being ruled by a stranger. The very instructions sent by the Court to the General increased this kind of obsession in the people. He was ordered to keep watch on the conduct of the Council: the directors of the India Company had given him a memorandum on the inevitably corrupt practices of an administration so far away. Had he been the gentlest of men, he would have been hated. The letter which he wrote on the fourteenth of February to M. de Leirit, the Governor of Pondicherry, before the raising of the siege, made this hatred implacable. The letter ended with these words: "I would rather command the kaffirs [Black Africans] of Madagascar than remain in your Sodom, which you cannot prevent the English from destroying sooner or later, unless heaven does it first."

By the seventeenth century, Europeans had made themselves heartily disliked in India by their complete indifference to the customs of the area. As Father Martin explained,

The people of Madura have no Communication with the Europeans, who, by their riotous Excesses, have corrupted all the Christians in India…The Missionaries lead an extremely mortified Life…They are not known to be Europeans; for were the Natives to have the least Notion of this, the Fathers would be obliged to quit the Country…Several Motives prompt the Indians to have the Europeans in so much Horror. Great Cruelties have been committed in their Countries; they have been Eye Witnesses to the most shocking examples of Vices of every Kind…
...

By the mid-seventeenth century, however, the Europeans had become so confident of their superiority that they flouted the laws of the nations they traded with—eating meat, disobeying the rules of social interaction and etiquette -- and consequently became social pariahs. When the Jesuits came to south India, their first task was to make themselves acceptable members of society, which they could only accomplish by posing as Brahmin ascetics from the north.

-- French Jesuits in India and the Lettres Edifiantes, by Jyoti Mohan


Lack of success in Madras poisoned all these wounds. Nobody pardoned him for being unfortunate, and he, on his side, did not forgive those who hated him. Some officers soon joined in this universal complaint, those of the India batallion, troops belonging to the Company, being the most embittered. Unfortunately they knew what the letter of instruction from France contained: “You must beware of entrusting any expedition to Company troops alone. It is to be feared that their spirit of insubordination, indiscipline, and greed will lead them to commit faults, and it is only wise to prevent this, so that they may not have to be punished." Everything therefore contributed towards making the General hated without being respected.

Before going to Madras, filled with the idea of expelling the English from India, but lacking everything necessary for such great endeavours, he begged Corporal de Bussi to lend him five millions, for which he would be the only security. M. de Bussi wisely decided it was not the time to risk such a large sum of money, which was repayable as a result of very unlikely victories. He foresaw that a promissory note signed by Lalli and payable in Madras or Calcutta would never be accepted by the English. There are times when, if you lend your money, you make a secret enemy; if you refuse, you make an open one. The indiscretion of the demand, and the necessity of refusal, was the beginning of a dislike between the General and the Corporal which degenerated into an irreconcilable hatred, and which did not help the affairs of the colony. Many other officers complained bitterly. They raged madly against him: they overwhelmed him with reproaches, anonymous letters and satires. He fell ill with grief, and, afterwards, for four months, fever and brainstorms troubled him. To console him, they insulted him still more.

CHAPTER XV: NEW MISFORTUNES OF THE INDIA COMPANY

In this condition, which was hardly less sad than that of Pondicherry, the General was making new plans for a campaign. He sent to help the important station of Masulipatam, sixty leagues to the north of Madras, a M. de Moracin, civil and military officer, a clever, resolute man, capable of facing the English fleet, mistress of the sea, and of escaping. Moracin was one of his most prominent and fiery enemies. The General was reduced to the position of scarcely being able to employ other men. This officer, a member of the Council, went with five hundred men (as many soldiers as sailors) but Masulipatam had already been taken. [We shall avoid entering into the petty details of the quarrels between Lalli and Moracin, between Moracin and Leirit, into a host of reciprocal complaints. If we had to give in detail all these wretched bickerings of so many of the Europeans transplanted into India, it would make a book bigger than the Encyclopaedia. It is our primary necessity to write scientifically, and cut short the picture of human weaknesses.] Moracin went eighty leagues further, on a ship which belonged to him, in order to fight a Rajah who owed money to the Company. He lost four hundred men and his money.

Who were these Princes, from whom an individual from Europe came to demand several million rupees by force of arms?

Another and even stranger example of Indian government deserves more attention.

Pondicherry and Madras are, as has already been said, on the coast of the big Naboby [Nababie (V.).] of Carnatic, which the Europeans always call a kingdom. The English party, with five or six hundred men of their nationality (at the most); and the French party, with the same number of men, had each been protecting for some time their own particular Nabob; and it was always a question as to who would succeed in making his protege the ruler.

The Chevalier of Soupire, a Marshal of the camp, had been for a long time in the Province of Arcot with some French soldiers, some black, and some sepoys, badly armed and badly paid. The Chevalier of Soupire also complained that they were not well-dressed; but that is not such a big misfortune in the torrid zone. There is a post in this province which is said to be of the greatest importance: the fortress of Wandewash [Wandiwash or Wandewash. Vandavachi, according to Voltaire.] which protected the French stations. Wandewash [Wandiwash or Wandewash. Vandavachi, according to Voltaire.] is situated in a small island formed by rivers. The French colony was still the mistress of this place. The English came to attack it: the Chevalier of Soupire repulsed them in a lively battle, but it was merely delaying the coming disaster.

A thing that one never sees except in that country is that the two Nabobs, for whom they were fighting, were both a hundred leagues from the battlefield. Pondicherry breathed more freely after this little success. But the naval army of Count d’Ache reappeared on the coast, and it was attacked again by Admiral Pocock, being more badly treated in this third battle than in the first ones, since one of the big warships caught fire and the mast was burnt. Four ships of the Company escaped. In the meanwhile, the French Admiral escaped the English Admiral, who, in spite of superiority of numbers and marines, was not able to take any of his vessels.

Count d’Ache then wanted to leave again for the Isles of Bourbon and France, which were always being threatened ... In all waters they had to fight for commercial interests. The Council of Pondicherry protested against the departure of the Admiral and made him responsible for the ruin of the Company, as if this man was the master of the elements and the English fleets. The Admiral let the merchants protest. He gave them the little money that he had brought along and disembarked about eight hundred men, then straightway hurried again to the Isle of France. Pondicherry without munitions and without food, was full of discord and consternation.
The past, the present and the future were terrifying,

THE REVOLT OF THE TROOPS: OCTOBER 1759

The troops who were protecting Pondicherry revolted. It was not one of those stormy mutinies which begin without reason and end in the same way. Necessity seemed to cast them into it: it was the only way left to them to get paid and have enough to eat. “Give us" they said, “our bread and our pay, or we shall go and ask the English for it.” The soldiers in the corps wrote to the General that they would wait for four days, but that, at the end of that time, all their resources being exhausted, they would leave for Madras.

It has been claimed that this revolt was fomented by a Jesuit missionary called St. Estevan, who was jealous of his superior Father Lavour, who, on his side, betrayed the General as much as he betrayed the missionary. St. Estevan betrayed both of them. This conduct is not in accordance with the single-hearted enthusiasm which shines in the “Edifying Letters,” and with the host of miracles with which the Lord rewarded this enthusiasm.

Whatever the case may be, it was necessary to find money: in India, sedition is not appeased by words. The Director of the Treasury, named Boyelau, gave up the little gold and silver that remained with him. The Chevalier of Crillon lent four thousand rupees; M. de Gadeville the same amount. Lalli, who happily had fifty thousand francs with him, gave them, and even persuaded the Jesuit, Lavour, his secret enemy, to lend thirty-six thousand pounds in silver, which he was keeping for his own use or for his missions, the whole being repayable by the Company when it was in a position to do so. They owed the troops six months' pay, and the pay was high: it amounted to more than a crown per day for every horseman and thirteen sous a day for the soldiers. These may be small details, but we believe that they are necessary.

22ND JANUARY 1760

The revolt was only quietened at the end of seven days, and the good-will of the soldiers was weakened by it. The English came back to the fatal spot, Wandewash: they waged a second battle there which they won completely. M. de Bussi, the man who was the most indispensable to the colony and the army, was taken prisoner there, and then everyone despaired.

ANOTHER REVOLT

After this defeat, the cavalry revolted again, and wanted to go over to the side of the English, preferring to serve the victors, who were sure to pay them, rather than the vanquished who still owed them a large part of their pay. The General brought them back a second time with his money but he could not prevent the desertion of a number of horsemen. [What is the reason of this mad desire to desert? Does love of one’s country get lost the further away one travels? The soldier, who yesterday fired on his enemies, tomorrow fires on his compatriots. A new duty has arisen: to kill other men or be killed by them. But why were there so many Swiss in the English troops, and not one in the French? Why was it that, among these Swiss, united to France by so many treaties, were found so many officers and soldiers who had served the English against France in the same way in America and Asia? What is the reason that in Europe, even during peace time, thousands of French have deserted their flag to take this same foreign pay? The Germans also desert, but the Spaniards only rarely; the English hardly at all. It is unheard of for a Turk or a Russian to desert. During the retreat of the Hundred Thousand, in the midst of the greatest dangers and the most discouraging hardships, not one Greek deserted. They were only mercenaries, officers as well as soldiers, who had sold themselves to the young Cyrus, to a rebel and a usurper. It is the task of the reader, and above all of the enlightened military, to find the cause and the remedy of this contagious malady, commoner to the French than other nations for many years, both in peace and war. (V.)]

Swiss Companies and Captain Polier

During the wars in Peninsular India the Court of Directors had sent to India four companies of Swiss troops, each composed of 100 men. Their services were utilised particularly against the French. Orme refers to the arrival at Madras in 1752 of two Swiss companies commanded by Swiss captains. [Orme, A History of the Military Transactions of the British in Indostan I, p. 255.] When the French had reached the proximity of Fort St. David in 1752, a company of the Swiss under Captain Schaub was sent on boats from Madras to intercept them. But they were captured by some Frenchmen sent by Dupleix on a vessel from Pondicherry and were detained there as prisoners of war. Immediately on hearing this news, Major Lawrence embarked for Fort St. David with another party of Swiss troops under Captain Gaupp. [Lawrence, A Narrative of the War on the Coromandel Coast, p. 34.]

Captain Paul Philip Polier was the commander of one such company. The services of his company were for some time transferred from Madras to Bengal, most probably in 1752. [Letter to Court, 11 February 1753, para. 61.] On 11 January 1753 he presented himself before the Council in Calcutta and informed the members that his men were daily deserting that place, and that sixteen of them, some belonging to his own town and enjoying his greatest confidence, had already gone. He observed that the French (at Chandernagore) seduced them by indirect means and sent them to Pondicherry, the "open situation” of Calcutta making it impossible for him to prevent their flight. He proposed to take back his officers and men to the southern coast, where he hoped to take effective steps against such occurrences and to render better service to the English Company. [Letter to Court, 15 January 1753, para 4.] Polier joined Major Lawrence with 100 soldiers on 1 April 1753. With this reinforcement Lawrence wished to storm the French camp at Trivadi, but on arriving at Trichinopoly on 6 May 1753 found that, among others, one sergeant and fifteen men of a Swiss company had deserted his detachment. But Polier and his party remained faithful, though, they unknowingly committed a tactical military blunder. On 12 May 1754 Polier commanded some British troops as well. While he was trying to assist one detachment under Captain Caillaud, the French “disabled one of his field pieces” as also one of Caillaud’s. Polier’s battalion served in the army under Colonel Alexander Heron during its march from Madura towards the end of May 1755. Advised by the Madras Council to return to Arcot, the Nawab of the Carnatic left Trichinopoly for his capital on 9 July 1755, accompanied by an escort of 300 Europeans and 1,000 sepoys under the command of Polier. Towards the end of 1755, the Court of Directors decided to stop the recruitment of men from Switzerland for the four Swiss companies and to put them on an equal footing with the English companies in all respects, except that a Swiss company was to be limited to 140 men. Captain Polier, being the oldest of the Swiss military officers in India, was given a new commission investing him with the seniormost rank among them. [Letter from Court, 11 February 1756, para. 113.]

-- Fort William-India House Correspondence and Other Contemporary Papers Relating Thereto, Vol. I: 1748-1756, edited by K. K. Datta, M.A., Ph.D., Professor of History, Patna University, Patna (1958)


Disasters quickly followed for a whole year afterwards. The colony lost all these posts; the black troops, the sepoys, and the Europeans deserted them in crowds. They had recourse to the Marhattas, which each party employs in turn in the Moghul area: we have compared them with the Swiss, but, if, like them, they sell their services, and if they have something of their valour, they have not got their loyalty.

WHAT M. DE BUSSI REPORTS IN HIS MEMOIRS: PAGES 98 AND 184

The missionaries have their finger in everything in this part of India; one of them, who was a Portuguese and graced with the title of Bishop of Halicarnasse, had brought two thousand Marhattas. They did not fight on the day of the Wandewash battle, but, to perform some feats of arms, they pillaged all the villages still belonging to France and shared the booty with the Bishop. [A Latin priest of the Greek town of Halicarnasse which belongs to the Turks! A Bishop of Halicarnasse who preaches and pillages! and, after that, who can say that the world is not ruled by contradictions. This man was called Norogna: he was a Franciscan monk from Goa, who, fled to Rome where he obtained the title of missionary bishop. Lalli sometimes used to say to him: “My dear prelate, how have you managed to save yourself from being burned or hanged?”]

We do not claim to be writing a journal about all the details of robbery, and to particularize about the peculiar difficulties which preceded the capture of Pondicherry and the general disaster. When an epidemic has destroyed a whole people, what is the good of tiring the living with a recital of all the symptoms which have carried away so many dead? It is enough to say that General Lalli withdrew into Pondicherry, and that the English soon blockaded the capital.
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Part 5 of 5

CHAPTER XVI: AN EXTRAORDINARY HAPPENING IN SURAT. THE ENGLISH GAIN A VICTORY.

While the French colony was in trouble and distress, the English were doing something in India, fifty-five leagues from Pondicherry, which held the attention of the whole of Asia.

Surate, or Surat, at the end of the Gulf of Cambay, had been, since the time of Tamerlane, the big market of India, of Persia and of Tartary. Even the Chinese had often sent their goods there. It still retained its brilliancy, being principally peopled by Armenians and Jews, courtiers of every nation, and each nation had its own establishment. It was to that place that the Muslim subjects of the Grand Moghul used to come when they wished to make the journey to Mecca. A single big ship which the Emperor kept at the mouth of the river which goes to Surat used to carry the pilgrims from there to the Red Sea. This ship and the other small Indian boats were captained by a Kaffir [Black Africans], who had brought a colony of Kaffirs to Surat.

This stranger died, and his son obtained his position. Two Kaffirs, admirals of the Grand Moghul one after the other, without anybody being able to tell from which side of Africa they came! Nothing shows better how badly the Moghul dominions were governed and therefore how unhappy they were. The son ruled tyrannically in Surat. The Governor could not resist him. All the merchants groaned under his continually growing extortions. He held all the Mecca pilgrims to ransom. Such was the weakness of the Grand Moghul, Alamgir, in all branches of the administration, and it is thus that empires perish.

At last, the Mecca pilgrims, the Armenians, the Jews, and all the inhabitants joined together to ask the English for protection against a Kaffir whom the descendant of Tamerlane dare not punish. Admiral Pocock, who was then in Bombay, sent two vessels to Surat. This help, together with the troops commanded by Captain Maitland, who marched at the head of eight hundred English and fifteen hundred sepoys, was sufficient.


The Admiral and his party intrenched themselves in the gardens of the French settlement, beyond the gate of the city. It was natural that the English should pursue him: the French were giving him refuge.

This retreat was bombarded and fired at by cannons. There were many factions in Surat, and people feared that one of them would call the Marhattas who are always ready to take advantage of divisions in the Empire.

MARCH 1759

Finally, differences were made up, and they allied themselves with the English: the doors of the castle were opened. The French settlement in the city was not protected from pillage, but none of the employees was killed and the day of struggle only cost their lives to a hundred members of the Admiral’s party and twenty soldiers of Captain Maitland.

The Kaffirs retreated where they could. If it is unusual that a man of that nation should have been an Admiral of the Empire, an even stranger thing happened: the Emperor gave the title and the salary of Admiral to the English Company. This position was worth three lakhs of rupees and certain rights. The whole amounted to eight hundred thousand francs a year. The opportunity of attracting to themselves all the commerce of Surat was worth twenty times more.

This strange gift seemed to strengthen the power and the high position of the English in India, at least for a very long time
, and the Company of Pondicherry was rapidly descending the road towards destruction.

CHAPTER XVII: THE CAPTURE AND DESTRUCTION OF PONDICHERRY

While the English army was advancing towards the West and a new fleet was threatening the town in the East, Count Lalli had very few soldiers. He made use of a trick, quite usual in war and in civil life: he tried to appear to have more than he really had. He ordered a parade on the walls of the town on the seaward side. He issued instructions that all the employees of the Company should appear in uniform as soldiers, in order to overawe the enemy fleet which was alongside.

A THIRD REVOLT

The Council of Pondicherry and all its employees came to him to say that they could not obey this order. The employees said that they recognized as their Commander only the Governor established by the Company. All ordinary bourgeois think it degrading to be a soldier, although in reality it is the soldiers who give us empires. But the real reason is that they wished to cross in everything the man who had incurred the hatred of the people.

It was the third revolt which he had patched up in a few days. He only punished the heads of the faction by making them leave the town; but he insulted them with crushing words which are never forgotten, and which are bitterly remembered when one has the opportunity of revenge.

Further, the General forbade the Council to meet without his permission. The enmity of this Company was as great as that of the French Parliament’s was against the Commanders who brought the strict orders of the Court to them — often contradictory ones. He had therefore to fight citizens and enemies.

The place lacked provisions. He had houses searched for the few superfluous goods to be found there, in order to provide the troops with food necessary for their subsistence.
Those who were entrusted with this sad task did not carry it out with enough discretion with regard to most of the important officers, whose name and position deserved the greatest tact. Feelings, already irritated, were wounded beyond the limit: people cried out against the tyranny. M. Dubois, Commissary of Stores, who carried out this task, became the object of public condemnation. When conquering enemies order such a search, nobody dare even whisper, but when the General ordered it to save the town, everyone rose against him.

The officers were reduced to a half-pound of rice per day; the soldiers to four ounces. The town had no more than three hundred black soldiers and seven hundred French, pressed by hunger, to defend itself against four thousand European soldiers and ten thousand black ones. They would have to surrender. Lalli, in despair, shaken by convulsions, his spirit lost and overcome, wished to give up the command in favour of the Brigadier of Landivisiau, who took good care not to accept such a delicate and tragic post. Lalli was forced to order the misfortune and shame of the colony. In the midst of all these crises, he was daily receiving anonymous notes threatening him with the sword and poison. He actually believed himself to be poisoned: he fell into an epileptic fit, and the Missionary Lavour went to the townspeople to tell them that they must pray to God for the poor Irishman who had gone mad.

However, the danger was increasing; English troops had broken down the unhappy line of troops who were surrounding the town. The General wished to assemble a mixed Civil and Military Council which should try to obtain a surrender acceptable to the town and the colony. The Council of Pondicherry replied only by refusing, "You have broken us,” they said, “and we are no longer worth anything.” “I have not broken you,” replied the General, ”I have forbidden you to meet without my permission, and I command you, in the name of the King, to assemble and form a mixed Council to calm down the strong feelings in the whole colony as well as your own.” The Council replied with this summons which they intimated to him:

“We summon you, in the name of the religious orders, of all the inhabitants and of ourselves to order Mr. Coote (the English commander) to suspend arms immediately, and we hold you responsible to the King for all the misfortunes to which ill-timed delay may give rise.”


The General thereupon called a Council of War, composed of all the principal officers still in service. They decided to surrender, but disagreed as to the conditions. Count Lalli, angered against the English who had, he said, violated on more than one occasion the cartel established between the two nations, made a separate declaration, in which he blamed them for breaking treaties. It was neither tactful nor wise to talk to the conquerors about their faults, and embitter those to whom he wished to surrender. Such, however, was his character.

Having told them his complaints, he asked them to grant protection to the mother and sisters of a Rajah, who had taken refuge in Pondicherry, when the Rajah had been assassinated in the very camp of the English. He reproached them bitterly, as was his wont, for having allowed such barbarism. Colonel Coote did not reply to this insolent statement.

THE JESUIT LAVOUR PROPOSES CAPITULATION

The Council of Pondicherry, on its side, sent terms of capitulation, drawn up by the Jesuit Lavour, to the English Commander. The missionary carried them himself. This conduct might have been good enough in Paraguay, but it was not good enough for the English. If Lalli offended them by accusing them of injustice and cruelty, they were even more offended at a Jesuit of intriguing character being deputed to negotiate with victorious warriors. The Colonel did not even deign to read the terms of the Jesuit: he gave him his own. Here they are:

“Colonel Coote desires the French to offer themselves as prisoners of war, to be treated according to interests of his master the King. He will show them every indulgence that humanity demands.  

He will send tomorrow morning, between eight and nine o'clock, the grenadiers of his regiment, who will take possession of the Vilnour door.

The day after tomorrow, at the same time, he will take possession of the St. Louis door.

The mother and the sisters of the Rajah will be escorted to Madras. Every care will be taken of them, and they will not be given up to their enemies.

Written in our General Headquarters, near Pondicherry, on the 15th January 1761.”


They had to obey the orders of General Coote. He entered the town. The small garrison laid aside their arms. The Colonel did not dine with the General, with whom he was annoyed, but with the Governor of the Company, M. Duval de Leirit, and a few members of the Council.

THE ENGLISH ENTER PONDICHERRY

Mr. Pigot, the Governor of Madras for the English Company, laid claim to his right on Pondicherry: they could not deny it, because it was he who was paying the troops. It was he who ruled everything after the conquest.

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George Pigot, 1st Baron Pigot (4 March 1719 – 11 May 1777) was twice the British President of the British East India Company.

Pigot was the eldest son of Richard Pigot of Westminster, by his wife Frances, daughter of Peter Goode, a Huguenot who had come to England in the late seventeenth century. Frances was a "tirewoman" [lady's maid] to Queen Caroline. His brothers were Admiral Hugh Pigot (1722–1792) [Royal Navy officer. He commanded York at the reduction of Louisbourg in June 1758 and commanded Royal William at the capture of Quebec in September 1759 during the Seven Years' War. He went on to serve as Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands Station during the American Revolutionary War and then became First Naval Lord.] and Sir Robert [a British Army officer during the American Revolutionary War.].

Pigot entered the service of the East India Company in 1736, at the age of 17; after nineteen years he became governor and commander-in-chief of Madras in 1755. Having defended the city against the French in 1758-1759 and occupied Pondichéry on behalf of the company, he resigned his office in November 1763 and returned to the Kingdom of Great Britain, being made a baronet in 1764. After selling the family seat of Peplow Hall, Shropshire, he purchased Patshull Hall, Staffordshire, in 1765 for £100,000.

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Patshull Hall

That year he obtained the seat of Wallingford in the Parliament of Great Britain, which he retained until 1768. In 1766 he was created an Irish peer as Baron Pigot, of Patshull in the County of Dublin. From 1768 until his death he sat in the British House of Commons for Bridgnorth. Pigot was created an LL.D. of the university of Cambridge on 3 July 1769.

Returning to India in 1775 to reoccupy his former position at Madras, Pigot was at once involved in a fierce quarrel with the majority of his council which arose out of the proposed restoration of Thuljaji, the rajah of Tanjore. The governor was arrested by order of his opponents and was still a prisoner when he died.

Meanwhile, the conduct of Pigot was censured by the court of directors in Great Britain, and the order for his restoration was followed immediately by another for his recall. This happened about a month after his death, but before the news had reached Great Britain. In 1779 the matter was discussed in Parliament, and four of those who were responsible for his arrest were tried and were fined £1000 each. Pigot, who left several illegitimate children, was never married, and his barony became extinct.

George entered the service of the British East India Company in 1736 as a writer, and arrived at Madras on 26 July 1737. When a member of council at Fort St. David, Pigot was sent with Robert Clive to Trichinopoly in charge of some recruits and stores. On their return with a small escort of sepoys, they were attacked by a large body of polýgars, and narrowly escaped with their lives. Pigot succeeded Thomas Saunders as governor and commander-in-chief of Madras on 14 January 1755. He conducted the defence of the city, when besieged by Thomas-Arthur de Lally in the winter of 1758–9, with considerable skill and spirit. On the capture of Pondichéry by Lieutenant-colonel (afterwards Sir) Eyre Coote (1726–1783) in January 1761, Pigot demanded that it should be given up to the presidency of Madras as the property of the East India Company. This Coote refused after consulting his chief officers, who were of opinion that the place ought to be held for the Crown. Pigot thereupon declared that unless his demand was complied with, he would not furnish any money for the subsistence of the King's troops or the French prisoners. Upon this, Coote gave way, and Pigot took possession of Pondichéry, and destroyed all the fortifications in obedience to the orders previously received from England. Pigot resigned office on 14 November 1763, and forthwith returned to England. He was created a baronet on 5 December 1764, with remainder in default of male issue to his brothers Robert and Hugh, and their heirs male.

-- George Pigot, 1st Baron Pigot, by Wikipedia


General Lalli was all the time very ill; he asked the English Governor for permission to stay four more days in Pondicherry. He was refused. They indicated to him that he must leave in two days for Madras.

We might add, since it is rather a strange thing, that Pigot was of French origin, just as Lalli was of Irish origin: both were fighting against their old fatherland.


LALLI ILL-TREATED BY HIS FOLLOWERS

This harshness was the least that he suffered. The employees of the Company, the officers of his troops, whom he had mortified without consideration, united against him. The employees, above all, insulted him right up to the time of his departure, putting up posters against him, throwing stones at his windows, calling out loudly that he was a traitor and a scoundrel. The band of people grew bigger as idlers joined it, and they, in turn, soon became inflamed by the mad anger of the others. They waited for him in the place through which he was to be carried, lying on a palanquin, followed at a distance by fifteen English hussars who had been chosen to escort him during his journey to Madras. Colonel Coote had allowed him to be accompanied by four of his guards as far as the gate of the city. The rebels surrounded his bed, loading insults upon him, and threatening to kill him. They might have been slaves who wanted to kill with their swords one of their companions. He continued his march in their midst holding two pistols in his weakened hands. His guards and the English hussars saved his life.

THE COMMISSARY OF STORES OF THE ARMY ASSASSINATED

The rebels attacked M. Dubois, an old and brave officer, seventy years old and Commissary of Stores for the Army, who passed by a moment later. This officer, the King’s man, was assassinated: he was robbed, stripped bare of clothes, buried in a garden, and his papers immediately seized and taken away from his house, since when they have never been seen.

While General Lalli was being taken to Madras, the employees of the Company obtained permission in Pondicherry to open his boxes, thinking that they would find there his treasure in gold, diamonds and bills of exchange. All they found was a little plate, clothes, useless papers, and it maddened them even more.

5TH MARCH 1761

Bowed down with sorrow and illness, Lalli, a prisoner in Madras, asked in vain for his transport to England to be delayed: he could not obtain this favour. They carried him by force on board a trading ship, whose captain treated him cruelly during the voyage. The only solace given him was pork broth. This English patriot thought it his duty to treat in this way an Irishman in the service of France. Soon the officers, the Council of Pondicherry and the chief employees were forced to follow him but, before being transferred, they had the sorrow of seeing the demolition begun of all the fortifications that they had made for their town, and the destruction of their huge shops, their markets, all that was used for trade and defence, even to their own houses.

Mr. Dupre, chosen as Governor of Pondicherry by the Council of Madras, hurried on this destruction. He was (according to our information) the grandson of one of those Frenchmen whom the strictness of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes forced to become an exile from their fatherland and fight against it. Louis XIV did not expect that in about eighty years the capital of his India Company would be destroyed by a Frenchman.


The Jesuit Lavour wrote to him in vain: Are you equally anxious, Sir, to destroy the house in which we have a domestic altar where we can practice our religion secretly?”

Dupre was little concerned with the fact that Lavaor was saying the Mass in secret: he replied that General Lalli had razed St. David to the ground and had only given three days to the inhabitants in which to take away their possessions, that the Governor of Madras had granted three months to the inhabitants or Pondicherry and that the English were at least equal to the French in generosity, but that he must go and say the Mass elsewhere. Thereupon the town was razed to the ground pitilessly, without the French having the right to complain.

CHAPTER XVIII: LALLI AND THE OTHER PRISONERS ARE CONDUCTED TO ENGLAND AND RELEASED ON PAROLE. CRIMINAL SUIT AGAINST LALLI.

The prisoners, on the journey and in England, continued their mutual reproaches which despair made even more bitter. The General had his partisans, above all among the officers in the regiment bearing his name. Almost all the others were his enemies: one man would write to the French Ministers; another would accuse the opposite party of being the cause of the disaster. But the real cause was the same as in other parts of the world: the superiority of the English fleet, the carefulness and perseverance of the nation, its credit, its ready money, and that spirit of patriotism, which is stronger in the long run than the trading spirit and greed for riches.  

General Lalli obtained permission from the Admiralty in England to enter France on parole. The majority of his enemies obtained the same favour: they arrived preceded by all the complaints and the accusations of both sides. Paris was flooded with a thousand writings. The partisans of Lalli were very few and his enemies innumerable.

A whole Council, two hundred employees without resources, the Directors of the India Company seeing their huge establishment reduced to nothing, the shareholders trembling for their fortune, irritated officers; everybody flew at Lalli with all the more fury because they believed that in their losing he had acquired millions. Women always less restrained than men in their fears and their complaints, cried out against the traitor, the embezzler, the criminal guilty of high treason against the king.

The Council of Pondicherry, in a body, presented against him in front of the Controller-General. In this petition, they said: “It is not a desire to avenge the insults and our ruin which is our motive -- it is the force of truth, it is the pure feeling of our consciences, it is the popular complaint against him."


It seemed however that “the pure feelings of conscience” had been somewhat corrupted by the grief of having lost everything, by a personal hatred, perhaps excusable, and by a thirst for vengeance which cannot be excused.

A very brave officer of the ancient nobility, badly insulted without cause, whose honour, even, was involved, wrote in a manner even more violent than the Council of Pondicherry: “This is," he said, “what a stranger without a name, with no deeds to his credit, without family, without a title, but none the less loaded with the honours of his master, prepares for the whole colony. Nothing was sacred in his sacrilegious hands: as a leader he even laid his hands on the altar appropriating six silver candlesticks, which the English General made him give back in response to the request of the head of the Capucines,” etc.

The General had brought on himself, by his indiscretion, his impetuosity, and his unjust reproaches, this cruel accusation: it is true that he had the candlesticks and the crucifix carried to his own house, but so publicly that it was not possible that he should wish to take possession of such a small thing, in the midst of so many big things. Therefore the sentence which condemned him does not speak of sacrilege.

The reproach of his low birth was very unjust: we have got his titles together with the seal of King John. His family was very old. People therefore were overstepping the limit with him just as he had done with so many others. If anything ought to inspire men with a desire for moderation, it is this tragic event.

The Finance Minister ought naturally to protect a trading company whose ruin was liable to do so much harm to the country: a secret order was given to shut Lalli in the Bastille. He himself offered to give himself up: he wrote to the Duke of Choiseul: “I am bringing here my head and my innocence. I am awaiting your orders."

The Duke of Choiseul, Minister of War and Foreign Affairs, was generous to a fault, genial and just: the highness of his ideals equalled the breadth of his opinions, but, in an affair so important and complicated, he could not go against the clamorous demands of all Paris, nor neglect the host of imputations against the accused. Lalli was shut up in the Bastille in the same room where La Bourdonnaye had been and, like him, did not emerge from it.

It remained to be seen what judges they would give him. A Council of War seemed to be the most suitable tribunal, but he was also accused of misappropriation of funds, embezzlement, and crimes of peculation of which the Marshals of France are not the judges. Count Lalli at first only brought accusations against his enemies, who therefore tried to reply to them in some way. The case was so complicated, it was necessary to call so many witnesses, that the prisoner remained fifteen months in the Bastille without being examined, and without knowing the tribunal before which he was to plead.
“That,” several legal experts used to say, “is the tragic destiny of the citizens of a kingdom, famous for its arms and its arts but lacking in good laws, or rather a kingdom where the wise old laws have been sometimes forgotten.”

THE JESUIT LAVOUR DIES. 1,250,000 POUNDS FOUND IN HIS CASH BOX.

The Jesuit Lavour was then in Paris: he was asking the Government for a modest pension of four hundred francs so that he might go and pray to God for the rest of his days in the heart of Perigord where he was born. He died, and twelve hundred and fifty thousand pounds were found in his cash box, and more in diamonds and bills of exchange. This deed of a Mission Superior from the East, and the case of the Superior of the Western Missions, La Valette, who went into bankruptcy at the same time, with three millions in debts, excited over the whole of France an indignation equal to that which was excited against Lalli. This was one of the causes which finally got the Jesuits abolished, but, at the same time, the cash box of Lavour settled the fate of Lalli. In this trunk were found two books of memoirs, one in favour of Lalli, the other charging him with all kinds of crimes. The Jesuit was to make use of one or the other of these writings, according to the turn which affairs took. These documents were a double-edged sword, and the one that harmed Lalli was delivered to the Attorney-General. This supporter of the King complained to Parliament against the Count on account of his oppression, embezzlement, treachery, and high treason. Parliament referred the suit in the first instance to the Chatelet. Soon afterwards, letters patent of the King sent to the High Tribunal and to the "Tournelle" information of all the malpractices in India so that steps may be taken against the perpetrators in accordance with the severity of the ordinances. It might have been better to stress the word justice rather than the word severity.

As the Attorney-General had accused him of the crimes of high treason and treachery against the Crown, he was denied a counsel. For his defence, he had no other help except his own. They allowed him to write, and he took advantage of this permission -- to his own undoing.
His writings annoyed his enemies all the more and made new foes. He reproached Count d'Ache with being the cause of his loss in India, because he did not remain before Pondicherry. But as chief of a squadron, d’Ache had definite orders to defend the Isles of Bourbon and France against a threatened invasion. He was accusing a man who had himself fought three times against the English fleet, and had been wounded during these three battles. He blamed the Chevalier of Soupire violently, and he was answered with a moderation as praiseworthy as it is rare.

Finally, testifying that he had always rigidly done his duty, he gave vent to the same excesses with his pen as formerly he used to do with his tongue. If he had been granted a counsel, his defence would have been more circumspect, but he all the time thought that it was enough to believe oneself innocent. Above all, he forced M. de Bussi to give a reply that was as mortifying as it was well written. All impartial men saw with sorrow two brave officers like Lalli and de Bussi, both of tried valour, who had risked their lives a hundred times, pretend to suspect one another of lack of courage. Lalli took too much upon himself by insulting all his enemies in his memoirs. It was like fighting alone against an army, and it was impossible for him not to be overwhelmed. The talk of a whole town makes an impression on the judges even when they believe they are on their guard against such an influence.

CHAPTER XIX: THE END OF THE SUIT AGAINST LALLI. HIS DEATH.

By a strange twist of fate, only to be observed perhaps in France, tragic happenings are nearly always mingled with the ridiculous. Indeed, it was very ridiculous to see men of peaceful habits, who had never left Paris except to go to their country seats, question, with the aid of a clerk of the court, generals on land and sea about their military operations.

The members of the Merchants’ Council of Pondicherry, the shareholders of Paris, the Directors of the India Company, the employees, the clerks, their wives and relations complained to the judges and the friends of the judges against the Commander of an army consisting of hardly a thousand men, and against the Commander of a fleet which only contained one King’s ship. Engagements had failed because the General was a traitor, and because the Admiral had gone to get his boat repaired instead of fighting a fourth naval battle! The names of Trichinopoly, Wandewash and Chetoupet were mentioned. The Councillors of the Grand' Chamhre made bad maps of India in which these towns were not to be found.

Lalli was blamed for not taking possession of this place called Chetoupet before going to Madras. All the Marshals of France sitting together would have had a difficult task to decide from such a distance whether Chetoupet ought to be besieged or not. And yet this question was brought before the Grand' Chambre! The accusations were so complicated that it was inevitable that a Paris judge should often mistake a town for a man, and a man for a town.

The General on the land accused the General on the sea of being the primary cause of the failure of the campaigns, while he in his turn was accused by the whole of the Council of Pondicherry of being the sole cause of all misfortunes.

The Squadron Leader was summoned to be heard. He was asked why he had put the Cape in the South instead of being broadside on between Alamparve and Kudalur — name that no Parisian had ever heard about before.

As for General Lalli, he was charged with besieging Kudalur [Goudalour (Voltaire).] instead of first besieging St. David; with not having marched towards Madras immediately; with not having evacuated the post at Cheringan; with not having sent three hundred black or white soldiers as reinforcements to Masulipatam; both with having capitulated at Pondicherry and with not having capitulated. [Marshal Keit said to an Empress of Russia: “Madam, if you send a traitor and a coward of a General to Germany, you can have him hung on his return. But if he is only inefficient. all the worse for you. Why did you choose him? It is your fault -- he did what he could and you still owe him your thanks."]

There was some question about whether M. de Soupire, the Marshal of the Camp had, or had not, continued in military service after the loss of Cangivaron [Conjevaram or Kanchiverum (Trans).] (a station quite unknown at the Tournelle). It is true that while questioning Lalli about these facts they were particular to tell him that these were military operations on which they were not laying much stress. But it did not prevent them from implicating him as a result. In addition to the points on which he was accused which we have already seen, others followed about his private life. He was blamed for losing his temper with a Councillor of Pondicherry, and of having said to this Councillor, who boasted that he would give his blood for the Company, “Have you enough blood to provide black pudding for the King’s men, who have not got enough bread?”... (No. 74)

They accused him of having abused another Councillor... (No. 87)

of having condemned a hairdresser, who had burned a negress’s shoulder with a hot iron, to receive a blow with the same iron on his own shoulder... (No. 88)

of being occasionally drunk ... (No. 104)

of having made a capuchin friar sing in the street ... (No. 105)

of having said that Pondicherry was like a brothel where some people caressed girls, and others wanted to throw them out of the windows ... (No. 106)

of having paid several visits to Madame Pigot who had run away from her husband ... (No. 108)

of having had rice given to his horses at a time when he had no horses ... (No. 112)

of having once given the soldiers "punch” with their cocoa ... (No. 131)

of having himself treated for an abscess of the liver before it had burst. And if the abscess had burst, he would fortunately have died ... (No. 137)


These complaints were combined with more important accusations. The most serious was that he had sold Pondicherry to the English; and the proof they put forward was that during the blockade he had had some shots fired without any apparent reason, and that he had gone on his rounds at night to the beat of a drum ... (Nos. 144-145)

It is easy to see that these accusations were levelled by people who were annoyed. Such was their lack of sense that their excessive exaggeration seemed to discredit the other imputations as well. We need not mention here a hundred little money affairs which form such a chaos that it is easier for a merchant to bring some order into it than a historian. His defense seems very plausible, and the reader may again read for himself his warrant of arrest which did not accuse him of peculation.

There were seven heads of accusation against him, and public outcry increased the number and weight still more. The trial, in spite of its appearing ridiculous, was becoming more serious, and the catastrophe was approaching.

The famous d’Aguesseau said in one of his speeches censuring Lalli addressing the magistrates of 1714: You may be just and upright in your intentions, but are you always exempt from the injustice of prejudice? And cannot this kind of injustice be called ''an error of virtue" or, if we dare say it, "a gentleman's crime."

The term “crime” is very strong — an honest man does not commit crimes but he often makes bad faults, and what man, what Company, has not made the same kind of faults?

The judge-advocate was said to be a hard man, preoccupied and blood-thirsty. If he had deserved this blame, in its entirety, the word “crime” would not then perhaps have been too strong. He loved justice, but he wanted the full rigour of the law, and afterwards he would repent. His hands were still red with the blood of a child (a young man of seventeen years can be given this name) who had been blamed of an excess which age would have corrected, and which six months in prison would have expiated. It was he who had decided, fifteen judges against ten to make this victim die the most horrible of all deaths, reserved for parricides. [Five votes sufficed to condemn a child to the accumulated tortures ordinary and extraordinary: to have his tongue pulled out with pincers, to have his hand cut off, to be thrown into the flames. A child! The grandson of Lieutenant-General who had served the State! Anti this happening more horrible than anything that has been reported or invented about cannibals, took place in a nation which passes for enlightened and humane. ] This scene was being enacted in a country which was called civilized, at the very time when the monstrous inquisition was being tamed elsewhere, and when the old laws of barbarous ages were being softened down in other countries. All the princes and all the states in Europe horrified at this frightful judicial assassination. Even the magistrate was attacked by remorse, but he was not any the less pitiless in the trial of Count Lalli.

He, together with a few other judges, were convinced of the necessity of torture for the most pardonable deed; one would have thought that they took pleasure in it. Their maxim was that the accusers should always be believed rather than the accused, and that, if all that was necessary was to deny, nobody would be guilty.
They had forgotten this reply of Emperor Julien, the philosopher who had himself administered justice in Paris: “If to accuse was sufficient, nobody would be innocent.''

The judges had to read and re-read a huge pile of papers, a thousand contradictory reports of military operations carried out at places whose name and position was unknown to them. There were facts of which it was impossible to form an exact idea; incidents, objections and replies constantly jutting into the line of argument. It was not possible for each judge to examine for himself all these details, and, even if they had had the patience to read them, how few people could unravel the truth out of such a multitude of contradictions! In complicated matters, one relies almost always on the judge-advocate, he guides our opinions, his word is enough, life and death, honour and shame are in his hands.

An attorney-general, having read all the evidence with tireless attention, was completely convinced that the accused should be acquitted. He was M. Seguir, of the same family as the Chancellor who made a name for himself in the dawn of belles-lettres (cultivated too late in France, as all the arts have been); a man, moreover, of considerable intelligence, and even more eloquent than the judge-advocate, although in a different way. He was so convinced that the Count was innocent that he gave his reasons openly before the judges and throughout Paris. M. Pellot, former Counsellor of the Grand' Chambre, perhaps the most diligent and sensible of the judges, was entirely of the opinion of M. Seguier.

The old French Parlement had been embittered by its frequent quarrels with officers who came to them with the orders of the King. It had been banished more than once for its resistance. Always resisting, it had become, almost without realizing it, the natural enemy of all military men in an elevated position, and might perhaps be believed to feel a certain secret satisfaction in asserting its power over a man who had exercised sovereign power. They were humiliating, in him, all commanders. These feelings hidden at the bottom of one’s heart, are rarely admitted, but those who suspect it cannot be deceived.

The Viceroy of French India was, after fifty years of service, condemned to death at the age of sixty-eight.

5TH MAY 1766

When the judgment was pronounced, his anger equalled his amazement. He raged against his judges just as he had raged against his accusers, and stabbed himself near the heart with the compass with which he had drawn maps in the prison. The blow was not deep enough to kill him. Destined to lose his life at the scaffold, he was drawn through the streets in a tumbril of mud, by order of the judge-advocate. The big gag on his mouth, spreading over his lips and disfiguring his face, was a horrible sight. A sort of cruel curiosity always attracts a miscellaneous crowd of people to a spectacle like this. Many of his personal enemies, subordinate officers, came to enjoy it. He had been gagged because they feared that he would raise his voice against his judges on the scaffold, and because they were afraid that he would persuade the people of his innocence, since he believed in it so intensely himself. The tumbril and the gag raised the spirits of the whole of Paris: the death of an unfortunate did not revolt them.

6TH MAY 1766

The judgment decreed that Thomas Arthur Lalli was condemned to be beheaded, having been duly convicted of having betrayed the interests of King, the State and the India Company, of abuse of authority, of oppressive acts and exactions.

We have already remarked elsewhere that these words betrayed the interests do not signify perfidy, formal treason, or a crime of leze-majeste—briefly, the sale of Pondicherry to the English — of which he had been accused. To betray the interests of somebody means to mismanage them, or to conduct them badly. It was obvious that during the whole trial, there was not a shadow of treason or peculation.
The implacable enemy of the English who had always attacked them would not sell the town to them. Moreover, the English would never have bought a town which they were sure of taking. Finally, Lalli would have enjoyed the fruit of his treachery in London without coming to court death in France among his enemies. With regard to the charges of embezzlement, as he was entrusted either with the money of the King, or with that of the Company, he could not be accused of a crime, which is said to be so common.

Abuse of authority, oppression, and exactions are also vague and equivocal terms by means of which there is no court which cannot condemn a General of the Army and a Marshal of France to death. There must be definite law, and definite proofs. General Lalli used his authority very badly, no doubt, when he swore at his officers, and was lacking in consideration, circumspection, and propriety, but, since there is no law which says: Every Marshal of France, and every General who is a brute shall have his head cut off, many impartial observers thought that it was the Parlement which appeared to be abusing its authority.

The word “exaction” is also a term without a definite meaning. Lalli had never levied a tax of a farthing either on the inhabitants of Pondicherry or on the Council. He never even demanded from the Treasurer of the Council the salary due to him as General: he was expecting to receive it at Paris, and all he received there was death.

We have the certain knowledge (as far as it is permissible to use the word “certain”) that three days after his death, a respectable man, having asked one of the judges about which crime had caused the conviction, received the reply: “There is no particular crime: he has been condemned on the totality of his conduct.” That was essentially true, but a hundred inconsistencies of conduct of a man of position, a hundred faults in his character, a hundred signs of bad temper, put all together, do not together make up a crime worthy of the final penalty. If it had been lawful to fight one’s general, perhaps he deserved to die at the hands of the officers whom he had insulted, but not by the sword of justice which knows neither hate nor anger. It is certain that no military officers would have accused him so violently if they had known that their complaints would lead him to the scaffold; on the contrary, they would have found excuses for him. Such is the character of French officers.

This judgment seems as cruel to-day as at the time when the suit took place. The Chatelet, which had been ordered by the king to punish the palpable embezzlements done in Canada by the clerks, had only condemned them to restitution, fines and punishment. The Magistrates of the Chatelet had felt that, in the state of humiliation and despair to which France had fallen in those unfortunate times, when she had lost her troops, her ships, her money, her trade, her colonies, her reputation, they could not restore any of them to her by hanging ten or twelve guilty men who had not been paid by a government which was in debt, and who had, therefore, paid themselves. These accused men had no intrigue working against them. There was a bloodthirsty and terrible one against an Irishman who seemed to have been strange, fanciful, bad-tempered, jealous of other people, acting from selfish motives like everybody else, but, in spite of it all, not a thief — a brave man, devoted to the state and innocent. Time was necessary before pity could take the place of hatred. The tide did not turn in Lalli’s favour until a few months afterwards when vengeance had been satiated, and justice and pity had again entered men’s hearts.

The thing which contributed the most to re-establishing his memory with the people was the fact that, after a good deal of searching, it was found that he had only left a very ordinary fortune. The judgment had ordered that 100,000 crowns should be confiscated from his property and given to the poor of Pondicherry. Enough money to pay these debts was not found. The really interesting poor people were his relations. The King showed favours to them which did not make amends for the misfortune of the family. The biggest favour that they asked of was that, if possible, the case judged by the old Parlement should be re-tried by the new, or that a new Council of War should take it up with the help of magistrates.

Wise and compassionate people gradually began to realize that the condemnation of General Lalli was one of those murders which are committed with the sword of justice. There is no civilized nation in which laws made to protect the innocent have not been used at times to oppress them. It is a misfortune that is inherent in human nature, which is weak, passionate and kind. Ever since the death of the Templars there has been no century in which the judges of France have not committed many of these murderous mistakes. Sometimes it was an absurd and barbarous law which caused these legal evils; sometimes it was a wise law that had been perverted. [The Duchess d’Ancre was accused of having sacrificed a white cock to the moon and was burned as a witch. It was proved against the priest Ganfredy that he had frequent conferences with the devil. One of the strongest charges against Vanini was that they had found a great toad in his home, and therefore he was declared to be a sorcerer and an atheist. The Jesuit Girard was accused of having bewitched la Cadier; the priest Grandier of having bewitched a whole convent. The old Parlement forbade anyone to write against Aristotle under pain of being sent to the galleys. Montecuculi, chamberlain and cup-bearer to the French Dauphin was condemned for being tempted by the Emperor Charles XV to poison the young prince, because he dabbled in Chemistry. Such examples of absurdity and barbarism are innumerable. Let us draw attention again to what we said before — that if the executions of most men in high position had been delayed, they would, with hardly one exception, never have been carried out. The reason is that human nature, which is so cruel when it is heated, comes back again to gentleness when it grows cool.]  

CHAPTER XX: THE DESTRUCTION OF THE FRENCH COMPANY IN INDIA

The death of Lalli did not revive the India Company: it was only a useless act of cruelty. If it is sad even to carry out necessary acts of this kind, how much more ought we to abstain from those which only cause neighbouring countries to say: “This nation once generous and powerful is now only dangerous for those who serve it.”

It was, moreover, a big problem at the Court, in Paris, in the Maritime Provinces among the agents, and among the ministers whether they ought to support or abandon this corpse with two heads which had equally harmed trade and the war, and which to-day was made up of members who used to change daily. The ministers who tended towards the opinion that its monopoly should be taken away employed M. l’abbe Morrelet to write for them. He was in reality a Doctor of the Sorbonne University, but such a learned, intelligent and methodical man, that he was more fit to serve the State in serious matters than to lecture on the platforms of the University. He proved that in the position in which the Company found itself, it was not possible to let them retain a privilege which had ruined them.

He also wished to prove that this monopoly ought never to have been given to them. It was equivalent to saying that the French have in their character, and more often in their government, something which will not allow them to form successful associations on a big scale, because the English, Dutch, and even Danish Companies had prospered with their exclusive privilege. It was proved that the different ministries from 1725 to 1769 had furnished the India Company, at the expense of the King and the State, with the amazing sum of three hundred and seventy-six millions, without ever being able to pay its shareholders any interest. This fact cannot be sufficiently stressed.


Finally, they laid the ghost of this Company which had aroused such big hopes. It had not been able to succeed through the care of Cardinal Richelieu nor through the generosity of Louis XIV, of the Duke of Orleans, or of any of the ministers of Louis XV. A hundred millions were necessary to give it new life, and there would have been again danger of the Company losing them. The shareholders and the investors continued to be paid through the farming out of the Tobacco trade, so that if tobacco went out of fashion, bankruptcy would be inevitable.

The English Company, better managed, better aided by the Fleet which commanded the seas, and inspired by a more patriotic spirit, was at the height of her power and glory (which may be transitory). It also had quarrels with shareholders and with the Government, but these quarrels were the quarrels of conquerors who cannot agree when they share the booty. Those of the French Company were the complaints and the crying of the vanquished, accusing one another of their misfortunes in the midst of the ruin around them.

In the English Parliament, they tried to seize from Lord Clive and his officers the enormous riches they acquired in their victories. They claimed that everything ought to belong to the State and not to individuals, just as the Parlement of Paris had done. But the difference between the English Parliament and that in Paris was immense, in spite of the similarity of a name; one represented the whole nation, the other was just a judicial tribunal, whose work was to register the edicts of the King. The English Parliament decided on the twenty-fourth of May, 1773:

that it was shameful to demand in London from Lord Clive and his brave officers the legitimate reward of their fine deeds in India; that this act would be as unjust as if they had wanted to punish Admiral Anson for having made a tour of the world as a conqueror; and, finally, that the most certain method of encouraging men to serve their country was to let them work at the same time for themselves.


Thus there was a huge difference between the fate of an Englishman, and that of Lalli, the Irishman: but one was the victor, the other the vanquished; one had made himself loved and the other had made himself hated.

Only time can teach posterity what will happen to the English Company ... whether it will establish its power in Bengal and on the Coromandel coast as the Dutch have done in Batavia, or whether the Mahrattas and the Pathans prove too warlike for them and prevail, whether England will dominate India as it is dominating North America. All that we know for certain at the present time is that everything changes on this earth.  
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God's Body, or, The Lingam Made Flesh: Conflicts over the Representation of the Sexual Body of the Hindu God Shiva
by Wendy Doniger
Vol. 78, No. 2, The Body and the State: How the State Controls and Protects the Body, Part I, pp. 485-508 (24 pages), Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
(SUMMER 2011)

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Until February, 2010, The Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Hinduism included this sentence about the Hindu god Shiva:

In temples and in private shrines, Shiva is . .. worshipped in the form of the lingam, or phallus, often embedded in the yoni, the symbol of the female sexual organ.


That definition was based on the one established by the standard, nineteenth-century Sanskrit dictionary of Sir Monier Monier-Williams. which defines the lingam (or linga -- the "m" is optional) as "the male organ or Phallus (esp. that of Siva worshipped in the form of a stone or marble column which generally rises out of a yoni, q.v., and is set up in temples dedicated to Siva)" (see figure 1).1 [An earlier and rather different version of this essay was presented as the 2010 Presidential Lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, November 11, 2010. I am indebted to James Cuno, Madhuvanti Ghosh, and Mary Sue Glosser for their valuable input on that occasion.] But in February of 2010, in response to a number of complaints from Hindu readers, Britannica replaced its original sentence with the following rather cumbersome paragraph:

In temples and in private shrines, Shiva is worshipped in the form of the lingam, a cylindrical votary object that is often embedded in a yoni, or spouted dish. Together they symbolize the eternal process of creation and regeneration. Since the late 19th century, some scholars have interpreted the lingam and yoni as being aniconic representations of the male and female sexual organs, respectively.


This change was a response to a dispute about the symbolism of the lingam that has been going on for many centuries: Is its primary meaning inexorably tied to the physical body (iconic), or is it abstract (aniconic)? The Britannica hedged.2 [In the interest of full disclosure I must confess that I serve on the Britannica's International Board of Editors, and that the Britannica staff consulted me in making this revision.]

The Shiva-lingam is well known throughout India, a signifier that is understood across barriers of caste and language, a linga franca, if you will. But what is signified? Many Hindus have, like Sigmund Freud, seen lingams in every naturally occurring elongated object, including the so-called self-created lingams, objets trouves such as stalagmites. But recently, many Hindus, especially bloggers on the Hindu Internet (sometimes called the Hindernet), have insisted that the lingam has nothing at all to do with any part of the body of any human or any god, and the Britannica acted in response to that groundswell, or, rather, airswell. Where did this argument come from?

In this article I will attempt to answer this question about present-day Hindu sensibilities with a consideration of the history of the usages of the word lingam in ancient texts and the evidence of material images of the Shiva-lingam in Indian art, as well as the historical role of two non-Hindu stales in India -- Muslim and British -- in the formation of contemporary attitudes to the lingam.

Image
Figure 1. Lingam in yoni with flower offerings. Patan, Nepal (2007). Courtesy Charles S. Preston.

Image
Figure 2. "Pashupati" Seal (Seal 420), Mohenjo-Daro, Indus Valley Civilization. Courtesy of imagesofasia.com. Seal held at the National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi. Originally printed in John Huber Marshall, Mohenjo-daro and the Indus Civilization (1931).

THE INDUS VALLEY

The story begins in the Indus Valley civilization in what is now northwest India and Pakistan, a culture (dating from well before 2500 BCE) with rich archeological remains but no deciphered script. The textual silence has allowed scholars to draw wild conclusions, often politically motivated, about the nature of the many physical objects discovered there. Some people have seen a kind of proto-lingam on one of the many carved stones found there, rectangular sections of soapstone about the size of a postage stamp, which were used as seals or stamps. Sir John Marshall began it all.

Biach. Bramma and Vichnou, accompanied by a numerous cortege of Brammes, were formerly on the mountain Keilassan to visit Chib [Siva]. They found him enjoying his wife. Their arrival did not urge him to stop. He saw them, but without saying a word to them, or giving them the slightest courtesy, due to the fury of his passion, and inflamed by the drunkenness into which he was plunged, had knocked him out of himself, and he was no longer capable of shame or modesty. At this sight, some of those who made up this illustrious assembly, among others, Vishnu, only laughed, and felt ashamed for him. Others, outraged with annoyance and anger, testified to all their indignation, and charged him with insults. "No, you are only a demon," they said to him, "and even worse than a demon, who gives everything to passion. You wear the face, and you have the game, since you are not even susceptible to shame in the presence of such an illustrious assembly." All equally unworthy [finally] held the same language, and entered into the same sentiments. "The friendship we had for him," they all said unanimously, "had taken us to his house to pay him a visit, and we only find in him a man completely devoted to passion and drunkenness, who takes no notice of us, and who continues his infamies even in our presence. Therefore, no virtuous man, from now on, has any trade with him, and those who frequent him will be regarded as fools, and as men unworthy of any society with honest people." Having said this, they all withdrew, each at soy.

Chib, a short time later, having returned to himself, asked his guards who were those who had come to his house. "It is Bramma and Vishnou," they said to him, "accompanied by a numerous troop of penitents; but seeing you in this state, they loaded you with curses and insults and withdrew." These words were like a thunderbolt which penetrated to the heart of Chib and Dourgua. They both died, and died in the same posture they had been in until then. Chib wanted this action which had made him experience shame to be celebrated by men. This is how he expressed it: "Shame made me die, but it gave me a new figure, and this new figure is the Lingam. You, demons, my subjects, look at it therefore as another means itself. It is indeed a part of it. Moreover, I want all men to offer their sacrifices to Lingam. Those who honor me under this figure will surely get the object of [all] their wishes and a place in the Veikuntam. I am the supreme being. My Lingam is too. Therefore, to render it the honors of the divinity is a work of virtue, and you could not do anything more useful, nothing more meritorious. The tree of Marmélle is, of all trees, the one I love the most. If they want to please me, they must offer me the flowers, the leaves, and the fruits. Hear more what I have to add. Those who will fast on January 14th in honor of the Lingam, and who the following night will offer it the sacrifice, will present it with leaves from the Marmelle tree, and will ensure a place in the Keilassan. Listen again, demons. If you have any desire to become virtuous, learn what are the fruits that should be derived from the honors that will be paid to Lingam. Those who make it out of earth and sacrifice to it, will receive their reward. Those who make it out of stone, will merit seven times more, and will never see the gates of hell. Those who make it with silver will deserve seven times more, and with gold, seven times more. My ministers, go and teach this truth to men, and urge them to embrace it."

Indeed, they did, and all peoples were instructed. Some have adopted it and are offering their sacrifices to the Lingam today. Others did not want to add foy to it, and did not consider it. Others, finally, have regarded it as an infamy, and refused to hear about it. For me, I have known for a long time, and I am fully convinced, that the Lingam is Chïb himself, and therefore the supreme being. So I am going to design the figure as I traced it to men to give them an idea. I told them that this Lingam was whitish in color, that he had 3 eyes, 5 faces, and that he liked to cover himself with tiger skin; that he was before the world, that he was the principle of the world, that he dispels our fears, and always grants us the object of all our wishes. Bramma himself offered him sacrifices in Keilassan. The Brames, the penitents, the Kings, the merchants, the Choutres, recognize no other god than Chib. He alone receives their homage and their wishes. I have just given you a short summary of the history of Lingam, and of what gave rise to it, and how his cult spread. Tell me now what you think. I don't know of anyone more enlightened than you. Therefore continue to remove my doubts, and destroy my errors, in order to save me.

Chumantou. What you just said is the crowning achievement of everything you have already said. No matter how much I think and dream, I don't know how to go about making you reasonable, and make you recognize the monstrous errors in which I see you plunged. A man who has given in to passing errors, but who does not have a completely corrupt heart, is still capable of tasting reason, and clinging to the truth as soon as it is shown to him. But he who has both a corrupt mind and heart are quite incapable of it. It is therefore impossible to make him know the truth, even less to make him love. It is with him, as with dry wood, that you can break it, but you cannot make it bend. You first said that Chib was the supreme being, [but] how, after all you have just said about him, can it even occur to you? One would regard the world as vile and despicable, if the supreme being would give himself up to women until he could no longer part with them. Such is the character that you make him have. Such a name and such behavior cannot therefore suit him that we regard as the supreme being, and that we adore as our god. God is essentially happy. He is sovereign. He can therefore desire nothing outside of himself, and all that is external to him can in no way contribute to his happiness or his felicity. Indeed, when you give Chib the name of being supreme, you represent him to us immersed in drunkenness, and delivering everything to a woman whom he enjoyed without interruption. If he was, in fact, the supreme being, we should see men who depend on him, like his creatures, let themselves be inflamed with anger, and make him bear its effects. Is it possible that you did not feel [all] the indecency of such conduct? Don't you see what's going on in front of your eyes? If a Roy makes a mistake, we would see a slave going to load him with insults and curses. Learn from this that the God whom one recognizes as master, and who is in fact above the anger of men, does not have to bear the weight or feel the effects of his actions. You add that Bochisto and the other penitents offered the Lingam their homage, and honored him like a deity. What does this prove? That they have both been as perverted, as corrupt, as toy, and nothing more? The most virtuous men desire only to possess God, and only after death are we are allowed to see him and enjoy him. Chib's house is always full of demons. His suite is made up of them. The demons must therefore enjoy a privilege which is not granted to even the most virtuous. God has no body. Chib certainly has one, and his pleasure is to cover himself with a tiger skin. God does not desire anything outside of Himself. All of Chib's mind, heart and attention, is on a woman. How can you confuse the two and give them the same name? God, by an act of his will, created the world, so we [all] give him the name of father, and recognize him as such. It is only Kartiko and Gonecho who give this name to Chib, and who recognize being his children. You have said on other occasions that Bramma and Vishnu were enlightened and virtuous men. But if they were indeed, would they curse someone who must be regarded as the supreme being? Would they throw curses at him? To see God, to enjoy him, is the reward of virtue. It is the height of happiness. Seeing and hanging out with Chib is a crime, because all you see in him is a shameless monster. You say that Chib, at the time of death, remained under the figure of Lingam. You are wrong at first to put him to death, since God is eternal and does not die. But besides, there was no more decent figure in the world which could better suit the divinity. You are going to tell these fables to an ignorant people who are hardly able to distinguish their left hand from their right hand. But lacking even in light, can you carry deceit and wickedness to this point? You are not ignorant of what is excellent in God's nature, and know, above all, that he cannot be transformed into what is most base. You are not unaware, either, that one should offer the sacrifice only to the being who is above all. How then, unhappy that you are, can you resolve to engage the people to honor by this act of religion what is most despicable and most base? The lingam is the shameful part of the body. All men hide it out of modesty. And you, unhappy man, you carry infamy to the point of urging them to offer it their sacrifices, and to pay it the honors which are only due to the divinity. What use is it to instruct you in the truth? To what end are all the pains that I take upon myself, since you are still capable of such infamies and such abominations? If you want me to continue to instruct you, leave therefore, forever, such a monstrous error. No matter how much I tell you, I foresee that you will do nothing. A spirit spoiled by impurity feeds only on impure ideas, and must, in fact, make gods of this species. A heart completely corrupted, surrendered to sin, must consequently offer its incense to base and contemptible objects, and nothing should appear to him to be more worthy of it than that which serves as an instrument of pleasure. I will not, however, stop telling you that Bramma is not a God, that Vishnu is not a God, that Indro is not a God, nor all the others to whom you lavish this name, and that Chib, finally, is not a God, still less the Lingam.

-- Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century, Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher


In 1931, in his magisterial three-volume publication, Mohenjo Daro and the Indus Civilization, which devotes five pages of a long chapter entitled, "Religion," to Seal 420: "There appears at Mohenjo-daro a male god, who is recognizable at once as a prototype of the historic Siva .... The lower limbs are bare and the phallus (urdhva-medhra) seemingly exposed, but it is possible that what appears to be the phallus is in reality the end of the waistband" (Marshall 1931: 52-56) (see figure 2). Urdhva-medhra ("upward phallus") is a Sanskrit term for an erect phallus, like the Greek-based English term "ithy-phallic." The mute image on the seal suggested to Marshall an early form of the Hindu god Shiva, because both Shiva and the figure on the seal are seated in a possibly yogic posture and have horns, multiple faces, surrounding animals, and an erect phallus. Marshall's suggestion was taken up by several generations of scholars, who made much of this tiny bit of soapstone; the millimeter of the putative erection on this seal (the whole seal is barely an inch high) has, like the optional inch of Cleopatra's nose, caused a great deal of historical fuss. The upward-phallus- or-is-it-perhaps-just-his-waistband-or-the-knot-in-his-dhoti? has a lineage in Indian art history that comes to rival the snake-or-is-it-perhaps-just-a-rope? in Indian philosophical idealism, as a trope for the power of illusion. And there is a general resemblance between this image and later Hindu images of Shiva. The Indus people may well have created a symbolism of the divine phallus. But even if this is so, and we cannot know it, it does not mean that the Indus images are the source of the Hindu images, or that they had the same meaning.

The Vedas and the Upanishads

The word lingam does not occur in the Rig Veda (RV), the most ancient Hindu text (c. 1500 BCE), nor does the god Shiva. But the deity Rudra, in many ways an antecedent of Shiva, does make a brief appearance, and the male organ, by another name (kaprith, perhaps meaning "expanding" or "extending pleasure"), also appears in the Veda, in an obscene hymn about a sexual competition between a male monkey and the god Indra (RV 10.86.16-17; Doniger O'Flaherty 1981: 257-63). (The term also occurs at Rig Veda 10.101.12; Doniger O'Flaherty 1981: 66-67.) Indra is a virile god, a distant cousin of Zeus and Jupiter, who bequeaths to Shiva some aspects of his mythology, including myths of castration (Doniger O'Flaherty 1973, 85-86, 130-135). The male organ also appears, by yet another name (shishna, "piercer" or "tail"), in two Vedic hymns imploring that same god, Indra, to strike down "those whose god is the phallus" or "those who play with the phallus" (shishna-devas) (RV 7.21.5, 10.99.3). Some scholars have suggested that this phrase may refer to an "early Indus cult" of the lingam (Hopkins 1971:9-10). But there is no evidence that the Indus Valley people had such a cult, let alone that the people who composed the Rig Veda knew about it, or that they disapproved of it instead of assimilating it to their own worship of their own phallic god, Indra -- no lawyer would go into court with such shaky evidence.

The word lingam appears in the Upanishads (mystical texts from around 600 BCE) only in its general sense of a sign, as smoke is a sign of fire. But the male organ does appear, under still yet another name, in one of the oldest Upanishads, which calls it "the Thing" (artha) (BA 6.4.11). The same text also describes the female organ in considerable detail, analogizing the Vedic oblation of butter into the fire to the act of sexual procreation (BA 6.2.13, 6.4.3). The worshipper in a sexual embrace with his wife imagines each part of the act as a part of the ritual of the oblation, while presumably anyone making the offering into the fire could also imagine each action as its sexual parallel. This is a very early instance of the interpretation of human sexual matters in terms of nonsexual, sacred matters (or, if you prefer, the reverse).

The Mahabharata

Gradually the word lingam took on the more particular meaning of a sign of gender, then the sign of the male gender, and finally the sign of the male gender of the god Shiva. In the Mahabharata, the ancient Sanskrit epic (c. 300 BCE to 300 CE), we first encounter the word lingam unequivocally designating the sexual organ of Shiva:3 [Shiva in this text is called Harikesha (the Tawny-Haired), the Lord of the Mountain, the Eldest, the Lord Rudra, Bhava, and the Guru of the World; I have simplified the text by calling him Shiva throughout, and I have also condensed it somewhat, but added nothing.]

The creator, Brahma, wishing to create creatures, said to Shiva, the first being, "Create creatures, without delay." Shiva said, "Yes," but seeing that all creatures were flawed, he who had great ascetic heat plunged into the water and generated ascetic heat. Brahma waited for him for a very long time and then created another creator, a Prajapati ("lord of creatures"). The Prajapati, seeing Shiva submerged in the water, said to his father, Brahma, "I will create creatures, if there is no one who has been born before me." His father said to him, "There is no other male (purusha) born before you. This is just a pillar (or, Shiva who is called The Pillar) submerged in the water. Rest assured, and do the deed." And so the Prajapati created creatures. They were hungry and tried to eat the Prajapati, until Brahma provided them with food, plants, and animals, and then they began to procreate and increased in number.

Then Shiva stood up from the water. When he saw those creatures of various forms, increasing by themselves, he became angry, and he tore off his own lingam and threw it down on the ground, where it stood up just as it was. Brahma said to him, hoping to conciliate him with words, "What did you accomplish by staying so long in the water? And why did you tear out this lingam and plant it in the ground?" Then Shiva, becoming truly furious, said to Brahma, "Since someone else created these creatures, what will I do with it? The creatures can go on recycling forever, eating the food that I obtained for them through my ascetic heat." And Shiva went to his place on the mountain, to generate ascetic heat (M 10.17.10-26 [parentheses added]; see also Doniger O'Flaherty 1973: 131).


The "flaw" in the creatures seems to be their need for food, though later retellings say that Shiva hoped to produce, through his ascetic heat, creatures who would never die; to that degree, his powerful asceticism makes him more, not less, creative. What is significant for our question here is the ambiguity of the word for pillar (sthanu): it is a name of Shiva, signifying the immobile, ascetic, desexualized form of the lingam: but it also designates an inanimate pillar, which is what Brahma implies in his answer to the Prajapati, not exactly lying but drawing on the wrong meaning of the word in order to avoid admitting that there is, in fact, already another creator at work, precisely what the Prajapati did not want. Shiva in this myth is both a potentially procreative phallus (a fertile lingam) and a pillar-like renouncer of sexuality (an ascetic lingam). The word lingam has the same double edge as the word "Pillar."

The Gudimallam Lingam

Image
Figure 3. The Gudimallam Lingam. Locaoted at the Parashurameshvara Temple in Gudimallam, Andhra Pradesh, circa 2nd-1st century BCE. Courtesy of Dr. Vandana Sinha, Director (Academic), Center for Art and Archaeology, American Institute of Indian Studies.

A lingam (see figure 3) that scholars generally regard as the earliest physical depiction of the god Shiva was made sometime between the third and first centuries BCE in Gudimallam in southeastern Andhra Pradesh. Its anatomical detail is highly naturalistic (apart from its size: just under five feet high), and on the shaft is carved the figure of Shiva, also naturalistic, two-armed, holding an axe in one hand and the body of a small antelope in the other. His thin garment reveals his own sexual organ (not erect), his hair is matted, he wears large earrings, and he stands upon a dwarf. The details of its carving define this image unequivocally as a iconic representation of the male sexual organ; the hypothesis that it is a form of the god Shiva is suggested by the iconography of the axe, antelope, matted hair, and dwarf, and supported by the three horizontal lines, the sign of Shiva, that were painted on it some time after its original creation. Visitors to the Gudimallam lingam in the early twenty-first century noted that while the large lingam as a whole remains entirely naked, with all its anatomical detail, a chaste cloth was wrapped around the small image of the naked Shiva on the front of the lingam, a kind of loincloth (or fig leaf) simultaneously covering up the middle of the figure in the middle of the lingam and the middle of the lingam itself. Here is a tradition driving with one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake.

Stories about Shiva-Lingams in Later Sanskrit Texts

There is convincing textual evidence that people in ancient India associated the iconic form of the lingam with the male sexual organ. A verse from the "Garland of Games" of Kshemendra, a Brahmin who lived in Kashmir in the elventh century CE, refers to the human counterpart of the divine Shivallingam: "Having locked up the house on the pretext of venerating the lingam, Randy scratches her itch with a lingam of skin" (Narmamala 3.44). The first lingam in this verse is certainly Shiva's, and there is an implied parallelism, if not identity, between it and the second one, which could be either a leather dildo (of which a number are described in the Kama-sutra, the great third-century CE Indian textbook of eroticism (KS 5.6.2-5, 7.2.4-13]) or its human prototype.

The human and divine levels of the lingam were explicitly compared in a rather different way in a Sanskrit text that argued that all creatures in the universe are marked with the signs of the god Shiva and his consort, since all females have pindis (the term for the base in which the sculpted form of the lingam is set) and join with males, who have lingams (like the Shiva-lingam set in the pindi) (SP 1.8.18-19; Doniger 2000: 397). In a sixteenth-century Marathi text, the Kali Yuga (the embodied spirit of the present Dark and Evil Age) grasps by one hand his lingam (representing unrestrained sexuality, a synecdoche for wrong action of all kinds) and by the other hand his tongue (symbolic of lascivious speech), and he says, "I will be defeated only by those who guard this lingam and their tongue."4 [Verse 2.82 of the Gurucaritra of Sarasvati Gangadhara, c. 1550 CE, composed in Marathi Ovi verse in Ganagapura, a partially marathi-speaking area of Northern Karnataka, Gulbarga district. I am indebted to Jeremy Morse for this text and translation.] The nineteenth-century sage Ramakrishna used to worship his own male organ because, he said, it reminded him of the Shiva-lingam; he had learned this "jivantalingapuja," or worship of the living lingam, from his guru (Kripal 1995: 159-163).  

The many Sanskrit myths that explain the origin of the worship of the Shiva-lingam can be divided into those that do regard the lingam as part of the god's sexual anatomy and those that do not. Of the texts in which the lingam is obviously the phallus of Shiva, like the myth about the Pillar that we have already considered, some -- most, but not all, told by worshippers of Shiva -- regard the lingam as an entirely glorious form in which Shiva appears and accepts worship. But other texts -- some, but not all, told by worshippers of gods other than Shiva, particularly Vishnu -- regard the lingam as an object of scorn and shame (Doniger O'Flaherty 1975: 137-53; 1990: 85-87). These texts are early evidence of the discomfort caused by the phallic meaning of the symbol, though they do not yet attempt to deny that meaning.

That discomfort can be traced back to ascetic and renunciant traditions that began in the Upanishads, alongside the very passages that praised the sexual act as inherently sacred. And this ascetic strain, often misogynist, often expressing a deep anxiety about the human body, challenged the other sort of Hinduism, the one that gloried in the body both for its fertility and for its eroticism. The two traditions remain in tension to this day.

The stories of Shiva in the Pine Forest occur in two sets of variants along this divide. In both sets, Shiva enters the Pine Forest naked, often "with his seed drawn up" ("upward seed," a variant of "upward-phallus"), either in order for his seed not to fall down in the act of procreating, or in order to procreate, or both at once -- another striking instance of the sort of ambiguity that haunts this debate. The women of the Pine Forest fall madly in love with him, which infuriates their husbands, and Shiva's lingam falls to the ground. But sometimes it falls as a result of the sages' curse (when the text regards the lingam as shameful), and sometimes through Shiva's own volition (when the text regards the lingam as a source of desirable power). In both cases, dire consequences follow, and the sages, having learned their lesson, agree to worship the Shiva-lingam forever after (Doniger O'Flaherty 1973: 172-209; 1990: 87-91; Shulman 2004).

Lingam-worship is cast in a definitely negative vein in a group of stories in which the sage Bhrigu visits the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva in turn; the first two welcome the sage, but Shiva happens to be alone with his wife and refuses to be disturbed. The furious sage curses Shiva to be worshipped in the form of the thing that he seems to care most about, the lingam (PP 6.282.20-36; Doniger O'Flaherty 1973: 305-6). But lingam-worship is a positive factor, and Shiva is superior, rather than inferior, to Brahma and Vishnu, in another myth in which the lingam does not seem to have anything at all to do with any part of the male anatomy. In this myth, usually called "the ephiphany of the lingam" (lingodbhava), Shiva appears in the form of a pillar in the water, the form that he takes in the Mahabharata story of self-castration, and indeed this episode of the epiphany is often told as a direct sequence to that story of self-castration (Doniger O'Flaherty 1973: 130-32). While Brahma and Vishnu are arguing as to which of them fathered the other, Shiva appears before them as a pillar of light and flame, infinitely high and infinitely deep. The two gods try in vain to find its top and bottom, Brahma in the form of a goose and Vishnu in the form of an aquatic boar, and sometimes Brahma lies and says he's found the top when he hasn't, for which he is cursed never to be worshipped in India any more (see figure 4). Then Brahma and Vishnu humbly protrate themselves before Shiva, recognizing that he had created both of them, as well as everything else in the universe (Brahmanda Purana 1.2.26.10-61; Doniger O'Flaherty 85-87). There is nothing sexual about this lingam, though it is perhaps significant that it is the star witness in a debate about fatherhood.

Image
Figure 4. Mudiyanur Lingodbhavamurti. The statue clearly illustrates Shiva in the center of his lingam of fire, Brahma as a goose on the top right, and Vishnu as a boar on the bottom left. The statue is from Mudiyanur, Tamilnadu, circa 12th century. Presently located at the Chennai Government Museum. Courtesy of Dr. Vandana Sinha, Director (Academic), Center for Art and Archaeology, American Institute of Indian Studies.

The Lingam in Vernacular Texts

Later Sanskrit and vernacular texts depict the Shiva-lingam alternatively, and in combination, as a part of his body and as an abstract symbol of the god, worshipped with offerings of fruits and flowers. Hindus for many centuries have seen their god simultaneously in two forms: the true form of god is without any qualities (nir-guna), unimaginable; but out of compassion for us, and so that we can love him, the god also manifests himself in a form with qualities (sa-guna), perhaps as a human with two arms, or with particular features (a blue skin for Krishna, a third eye for Shiva). Each is real in its own way; sometimes you reach for one, sometimes for the other. In this way, too, many Hindus have regarded the lingam as both abstract, without (sexual) qualities, and particular, with (sexual) qualities.

The lingam can also be real, and human, and particular, without being sexual. A number of South Indian texts in Tamil tell of a miracle: a stone image of Shiva, with a face, bleeds in response to, or to test, the devotion of a pious worshipper. Some versions of this story refer to this image simply as "the Lord," that is, Shiva, but other versions assume that what is meant is a statue of the Lord, a lingam. The many representations of this episode in both paintings and sculpture depict the form of a Shiva-lingam with a face and eyes. Such an image seems to be assumed, but never named as such, in this story about Shiva told in the Periya Puranam, a popular South Indian Tamil text from the twelfth century:

One day, Kannappar, the chief of a tribe of hunters, found Shiva in the jungle. Filled with love for the god and pity that he seemed to be all alone, Kannappar resolved to feed Shiva. He kicked aside the flowers that a Brahmin priest had left on the head of Shiva and gave him the flowers that he had worn on his own head. His feet, and his dogs' paws, left their marks on Shiva. He stayed with him all night, and left at dawn to hunt again.

In order to demonstrated to the Brahmin priest the greatness of Kannappar's love, Shiva caused blood to flow from one of his eyes. To staunch the flow, Kannappar gouged out his own eye with an arrow and replaced the god's eye with his. When Shiva made his second eye bleed, Kannappar put his foot on Shiva's eye to guide his hand, and he was about to pluck out his remaining eye when Shiva stretched out his hand to stop him, and placed Kannappar at his right hand (Periya Puranam 16; McGlashan 2006: 71-86).


Since at least the seventeenth century, the common Tamil term for Shiva's lingam has been kuRi (mark, or sign), a direct translation of the original, nonsexual meaning of lingam. (An-kuRi and peN-kuRi -- "male sign" and "female sign" represent the Sanskrit pum-lingam and stri-lingam). The term kuRi is still common today as a respectable or medical term for the sign of sex. But this text never uses the term lingam (or KuRi) at all, merely saying, "The eyes of the Lord were bleeding." Nevertheless, many scholars subsume the Kannappar story under the category of bleeding lingams (Ferro-Luzzi 1987; Cox 2005), and the Tamil tradition assumes that the stone has the form of a lingam. Yet that stone has nothing to do with any part of Shiva's body but his eyes. (Of course, Freud would have something to say about the upward displacement of the genitals to the eyes, as in the blinding of Oedipus -- standing in for his castration -- but we need not follow there.)

THE MUSLIMS

The lingam took on a new role in Hinduism after Muslim rule began in the eleventh century CE. Many great temples were built at this time, but one large and influential twelfth-century South Indian Hindu sect differed from earlier renouncers in spurning not only houses but stone temples. These were the Lingayats ("People of the Lingam"), also called "Wanderers" because they prided themselves on being moving temples, itinerant, never putting down roots (Ramanujan 1974). Their founder preached a simplified devotion; no goal but to be united, at death, with Shiva, and no worship but that of a small lingam worn around the neck (Flood 1996: 171). This lingam was never said to have any sexual connotations: instead, the entire body of the worshipper represented the earthly body of the god, as the temple did for more conventional Hindus.

But several of the Delhi sultans, those who were particularly devout and iconoclast Muslims, regarded the lingam as sexual and anthropomorphic, and took pride in destroying as many lingams as they could. In 1026, Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the temple of Somnath, which held a famous Shiva lingam: this much, at least, seems to be historical fact. But then comes the mythologizing. According to some versions of the story, including early Turko-Persian triumphalist sources, Mahmud stripped the great gilded lingam of its gold and hacked it to bits with his sword, sending the bits back to Ghazni, where they were incorporated into the steps of the new mosque (Keay 2000: 207-209). Medieval Hindu epics of resistance created a countermythology in which the stolen image came to life (another bit of evidence that it was regarded as a living thing, a body in itself) and eventually, like a horse trotting back to the stable, returned to the temple to be reconsecrated (Davis 1997: 90-112). Other sources, including local Sanskrit inscriptions, biographies of kings and merchants of the period, court epics, and popular narratives that have survived, give various versions of the event (Thapar 2005). In South India, 250 years later, Ala-ud-Din's forces attacked the temple of the Dancing Shiva in Citamparam, and "the kick of the horse of Islam," as the Indo-Persian poet Amir Kusraw put it, destroyed the lingams there (Davis 1997: 133). The seventeenth-century Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, notorious for his chauvinism, particularly hated Varanasi (Benares) because it was the center of lingam-worship, which he regarded as the most abominable of all abominations (Keay 2000: 342). This foreign attitude to the lingam was to have serious repercussions for the attitude of the Hindus themselves.

THE BRITISH

British historiographers made much of the Muslim destruction of Hindu temples and lingams in order to claim that the British had rescued the Hindus from oppression by Muslims. And many of the British in India, particularly at the start, in the eighteenth century, appreciated all forms of Hindu culture, including its art forms and its eroticism. But the puritanical Protestant ministers who evangelized India after 1813 were not amused by the copulating couples on the walls of the temples of Khajuraho (built between 900 and 1100 CE in Madhya Pradesh), and they mocked what they regarded as the erotic excesses of the god Krishna. A Supreme Court ruling from 1862 states that "Krishna ... the love hero, the husband of 16,000 princesses ... tinges the whole system [of Hinduism] with the strain of carnal sensualism, of strange, transcendental lewdness" (Bombay [Presidency] Supreme Court 1862: 213).

The British missionaries most despised what they regarded as the obscene idolatry of the lingam. The British in general, who were of course Victorian in every sense of the word, regarded the Hindus, as they regarded most colonized people of color, as simultaneously over-sexed and impotent, and the British presence had a negative effect on the self-perception that Hindus had of their own bodies (Nandy 1983). For, still reeling from the onslaught of the Muslim campaigns against lingams, the Hindus who worked with and for the British internalized their colonizers' scorn. Thus the British taught the Hindus to be ashamed of the more sensual aspects of their own religious literature, particularly of the sexual meanings of the lingam.

BURTON AND THE KAMA-SUTRA

Victorian British attitudes to Hindu eroticism richocheted between the pornographers and the prudes, and Sir Richard Burton was certainly not a prude. A connoisseur of eroticism in Arabic as well as Indian culture, he published the first English translation of the Kama-sutra in 1883, a time when the Hindus, cowering under the scorn of the Protestant proselytizers, wanted to sweep it under the Upanishadic rug. The journalist Curt Gentry, in the San Francisco Chronicle, suggested that the publication of Burton's Kama-sutra translation "might act as a useful corrective to the prevailing cliche of India as a land of asceticism" (McConnachie 2007: 194). But Burton and his co-translator, Foster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot (known as "Bunny"), "adroitly managed to escape the smell of obscenity" by using what they presented as "the Hindu terms for the sexual organs, yoni and lingam," throughout their translation (Brodie 1967: 359).

English, unlike Sanskrit, lacks a common register for the sexual organs between the obscene and the medical. To the extent that nineteenth-century writers regarded the words themselves, not the actual things that they designated, as obscene, the foreign words, Sanskrit words, devoid of any English connotations at all, were able to make an end-run around the obscene thought -- not to mention the obscenity laws. The term lingam was perceived as "neither erudite nor earthy, neither gross nor gynaecological" (McConnachie 2007: 129). Arbuthnot elsewhere even attempted to coin the word "yonjic" to match "phallic" (McConnachie 2007: 130).

But this decision of Burton's to use lingam and yoni to represent the sexual organs in the Kama-sutra was problematic in several ways. First, these terms do not represent the text, which only rarely uses lingam to refer to the male sexual organ and never refers to the female sexual organ as a yoni. Where the Kama-sutra does use lingam (KS 2.1.1), the context suggests, and the commentator affirms, that it is gender-neutral, used in its basic lexical sense and meant to apply to both the male and female sexual organs: "The sexual organ is called the "sign" (lingam), because it is the sign of femaleness and so forth." Instead, the Kama-sutra generally uses several other words, primarily a gender-neutral term that can be translated as "pelvis' or "between the legs" (jaghana) or other terms (such as "the instrument" [yantra or sadhana]) that are neither coy nor vulgar. (The exception is the final section of the Kama-sutra, Book Seven, about the use of drugs and sex tools, which has an entirely different tone from the rest of the text and is probably a later addition to it; this section of the text does use lingam for the male sexual organ a few times) (KS 7.1.25, 7.2.8. -15, -25). Yashodhara, the thirteenth-century commentator on the Kama-sutra, sometimes uses lingam and yoni to gloss other terms that the Kama-sutra uses for the sexual organs, but he also uses several other words. So for Burton to use the terms lingam and yoni consistently to translate, as it were, other Sanskrit words for the sexual organs was to create a weird linguistic back-formation.

Second, by Burton's time, the terms lingam and yoni had taken on strong religious overtones, as both Indian English and Indian vernacular languages used these words primarily to designate the stone icons of the god Shiva and his consort. The exclusive application of these two terms to human genitals, therefore, may have had, at the very least, inappropriate overtones and, at the most, blasphemous implications for some Hindus. Yet Burton and Arbuthnot knew the religious meaning of the lingam. Arbuthnot wrote that, "There is in Hindostan an emblem of great sanctity, which is known as the linga-Yoni" (McConnachie 2007: 130).

Finally, the terms lingam and yoni had Orientalist implications for most English readers. The use of any Sanskrit term at all in place of an English equivalent anthropologized sex, distanced it, made it safe for English readers by assuring them, or pretending to assure them, that the text was not about real sexual organs, their sexual organs, but merely about the appendages of weird, dark people far away. This move dodged "the smell of obscenity" through the same logic that allowed National Geographic to depict the bare breasts of black African women long before it became respectable to show white women's breasts in Playboy. (Indeed, in some instances National Geographic actually darkened the skin color of a partially naked Polynesian woman "in order to render her nudity more acceptable to American audiences:) (Lutz and Collins 1993: 82). The use of the term lingam enabled the authors to pretend that the book was not obscene because it was about India, when they really thought it was about sex, and knew that English readers would think so too. And so Sir Richard Burton is the one who really made lingam, in English, into a dirty word. No wonder that the Hindus recoiled from that implication. One begins to see why some Hindus began to be very sensitive about the interpretation of the word lingam.


CONTEMPORARY HINDU ATTITUDES TO THE SHIVA-LlNGAM

The history of the word lingam, and the history of the shift in its contexts, demonstrates that we are dealing not just with two bodies of separate texts, one interpreting the lingam sexually and one theologically, but with a tension within each of a number of texts, the same tension between the erotic and the ascetic that characterizes so many other aspects of Hinduism in general and the god Shiva in particular (Doniger O'Flaherty 1973).

Nowadays, many Hindu texts treat the lingam as an aniconic pillar of light or an abstract symbol of god, with no sexual reference. To them, the stone lingams "convey an ascetic purity despite their obvious sexual symbolism" (Hopkins 1971: 9). There is nothing surprising about this. The Sanskrit text that argued that all human beings are born marked with the signs of Shiva and his consort on their bodies -- the lingam and pindi -- implies that humans are born marked with the symbol of their faith, as a Christian might be born with a birthmark in the shape of a cross, or might receive the mark of the stigmata on her palms. "Bunny" Arbuthnot actually wrote a book about what he called The Masculine Cross (McConnachie 1007: 130), that is, the Shiva lingam. But by the late nineteenth century, for many Hindus, a Hindu lingam was no more a penis than a cross was a Roman instrument of execution.

To continue this parallel, some Christians see in the cross a vivid reminder of the agony on Calvary, while others see it as a symbol of their god in the abstract or of Christianity as a religion. But some Hindus, in India but also increasingly in the American diaspora, do not merely see the lingam as an abstract symbol but go on to object to, and attempt to censure, the interpretations of those who view it in more somatic terms. They would be the counterparts of Christians who would refuse to acknowledge that the cross ever referred to the crucifixion of the historical Jesus. These are the ultranationalist exponents of "Hindutva" ("Hinduness"). called "Hindutvadis," who advocate a sanitized, "spiritual" form of Hinduism. There is nothing new in the tension between abstract and earthy interpretations of the lingam in India; what is new is the Hindutva insistence that one of them, the earthy one, is wrong, and must be silenced.

THE GENERAL PROBLEM OF LINGAM SYMBOLISM

To read all the myths of the lingam as the Hindutvadis would insist on doing would be a travesty. If we return to the central episode of the myth about the epiphany of the lingam, and translate the word lingam as such Hindus would have us do, this is what we get:

Shiva stood up from the water. When he saw those creatures of various forms, increasing by themselves, he became angry, and he tore off his own abstract symbol of god and threw it down on the ground, where it stood up just as it was. Brahma said to him. "Why did you tear out your abstract symbol of god and plant it in the ground?" And Shiva replied. "Since someone else created these creatures, what will I do with my abstract symbol of god?" and so forth.


Foolish as this story sounds if we limit ourselves to the most abstract meaning of the lingam, we would be equally wrong to distort the story of Kannappar's lingam with the bleeding eye by translating "the Lord" in that text as "the male organ of Shiva":

One day, Kannappar, the chief of a tribe of hunters, found the male organ of Shiva in the jungle; filled with love for the god and pity that he seemed to be all alone, Kannappar resolved to feed the male organ of Shiva. He kicked aside the flowers that a Brahmin priest had left on the head of the male organ of Shiva and gave him the flowers that he had worn on his own head. His feet, and his dogs' paws, left their marks on the male organ of Shiva ... [and so forth].


This story is about the presence of the god in a very physical, but not at all sexual, form.

To conclude, let us recall that the word lingam primarily means a sign, in the semiotic sense. And we know that signs are always reversible, never reducible. Like myths, symbols change all the time; the greatest of all the survival tactics of a myth, or of a great symbol, is its ability to stand on its head. This flexibility allows a myth or a symbol to be shared by a group (who, as individuals, have various points of view) and to survive through time (through different generations with different points of view) (Doniger 2010: 87-94). This is certainly true of the lingam. Ernst Kantorowicz wrote about the two bodies of medieval European kings, the body politic and the body natural (Kantorowicz 1997). In the same way, we can speak of the sexual lingam and the theological lingam. In order to include the full range of its meanings in our understanding of it, it might be best either to leave the term lingam untranslated, unglossed, like dharma (now an English word), or to settle for the broadest possible meaning, perhaps just "a symbol of the god Shiva."

To paraphrase a line often, wrongly, attributed to Sigmund Freud, sometimes a lingam is just a lingam, but more often, it is both a lingam and a cigar (Doniger 1993). We need to be aware of both the literal and the symbolic levels of the lingam, the historical and the contemporary meanings, simultaneously. Ambivalence toward the lingam was built into the Hindu tradition from that first moment when the Upanishads sketched out a parting of the ways, two divergent paths. But that ambivalence remained a matter of peaceful coexistence until two foreign states intervened, as the Muslims came and attacked lingams and the British made the Hindus ashamed of them. This set the stage for the final blow, when yet another political movement, the twentieth-century Hindutva faction, condemned and outlawed what they regarded as unacceptable aspects of their own religion, such as the sexual aspects of the Shiva-lingam. The history of interpretations of the lingam in India reveals the ways that the actions of the state -- in this case, the presence of foreign powers, Muslim and British, who viewed the lingam negatively -- have deeply affected native Hindu perceptions of the body of their own god.

_______________

NOTES

1. An earlier and rather different version of this essay was presented as the 2010 Presidential Lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, November 11, 2010. I am indebted to James Cuno, Madhuvanti Ghosh, and Mary Sue Glosser for their valuable input on that occasion.

2. In the interest of full disclosure I must confess that I serve on the Britannica's International Board of Editors, and that the Britannica staff consulted me in making this revision.

3. Shiva in this text is called Harikesha (the Tawny-Haired), the Lord of the Mountain, the Eldest, the Lord Rudra, Bhava, and the Guru of the World; I have simplified the text by calling him Shiva throughout, and I have also condensed it somewhat, but added nothing.

4. Verse 2.82 of the Gurucaritra of Sarasvati Gangadhara, c. 1550 CE, composed in Marathi Ovi verse in Ganagapura, a partially Marathi-speaking area of Northern Karnataka, Gulbarga district. I am indebted to Jeremy Morse for this text and translation.

REFERENCES

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Brahmanda Purana. Bombay: Venkateshvara Steam Press, 1857.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (BA). One Hundred and Eight Upanishads, Bombay: Nirnaya Sagara Press, 1913.

Brodie, Fawn M. The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton. New York: Ballantine, 1967.

Cox, Whitney. "The Transfiguration of Tinnan the Archer (Studies in Cekkilar's Periyapuranam I)." Indo-Iranian Journal 48 (2005): 223-252.

Davis, Richard. Lives of Indian Images. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Doniger, Wendy. "When a Lingam Is Just a Good Cigar: Psychoanalysis and Hindu Sexual Fantasies." The Psychoanalytic Study of Society: Essays in Honor of Alan Dundes. Eds. L Bryce Boyer et al. Hillside, N.J.: Analytic Press. 1993. 81-104.

---. The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex and Masquerade. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

---. The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy. Siva the Erotic Ascetic. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1973.

---. Hindu! Myths. Harmondsworth: Penguin. 1975.

---. The Rig Veda: An Anthology. 108 Hymns Translated from the Sanskrit. Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1981.

---. Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 1988; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Ferro-Luzzi, Gabriella Eichinger. The Self-Milking Cow and the Bleeding Lingam: Criss-Cross of Motifs in Indian Temple Legends. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1987.

Flood, Gavin. Introduction to the Study of Hinduism. Cambridge. U.K.: Cambridge University Press. 1996.

Hopkins, Thomas J. The Hindu Religious Tradition. Encino. Calif.: Dickenson, 1971.

Kama-sutra (KS) of Vatsyayana, with the commentary of Yashodhara. Ed. with the Hindi "Jaya" commentary by Devadatta Shastri. Varanasi: Kashi Sanskrit Series, 1964.

Kamasutra: A New Translation. Trans. Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar. London and New York: Oxford World Classics, 2002.

Kantorowicz, Ernst H. The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Keay, John. India, a History. New York: Grove Press, 2000.

Kripal, Jeffrey J. Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Lutz, Catherine A., and Jane L. Collins. Reading National Geographic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Mahabharata (M). Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1933- 69.

McConnachie, James. The Book of Love: In Search of the Kamasutra. London: Atlantic, 2007.

McGlashan, Alistair. The History of the Holy Servants of the Lord Siva. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing, 2006.

Marshall, Sir John. Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus Civilization: Being an Official Account of Archaeological Excavations at Mohenjo-daro Carried Out by the Government of India between the Years 1922 and 1927, with Plan and Map in Colours, and 164 Plates in Collotype. 3 vols. London: Arthur Probsthain, 1931.

Nandy, Ashis. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983.

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Part 1 of 6

The Black Hole: The Question of Holwell's Veracity
by J. H. Little
Bengal, Past & Present
Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society
Vol. XI -- Part 1
July-Sept., 1915
Serial No. 21

-- The Black Hole -- The Question of Holwell's Veracity, by J. H. Little, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XI, Part 1, July-Sept., 1915

-- Full Proceedings of the Black Hole Debate, Bengal, Past & Present, Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society, Vol. XII. Jan – June, 1916

-- A Genuine Narrative of the deplorable Deaths of the English Gentlemen, and Others, who were suffocated in the Black Hole in Fort-William, at Calcutta, in the Kingdom of Bengal; in the Night succeeding the 20th Day of June 1756., In a Letter to a Friend, from India Tracts, by Mr. J.Z. Holwell, and Friends.

-- Interesting Historical Events, Relative to the Provinces of Bengal, and the Empire of Indostan. With a Seasonable Hint and Persuasive to the Honourable The Court of Directors of the East India Company. As Also The Mythology and Cosmogony, Facts and Festivals of the Gentoo's, followers of the Shastah. And a Dissertation on the Metempsychosis, commonly, though erroneously, called the Pythagorean Doctrine. Part II. By J.Z. Holwell, Esq.

-- Forging Indian Religion: East India Company Servants and the Construction of ‘Gentoo’/‘Hindoo’ Scripture in the 1760s, by Jessica Patterson

-- French Jesuits in India and the Lettres Edifiantes, by Jyoti Mohan

-- Claiming India: French Scholars and the Preoccupation with India During the Nineteenth Century, by Jyoti Mohan

-- Natural Theology and Natural Religion, by Andrew Chignell & Derk Pereboom

-- The Enlightenment and Orientalist Discourse on the Aryan, Excerpt from Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity, by Dorothy M. Figueira

-- Ezourvedam: A French Veda of the Eighteenth Century, Edited with an Introduction by Ludo Rocher

-- Holwell's Religion of Paradise, Excerpt from The Birth of Orientalism, by Urs App


It may be asserted with safety that every British school boy, almost as soon as he is able to understand stories at all, is told the story of the Black Hole of Calcutta and learns that on a stifling night in June 1756 one hundred and forty six men, the greater part of British birth, were shut up in a small room in Fort William; that when the prison door was opened in the morning only twenty three miserable wretches were able to totter out and that the remainder of that unfortunate band lay dead on the floor of the prison, the victims of a tyrant's cruelty.

He never thinks of doubting the truth of the story. Belief in it grows with his growth and strengthens with his strength so that if he chance to come to Bengal he is amazed to find highly educated Bengalis who disbelieve the story altogether. “But,” he will reply to such a one, “it is in all the history books. You will find it in every elementary text-book written for schools as well as in the pages of the most authoritative writers on the history of Bengal.” If the Indian objects that the story is not found in the pages of his historians our Englishman, naturally and not undeservedly, gives the objection short shrift. Abana and Pharphar are better than all the waters of Israel. Such negative evidence cannot stand for a moment against the positive statements of Macaulay and Mill.

One Englishman, at least, seems to have doubted the truth of the incident. An article in the Calcutta Review1 [No. LI, March 1856, Warren Hastings in Slippers. p. 69.] contains the following remarkable words:—“John Zephaniah Holwell, the historian of the said catastrophe of the so-called “Black Hole of Calcutta." There is nothing going before or after to explain the meaning of these words. Articles in the Calcutta Review were not signed in those days, but in the copy in the hands of the present writer some one has written in pencil the names of the authors of all the articles, and against this one appears the name of Dr. J. Grant, Apothecary General.

The appointment of Apothecary General in the British (or English) Army dated from 1686; it lapsed in 1826, by which time it was little more than an honorary title.
According to British regulations, the Apothecary General, like the Judge Advocate General, was a noncombatant officer who, under directions from the secretary at war, supplied the army with medicines, hospital stores, surgical instruments, etc. Semi-annually he presented a bill to the Treasury, having previously submitted it for approval to the surgeon and physician generals and to the secretary at war, who certified that the medicines specified had been forwarded to their respective destinations.

-- Apothecary General, by Wikipedia


The present writer was led to a study of the incident by chance. Engaged in research on a different subject entirely it was his task to read the works of many of the contemporary writers on the affairs of Bengal in the 18th century as well as the official records of the time. Holwell came into intimate connection with his subject, and he formed a very different opinion on the character of that gentleman from the one given by Dr. Busteed in his Echoes from Old Calcutta. Various incidents in the official records also caused grave doubts to arise in his mind as to the truth of the accepted version of the incident of the Black Hole. But a question at once asserted itself. If there is no truth in the Black Hole story then what did take place on the night of the 20th June 1756 to cause the death of so many men? The question was unanswerable and the matter dismissed.

Recently, however, the writer read once more Holwell's Narrative, and the answer to the above question almost leaped from its pages—an answer as simple and “as true as truth's simplicity”—and he is now prepared to prove that the Black Hole incident was a gigantic hoax and to advance what he believes to be the true version of the affair. Of his ability to perform the first part of his task he is calmly confident, but the second part he presents with all diffidence. The merit of the theory is its simplicity, the ease with which it removes every difficulty in which this incident is at present involved, and the fact that it explains how men living in Bengal at the time might have believed in the Black Hole story. It does far more. If it takes away it repays a hundred fold. It presents to the British nation a band of heroes not unworthy to rank with those who turned at bay in the retreat from Mons, with those who held the trenches at Ypres or those who stormed the blood-stained heights of Gallipoli. “Here are large promises,” the reader may exclaim. Let him read and judge whether they are not fulfilled.

Very significant, from the writer’s point of view, is the fact that the author of the Seir Mutaquerin, a contemporary historian, does not mention the Black Hole incident, but all he asks the reader to do is to note the fact. To prove his case he will rely solely on the writings of Englishmen who were in Bengal at the time—either in the Black Hole itself or in the neighbourhood. In the forefront of these men stands Holwell whose Narrative—“than which nothing more pathetic is to be found in the annals of the British in India”‘2 [Bengal in 1756-1757 by S. C. Hill (1905) Vol. I Introduction p. xc.] —is the chief authority for the incident. But before dealing with the narrative he will deal with the man. He frankly confesses that he intends to prejudice the reader against the writer of the narrative, so the reader will be upon his guard. Or if the latter prefers to form an opinion on the words of the narrative itself without the obtrusion of any extraneous matter whatever, let him pass over section 2 and proceed to section 3. Afterwards he may return to section 2 to confirm or modify the opinion he may have formed.

2.

John Zephaniah Holwell has received the eulogy of modern writers for his gallant defence of Calcutta in 1756 after the desertion of Governor Drake and his chief officers. He was the principal survivor of the Black Hole tragedy and wrote a narrative of his sufferings. When Clive left India in February 1760, Holwell succeeded him as Governor of Calcutta, but in August was superseded by Vansittart. His great achievement as Governor was to work up a case, in a most unscrupulous manner, against Nawab Mir Jafar. He prepared a memorial3 [The memorial may be found in Holwell's India Tracts and also in Vansittart’s Narrative Vol. 1 pp. 46-63.] on the state of the affairs of the province for the new Governor who was on his way to Calcutta. In this memorial he laid at the door of Mir Jafar all the evils under which the country was suffering; he charged him with treacherous dealings with the Dutch in the previous year, although Major Caillaud pointed out to him that this was never clearly proved, and even if it had been proved the fault had been condoned by Clive; he charged him with corresponding with the Shahzada, although Warren Hastings declared that the document was a forgery4 [The letters of Major Caillaud and Warren Hastings are given in India Tracts, but the writer has mislaid the exact reference.]; he charged him with the murder of persons who were alive when Mir Jafar himself was dead5 [See infra.] and he got £30,000 for himself when his scheme was successful.6 [Malcolm's Life of Clive (1836) Vol. 2, p. 289. See Bengal P. & P. Vol. VIII pp. 214-219.] The dethronement of Mir Jafar, condemned by Clive,7 [Malcolm's Life of Clive, Vol. 2, p. 255.] protested against by seven of the Company’s servants in Bengal who asserted that if the President had consulted the whole Council the measure would have been rejected,8 [Holwell’s India Tracts (1774) p. 107.] approved by the Court of Directors in such hesitating terms that Warren Hastings did not venture to translate the despatch to the new Nawab,9 [Hastings to Vansittart, July 14, 1762. (Vansittart’s Narrative Vol. 2, p. 69.)] was carried out by Governor Vansittart in October, and Mir Kasim was installed in his place.

Holwell was a man of great ability which he used unscrupulously to secure his own ends. Clive condemns him in the strongest terms: “Mr. Holwell is a specious and sensible man, but from what I have heard and observed myself I cannot be persuaded he will ever make use of his abilities for the good of the Company.”10 [Clive to William Mabbot, 31 Jan. 1757, (Hill’s Bengal in 1756-57 Vol. 2, p. 186)] He trembled to think of the fatal consequences if he were succeeded by such a mercenary man. “Mr. * * * has talents, but I fear wants a heart, therefore unfit to preside where integrity as well as capacity are equally essential.”11 [Malcolm's Life of Clive Vol. 2, p. 137 and p. 139. Asterisks are placed for the name but it is quite clear that Holwell is the man.] It seems ungenerous to add that when Siraj-ud-daula besieged Calcutta Holwell would have run away with the others if he had been able. But the statement was made at the time. Ives mentions it without condemnation12 [A Voyage from England to India in the year 1754 etc. (1773) p. 93. Ives was surgeon to Admiral Watson.] and Clive believed it. “I am well informed," he wrote, “there is no merit due to him for staying behind in the fort, nothing but the want of a boat prevented his escape and flight with the rest.”13 [In the letter quoted above. So Mr. William Lindsay who left the fort by permission on the 19th June. “It was much against his inclination being there, two gentlemen having carried away the budgerow he had waiting for him. I mention this as I understand he made a merit in staying when he found he could not get off." Letter to Mr. Robert Orme from Fulta July 1756. Hill’s Bengal in 1756-57, Vol. 1, p. 168.]

As a historian Holwell enjoys a reputation which is quite undeserved. To qualify himself to write on the history of India Holwell asserts that he “studiously perused all that has been written of the empire of Indostan, both as to its ancient as well as more modern state; as also the various accounts transmitted to us, by authors in almost all ages (from Arrian, down to the Abbé de Guyon) concerning the Hindoos, and the religious tenets of the Bramins.” He proceeds “to pronounce them all very defective, fallacious, and unsatisfactory to an inquisitive searcher after truth.”14 [Holwell's Interesting Historical Events, Part 1, p. 5.] Holwell may have been right, for all his reading did not save him from making the elementary blunder of declaring that Prince Nicosir, a pretender to the Empire in 1709, was a son of the great Akbar who died in 1605!15 [Holwell’s Interesting Historical Events, Part 1, p. 37.] If Holwell is correct in his history of the Mughal Empire from the death of Aurungzeb to the reign of Muhammad Shah then Elphinstone’s History of India needs revision for that period. If the Seir Mutaqherin approximates to history then Holwell’s account of the Transactions in Bengal from 1717 to 1750 is romance.

Here the reader may object: “Granted (though we should require better proof than you have brought forward) that Holwell was an inaccurate historian, that does not prove that he was a dishonest man." The latter point will now be established by showing (1) that Holwell fabricated a speech and fathered it on the Nawab Alivardi Khan; (2) that he brought false charges against the Nawab Mir Jafar; (3) that he fabricated a whole book and called it a translation from the ancient sacred writings of the Hindus.

(1) In a letter to the Court of Directors, dated Fulta, 30 November 1756,16 [Hill's Bengal in 1756-1757 Vol. 2, p. l.] Holwell is at pains to prove that the protection given by the Company’s servants to subjects of the Nawab was not the cause, as had been alleged, of Siraj-ud-daula’s attack on Calcutta. He asserts that Alivardi Khan “had long meditated to destroy the forts and garrisons of the Europeans,” and in support of this statement he quotes “verbatim, the last discourse and council which Mahabut Jung (Alivardi Khan) gave his grandson (Siraj-ud-daula) a few days before his death,” which, he adds, "I had from very good authority at Murshidabad, after my releasement.” Then follows the speech from which the following extract may be made:—“Keep in view the power the European nations have in the country. This fear I would also have freed you from if God had lengthened my days—The work, my son, must now be yours ....... ..Think not to weaken all three together. The power of the English is great; they have lately conquered Angria, and possessed themselves of his country; reduce them first; the others will give you little trouble, when you have reduced them. Suffer them not, my son, to have fortifications or soldiers: if you do, the country is not yours.”17 [Hill's Bengal in 1756-1757, Vol. 2, p. 16.]

This speech called forth some very plain language. Matthew Collet, second at Cassimbazar, contemptuously dismissed it with the words:—“As to Alliverde Cawn's last dying speech to his nephew, I look on it as a specious fable.”18 [Letter from Collet to Council, Fort William (Hill, Vol. 2, p. 129).] Richard Becher, chief of the Company’s factory at Dacca remarks:—“Mr. Holwell will excuse me if I do not admitt Alliverdee Cawn's speech as genuine till better proofs are brought to support it than any I have yet seen. Such advice if really given, it is reasonable to imagine had few or no witnesses, so that it appears very improbable Mr. Holwell in his distressed situation at Muxadavad should have been able to unravell the mysterries of the Cabinet and explore a secret never yet known to any one but himself.”19 [Letter from Becher to Council, Fort William (Hill, Vol. 2, p. 162).] William Watts, chief of the factory at Cassimbazar, observes:—“The last dying speech of Mahabut Jung or Alliverdi Cawn to his grandson neither he, or I believe, any of the gentlemen of the factory, ever heard of; neither have I since from any of the country people; it seems an imitation of the speech of Lewis XIV. to his grandson, and appears as Mr. Collet aptly terms it only a specious fable.”20 [Letter from Watts to Court of Directors, (Hill, Vol. 3, p. 336).]

Holwell replied to what (in his own words) was a charge of imposing on the Court of Directors a forgery that had no foundation but in his own invention. After quoting the words of Messrs. Collet, Becher and Watts he proceeds:—"That Mr. Becher should not believe the speech genuine I do not much wonder at, as he seems fully resolved that nothing shall drive him from his adopted principal cause of our misfortunes, the detention of the Nabob’s subjects, in confutation of which I have said sufficient; but the reasons this gentleman gives for his believing the speech not genuine had been better omitted for his own sake. The speech might probably enough have been a secret whilst it was necessary it should be so; but when I obtained it that necessity had long vanished, and Mr. Becher might have observed I say I had it from good authority, after my releasement, which was more than three months after the period it was uttered, and was no longer to be deemed a mystery of the cabinet, but might be judiciously enough divulged and circulated as an apology for and in support of Surajud Dowla's proceedings against the English, &c. Mr. Becher's opinion, “that I was unable to explore a secret, never yet known to any one but myself,” I would explain and reply to, could I possibly understand him. Shall only add, for Your Honours’ satisfaction, and in vindication of my own veracity, that I was released the 16th of July, and continued at the Tanksall, and the Dutch and French factories, until the 19th at night; during which period I had frequent conferences with the principal Armenians, and some the immediate servants of the late and present Suba, from whence I had the speech literally as I have given it; and notwithstanding the ingenious ridicule it meets from Messieurs Watts and Collet to cover their deficiency in matters which ought to have been known to them, I will not despair of giving Your Honours yet more convincing proofs of its being genuine.” The only proof that Holwell produces is a copy of a letter written by William Forth, surgeon at Cassimbazar, who relates that he was attending the Nawab fifteen days before his death when Siraj-ud-daula entered the room and charged the English with plotting to set up a rival to him in the succession. Alivardi Khan questioned Forth and at the end of his examination declared “he did not believe a word of the report he had heard.”21 [Letter from Holwell to Court of Directors, (Hill, Vol. 3, pp. 355, 356, 357.] How this helps Holwell it is difficult to see.

Holwell’s reply is as feeble as it could possibly be. Why did he not produce names with the date and hour of the conferences? He dared not. Watts and Collet were stationed close to Murshidabad and could have bowled him out. The only other remark of Holwell’s worthy of the slightest notice is his statement that the secret might have been circulated as an apology for the Nawab’s proceedings against the English. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Manningham, in his evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons said that “it was impossible to give any rational account of the origin of the Troubles”; that he was in Murshidabad with Clive in July 1757 and “enquiry was then made with all possible attention, but without success, into the motives of Surajah Dowla’s conduct from his principal officers, and likewise from the officers of his predecessor, from the Seats, and every other person from whom information was likely to be obtained.22 [First Report, (Hill, Vol. 3, p. 284).] Scrafton says the same. “I have made it my study since our intercourse with the great men at court, to penetrate into the cause of this event, but could never obtain anything satisfactory .... Perhaps it is a vain research to trace the motives of a capricious tyrant."23 [Scrafton, Reflections on the Government, &c., of Indostan (1763) p. 55.] Finally, on the main point we have the evidence of a relation24 [Hill, Vol. I Introduction, p. xxviii, foot note.] of Alivardi Khan’s—the author of the Seir Mutaqherin—who states:—“He (Alivardi Khan) used to compare the Europeans to a hive of bees, of whose honey you might reap the benefit, but that if you disturbed their hive they would sting you to death.” On another occasion, when his General, Mustafa Khan, supported by his nephew, Sayyid Ahmad, represented the ease with which the Europeans might be deprived of their immense wealth, he exclaimed: “My child, Mustapha Khan is a soldier, and wishes us to be constantly in need of his service, but how come you to join in his request? What have the English done against me that I should use them ill? It is now difficult to extinguish fire on land; but should the sea be in flames, who can put them out? Never listen to such advice as his, for the result would probably be fatal."25 [All this is borrowed from Hill’s Bengal in 1756-57 Vol I, Introduction p. xxxi.] Commenting on the inconsistency of these words with Holwell’s speech Dr. Busteed suggests that probably Alivardi Khan modified these views later on.26 [Echoes from Old Calcutta (2nd edition) p. 5 footnote.] Undoubtedly he did, or Holwell is guilty of forgery. Let the reader judge.

(2) With respect to the second charge against Holwell the reader will probably be disposed to accept the judgment of Clive and his Council who in 1766 considered it their duty to acquaint the Court of Directors in an official despatch that the “horrible massacres” with which Holwell had charged Nawab Mir Jafar were “cruel aspersions on the character of that prince" and had not the least foundation in truth. The persons who, according to Holwell, had been put to death by Mir Jafar “are all now living, except two, who were put to death by Meeran, without the Nawab’s consent or knowledge.“27 [Long's Selections from Unpublished Records of Government, p. 428.]

(3) Holwell asserts that the leisure hours of his thirty years’ residence in India were spent in collecting materials relative to the history and religion of the inhabitants of the country. Many curious Hindu manuscripts came into his possession and among them “two very correct and valuable copies of the Gentoo Shastah" procured with great labour and at great expense. He spent eighteen months in translating the Sastra.28 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 1, p. 3.] In one year more he would have completed the work but the catastrophe of 1756 intervened and when Calcutta was captured he lost manuscript and translation. By an unforeseen and extraordinary event “that possibly I may hereafter relate” (he never does so) he recovered some of his manuscripts.29 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 1, p. 4.] Hence he was able to give to the world an account of what he calls the “Chartah Bhade of Bramah,” the oldest and purest of the sacred writings of the Hindus. In Holwell’s time only three or four families were capable of reading and expounding it from the Sanskrit character.30 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 2, p. 15.] He obtained his information concerning it not from ordinary learned Brahmans who, in spite of their knowledge of the truth, pandered to the corrupt beliefs of the mob, but from those “whose purity of principle and manners and zeal for the primitive doctrines of Bramah’s Shastah sets them above disguising the truth."31 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 2, p 9 and p. 21.] Holwell gives an account of the doctrines contained in the “Chartah Bhade of Bramah”32 [Interesting Historical Events, Part 2, pp. 9 to 21.] and a translation of the first book and a section of the second. This version of the most ancient sacred book of the Hindus will make Sanskrit scholars stare and gasp. But what condemns the whole thing as a colossal fraud is the fact that Holwell has retained some words of the original in his translation which he explains in footnotes, and from these words it appears that his manuscript of the “Chartah Bhade” which only a few Brahman families were capable of reading and expounding from the Sanskrit character, was written in a mixture of Colloquial Bengali and Hindustani33 [Holwell starts his translation with the words "God is one" which according to a footnote are a translation of "ekhummesha" (ek, one hamesha, always?) pure Hindustani (Interesting Historical Events, Part 2 p. 31). The other words of the Sanskrit (?) original given in the translation or in footnotes are:—Debtah, angels; logue, a people, multitude or congregation; debtah-logue, the angelic host (p. 35); hazaar par hazaar (Hindustani), thousands upon thousands (p. 42); mahah surgo, supreme heaven; onderah (Hindustani) intense darkness (p. 44) dooneah or dunneah (Hindustani) the world; dunneahoudah, the worlds or the universe; boboons, regions or planets (p. 48) ghoij, the cow; ghoijal, cows; ghoijalbarry, a cowhouse; mhurd (Hindustani) the common name of man, from murto, matter or earth; jhoale, water, fluid; oustmaan (Hindustani) the air (p. 56) jogues, ages (p. 56); pereeth logue, purified people (p. 103); munnoo logue, people of contemplation, from mun or mon, thought, reflection (p. 104); modoo, discord, enmity; kytoo, confusion, tumult (p. 106); surjee, the sun; chunder, the moon (p. 110). (The meanings and derivations are Holwell’s).] —the latter apparently predominating. The fourth “sublime book" of the “Chartah Bhade" which “must lie in oblivion, until some one, blessed with opportunity, leisure, application, and genius, brings them to light" was according to Holwell, commonly called by Hindus “Bramah Ka Insoff (insaf) Bhade”! or “Bramah's Book of Justice." Such was the barefaced fraud foisted by Holwell on a Europe totally ignorant of Sanskrit, and it was for this that Voltaire gratefully thanked him.34 [Quoted in Busteed's Echoes from Old Calcutta, p. 38 (2nd edition).]

Three outrageous frauds have thus been brought home to Holwell, and we now proceed to reveal a fourth. Let us examine what he calls “a genuine Narrative of the deplorable deaths of the English gentlemen and others who were suffocated in the Black Hole in Fort William, at Calcutta."


3.

A reader of Holwell’s narrative35 [The Narrative may be read in Holwell's India Tracts or in Hill’s Bengal in 1756-1757 Vol. 3, p. 131. All quotations have been taken from the latter source.] cannot fail to be struck by the leading part—and a noble part it is—played by Holwell himself. He is the hero of his own narrative. He bestrides his narrow world like a Colossus, and the petty men, his companions in misfortune

Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find themselves dishonourable graves.


At the very outset of the narrative Holwell’s nobility of character is brought conspicuously forward. Leech, the Company’s smith, had made his escape when the Fort was captured by the enemy, but as soon as it was dark he returned and informed Holwell that he had a boat in readiness and Holwell might escape if he would follow him “through a passage few were acquainted with, and by which he (Leech) had then entered.” The guards were not looking, he might easily have escaped, the temptation to do so was great but immediately resisted. “I thanked him,” says Holwell “in the best terms I was able; but told him it was a step I could not prevail on myself to take, as I should thereby very ill repay the attachment the gentlemen and the garrison had shewn to me; and that l was resolved to share their fate, be it what it would; but pressed him to secure his own escape without loss of time; to which he gallantly replied, that “then he was resolved to share mine, and would not leave me.”36 [p. 135. Yet on the 3rd August 1756, six weeks after this incident, Holwell appears to have forgotten Leech. On that date he compiled his first lists of victims, etc. which he declared “are as correct as I at present can make them and are deficient in nothing but in the number of those of the militia and others who quitted the fort the 18th and 19th" (Hill Vol. i. p. 188). Leech‘s name is not given. It appears first in the list appended to Holwell's Narrative.]

The rest of the narrative is pitched in the same key. Throughout that night of horrors Holwell ever regardless of himself thinks only of his companions and how he may help them, comfort them and sustain their courage. Death he plainly perceived was their inevitable destiny, but death had no terrors for him, indeed he felt much more for his wretched companions than himself.
37 [p. 137.] Only once during that dreadful night did his courage fail him. “Some infernal spirit” he says, “brought to my remembrance my having a small clasp penknife in my pocket, with which I determined instantly to open my arteries and finish a system no longer to be borne. I had got it out, when heaven interposed and restored me to fresh spirits and resolution, with an abhorrence of the act of cowardice I was just going to commit.”38 [p. 143.] Holwell’s abnegation of self and regard for others were repaid in a manner that is very touching. His fellow prisoners show their regard for him throughout the night, and when the first rays of dawn entered the prison some of the survivors searched for him and brought him insensible to the window where a man is found willing to resign his place to him.39 [p. 144.] Truly we must admit that this fiery ordeal thoroughly consumed all the dross there may have been in Holwell’s character leaving fine gold or ...........

The second point that cannot fail to strike a reader of the narrative is the extraordinary nature of the sufferings endured by Holwell and not less than this, his extraordinary powers of endurance and instant recuperation.


Holwell entered the Black Hole at 8 P.M. “exhausted by continual fatigue and action."40 [p. 136.] From about nine to near eleven Holwell had to withstand such pressure in his window that his “legs were almost broke with the weight against them.” By eleven o’clock he was “very near pressed to death”; while three men who were with him in the window had actually been crushed to death. It is true two of these were wounded men, but the third could not have been, for Holwell says he “had forced himself into the window."41 [p. 139.] Not only did Holwell withstand a crush that killed three men beside him, but the effects on himself were quite temporary. He begged those around him “as the last instance of their regard" to remove the pressure and allow him to retire into the room to die in quiet. They gave way and he was able “without much difficulty” to reach the centre of the prison and from thence he proceeded to a platform at the back.42 [p. 140.] After remaining ten minutes here he was seized with a pain in his breast and palpitation of the heart “both to the most exquisite degree." Fresh air would give relief, so he determined to push for the window opposite him. “By an effort of double the strength I ever before possessed," he states that he gained the third rank at the window and “with one hand seized a bar, and by that means gained the second, though I think there were at least six or seven ranks between me and the window.”43 [p. 141.] The pain, palpitation and difficulty of breathing immediately ceased. In this new position Holwell declares “from half an hour past eleven till nearly two in the morning, I sustained the weight of a heavy man, with his knees in my back and the pressure of his whole body on my head, a Dutch serjeant, who had taken his seat upon my left shoulder, and a topaz44 [A black Christian soldier: usually termed "subjects" of Portugal (Holwell).] “bearing on my right; all which nothing could have enabled me long to support but the props and pressure equally sustaining me all around.”45 [p. 142.] An hour and a half of this was more than even Holwell could stand, and about two o'clock he made his way once more to the platform where he lay down and “presently lost all sensation."46 [p. 144.] Holwell remained insensible till nearly six in the morning when, as has been related, he was, found under the dead47 [p. 144.] and carried to a window. Nearly four hours of insensibility in an atmosphere which had caused the death of 123 men had the most temporary of effects on Holwell. “The fresh air at the window," he says, “soon brought me to life"48 [p. 144.] and not merely to life but restored him to his sight and senses and he gazed round the room and his soul was stricken with suffering at the dreadful destruction which met his view. However, Holwell did not escape scot-free. When he got out he found himself in a “high putrid fever”49 [p. 145.] and not being able to stand threw himself on the wet grass outside the verandah of the prison. He was then taken to the Nawab who charged him with being privy to the concealment of the Company’s treasure and ordered him to discover it. Once more we admire Holwell’s superiority to bodily infirmities. The high fever leaves all his faculties unimpaired and he vigorously repels the charge. “I urged everything I could to convince him there was no truth in the information; or that if any such thing had been done, it was without my knowledge. I reminded him of his repeated assurance to me the day before; but he resumed the subject of the treasure, and all I could say seemed to gain no credit with him.”50 [p. 145.] After the interview Holwell with three companions was conveyed to the camp of Mir Madan, over three miles off. Here they were “loaded with fetters and stowed all four in a seapoy’s tent, about four feet long, three wide, and about three high; so that we were half in, half out: all night it rained severely."51 [p. 146.] Holwell must, therefore, have been drenched but, if so, it agreed with him and cured his fever. “I became,” he says, “covered from head to foot with large painful boils, the first symptom of my recovery; for until these appeared my fever did not leave me."52 [p. 146.] Still twenty four hours’ high fever would leave an ordinary man extremely weak, but not so Holwell. “On the morning of the 22nd they marched us to town in our fetters under the scorching beams of an intense hot sun, and lodged us at the Dockhead in the open small veranda fronting the river."53 [p. 146.] Here for all we learn from the narrative Holwell was in a tolerable state of health and was quite ready on the 24th (the 23rd is a blank in the narrative) to embark for Murshidabad. The curious reader may pursue the story of Holwell’s sufferings on the journey by boat to Murshidabad but probably enough has been related to cause him to exclaim that, Holwell was no mere mortal man, or .......

We now proceed to notice a few points in Holwell’s narrative on which, if he were a witness in a court of law, he would certainly suffer cross-examination. The first four points are comparatively unimportant, but they will assume importance later, and the reader is requested to give them his attention. The fifth point, if the reasoning is sound, and the reader will judge of this, immediately characterises the whole narrative as a daring piece of unblushing impudence.

(1) Holwell states:—“The Suba and his troops were in possession of the Fort before six in the evening. I had in all three interviews with him; the last in Durbar before seven, when he repeated his assurances to me, on the word of a soldier, that no harm should come to us;
and indeed I believe his orders were only general, that we should for that night be secured; and that what followed was the result of revenge and resentment in the breasts of the lower jemmaatdars, to whose custody we were delivered, for the number of their order killed during the siege.”54 [p. 134.] Knowing how Indian subordinate officers are ready to reflect the smiles and frowns of their master is it credible that these men would dare to disobey the orders of the Nawab given in Durbar in this flagrant manner? How can this be reconciled with the fact that when Holwell requested that the prisoners might be separated into two parties one of these same subordinate officers went to inquire and returned with the reply “it could not be done but by the Suba’s orders and that no one dared awake him.”55 [p. 137.]

(2) This is Holwell’s account of how the prisoners entered the Black Hole:—“We were no sooner all within the barracks, than the guard advanced to the inner arches and parapet wall; and, with their muskets presented, ordered us to go into the room at the southernmost end of the barracks, commonly called the Black Hole prison; whilst others from the court of guard, with clubs and drawn scymitars, pressed upon those of us next to them. This stroke was so sudden, so unexpected, and the throng and pressure so great upon us next the door of the Black Hole prison, there was no resisting it; but like one agitated wave impelling another, we were obliged to give way and enter; The rest followed like a torrent, few amongst us, the soldiers excepted, having the least idea of the dimensions or nature of a place we had never seen; for if we had, we should at all events have rushed upon the guard, and been, as the lesser evil, by our own choice cut to pieces.”56 [p. 136.] Yet under such circumstances as these, Holwell who was “amongst the first that entered" and who had never seen the room before, was able, as soon as he passed the door, to turn sharply to the right and secure possession of one of the windows. Not only did Holwell do this but two wounded men also.57 [p. 136.] Surely when Holwell thought of the matter afterwards he must have wondered how he found himself at the window instead of being flattened against the dead wall opposite the door and blessed his good fortune. But in his narrative he passes the matter by without notice.

(3) The writer has read somewhere the statement made by a Bengali gentleman58 [I have since verified this statement. It was made by Babu Bhola Nath Chunder in the Calcutta University Magazine. Quoted by Babu Akhoy Kumar Maitra in his book (in Bengali) on Siraj-ud-daula.] that it was mathematically impossible to get 146 men into that room. Let us examine this point. Holwell says the room was “a cube of about eighteen feet.”59 [p. 136.] Mr. Secretary Cooke, one of the survivors, said it was about 18 feet long and 14 wide.60 [First Report (Hill, Vol. 3. p. 302).] The late Dr. C. R. Wilson ascertained that the exact dimensions were 18 feet by 14 feet 10 inches.61 [Hill’s Bengal in 1756-57, Vol. I Introduction p. xc. footnote.] The last dimensions give somewhat less than two square feet of floor space to each man, and this seems to be quite enough if the men were carefully packed. But what a job the guards must have had to get the last of the prisoners in the room; And when they were all inside, the door had to be shut and the door opened inward!62 [p. 136.] What shouting and cursing on the part of the guards there must have been to get free space to close that door! What expostulations on the part of those roughly pushed about! How Holwell must have been squeezed in his window! Yet this is passed by unnoticed by Holwell. The men who, according to Holwell, would have rushed upon the guard and been as the lesser evil, cut to pieces, when they had the chance of doing so, preferred tamely to allow that door to be closed without an attempt to prevent it, without even so much as a protest.

(4) Consider this internment from another point of view. The Nawab's officers had first to decide on the prison. For this purpose they examined “with lighted torches” (please note this fact for future reference) “all the apartments under the easterly curtain"63 [p. 136.] of the Fort. They decided upon the room. Then the officers went to the parade where “four or five hundred gun-men” were drawn up.64 [p. 134.] Next Holwell “observed part of the guard drawn up on the parade advance to us with the officers who had been viewing the rooms.65 [p. 135.] Holwell and his companions were sitting quietly “under the arched veranda or piazza, to the west of the Black-Hole prison, and the barracks to the left of the court of guard."66 [p. 134.] The officers ordered them “all to rise and go into the barracks and when they were all in the barracks and were congratulating themselves on “the prospect of passing a comfortable night” there they were hustled into the Black Hole as quoted above. And all this took exactly—half an hour. According to Holwell the officers began to examine the appartments “about half an hour past seven."67 [p. 135.] When Holwell was in the window he says “it was now about eight o’clock!"68 p. 136.] Mr. Secretary Cooke allows less time. He says; “A little before eight we were all of us directed to withdraw and remain in a place contiguous to the Black Hole....While we were wondering what this should mean and laughing at the oddity of it, a party of fellows came and ordered us to walk into the place before mentioned called the Black Hole .... Into this hole we were forcibly crammed about eight o’clock in the evening and the door immediately locked upon us.”69 [First Report (Hill, Vol. 3, p. 302.)] Who will dare to say after this smart performance that Indians cannot hustle?

(5) There are other incidents upon which some light would be desirable; for example, how water was passed in hats through the bars of a window which, according to Holwell, was blocked up by four men sitting in it, but let us pass to something fundamental. Holwell states that the Black Hole was “shut up to the eastward and southward (the only quarters from whence air could reach us) by dead walls, and by a wall and door to the north, only open to the westward by two windows, strongly barred with iron”.70 [p. 136.] Remember that these were windows of a recognised prison. Remember further that the windows opened not into the outer air but into a low verandah. Lastly remember that it was night and it follows at once that the room was as dark as Erebus. But the room might have been lighted from the verandah. Undoubtedly it might. Then let the reader place guards to his taste in the verandah and give each guard a torch. (He will remember that the officers examined the rooms with torches and this is the only kind of light mentioned in the narrative). Should we not expect from Holwell a description of the weird effect of the light falling on that mass of men and of the dark shadows in the remoter parts of the room? But we have not assumed all the conditions. Block up the windows, as described by Holwell, with men and others standing over them and how much light could possibly have entered the room? Now turn to the narrative and the reader will see that the room was as bright as noonday and Holwell could see and describe everything that went on in every corner of it. As soon as he was settled in his window he remarks; “What must ensue appeared to me in lively and dreadful colours the instant I cast my eyes round and saw the size and situation of the room.”71 [p. 136.] Immediately after this “observing every one giving way to the violence of their passions”72 [p. 136.] he made them a speech. He tells us that every man stripped except himself, Mr. Court and the two wounded gentlemen.73 [p. 137.] Every hat was put in motion to produce a circulation of air and every man sat down on his hams. “When the whole body sat down, they were so closely wedged together that they were obliged to use many efforts before they could put themselves in motion to get up again.”74 [p. 138.] When Holwell retired from the first window in the manner related above he was able to pause in the centre of the prison and calculate the number of the dead which he believed amounted to one third.75 [p. 140.] He then “travelled over the dead” to the platform at the very back of the prison and “repaired to the further end of it, just opposite the other window" and seated himself “between Mr. Dumbleton and Captain Stevenson, the former just then expiring." Here Mr. Edward Eyre came “staggering over the dead” to him and “with his usual coolness and good-nature“ asked him how he did but fell down and expired before Holwell had time to reply.76 [p. 136.] Is it necessary to go on? One word more. Holwell, seated in his window with his back to any light there may have been, was able to see everything that went on in the room, but he states that when the guards wanted to see they held up lights to the bars.77 [p. 139.] This is the only reference that Holwell makes to a light during the time he was in the Black Hole.

4.

The writer imagines that by this time the reader is disposed to reject the Black Hole incident as we know it, and he will now present what he conjectures really happened on the night of the 20th June 1756. Astounding as it may appear, the only authority he will appeal to will be Holwell’s Narrative, for he believes that in a great measure it is a true narrative and that the very difficulties which he brought forward in the last section to overthrow the narrative are only difficulties because they are true facts placed in a false environment. This then is what he believes happened. The Nawab entered the Fort before six in the evening and Holwell had three interviews, with him as he states. It was not Holwell who desired the three interviews or he would have said so and the reason why he wished to see the Nawab so many times. It was the Nawab who wished to see Holwell and the reason is clear. The Nawab was anxious to secure the Company‘s treasure of which he had heard exaggerated accounts. He believed that this had been hidden, that Holwell knew the hiding place and could be forced to disclose it. Three attempts to obtain the information failed and then the Nawab desisted with the intention of trying again in the morning as we know he did. Meanwhile he gave orders that Holwell and all the Company's Servants in his hands and nobody else were to be secured for the night. These surviving servants of the Company were Holwell, Court, Cooke, Walcot, Lushington, Burdett the Rev. Gervas Bellamy and probably the two wounded men, Coales and Scott. Of these Walcot and Scott belonged to the military. These men, then, were placed in the Black Hole prison precisely in the manner related by Holwell in his narrative and there they remained in semi-darkness throughout the night, though Holwell made an attempt to get them removed to a more comfortable apartment. The two wounded men, if they were there,78 [It is probably safe to assume that they were there. In that case another statement of Holwell's falls at once into the category of “true facts placed in a false environment.” Holwell states that at about eleven o’clock one third of the prisoners had died. On our supposition this was literally true. Three had died out of nine.] died that night, but they died of their wounds and lack of medical aid. It is absolutely certain that the Rev. Mr. Bellamy died in the Black Hole. He was ill at the time and succumbed to his illness in the prison.79 [For his death in the Black Hole we have the authority of the Bengal Council. In their letter to the Court of Directors, dated the 31 January 1757 they state “ Our chaplains having both demised, Mr. Gervas Bellamy in the Black Hole .... ..we have appointed &c.” (Hill, Vol. 2 p. 190). For his illness we have the authority of the list given in Hill, (Vol. 3 p. 415) and quoted in the following pages of this paper. Ill as he was the padre Sahib was too important a man to be passed over when the order had been given to seize all the Company's servants.] The rest suffered much as Holwell says they suffered. They were bathed in perspiration. They fanned themselves with their hats. They suffered greatly from thirst and water was passed through the bars to them as stated by Holwell. Finally at about 2 a.m. Holwell managed to fall asleep and was roused in the morning by one of his companions and told that the guard had come to take him to the Nawab who again interrogated him on the subject of the treasure. That, approximately, is the secret of the Black Hole of Calcutta. To that genuine experience add the idea that there were 146 men present, throw in a small quantity of what a great man called “corroborative detail tending to give verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative,” and you have the whole secret of the concoction of Holwell’s story.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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Part 2 of 6

Observe how all the difficulties advanced in the preceding section vanish. Reduce Holwell’s sufferings to the discomforts arising from passing the night in a small room at the hottest time of the year and he dwindles to human proportions. The guards were strictly carrying out orders when they shut up Holwell in the Black Hole prison, and hence there was no inconsistency when one of them refused to remove him to another room without orders from the Nawab. Guards with torches escorted the prisoners into the Black Hole and Holwell had ample leisure to observe the nature of the room and take possession of the window. There was not the slightest difficulty in closing the door although it opened inward. The prisoners could easily have been shut up in the few minutes allowed by Mr. Secretary Cooke for the performance. It was an easy matter to hand water through the bars of the window and this was not blocked up with human bodies, so that the guards were not insane when they held up lights to the bars in order that they might look into the room.

Of far greater importance than this is the fact that various stumbling-blocks besetting the path of those who study the history of this period also vanish in the light of this interpretation of the Black Hole incident. In the minutes of a meeting of the Secret Committee of the Bengal Council held on board the Phoenix schooner at Fulta on August 22nd 1756, we find these words:—“Major Killpatrick on the 15th instant wrote a complimentary letter to the Nabob Suraged Dowla complaining a little of the hard usage of the English Honourable Company, assuring him of his good intentions notwithstanding what had happened and begging in the meantime, till things were cleared up, that he would treat him at least as a friend and give orders that our people may be supplied with provisions in a full and friendly manner."80 [Long's Selections from Unpublished Records of Government, p. 75. ] We are amazed that Englishmen could write in this strain to a man responsible for the tragedy of the Black Hole and then without a blush enter it in the record of their proceedings. Sir William Hunter’s explanation is that the terrible sufferings they had endured in the fever-stricken delta caused them to descend to these depths.81 [Sir W. W. Hunter, The Thackerays in India and Some Calcutta Graves (1897) p. 26.] But the explanation does not hold good as far as Major Killpatrick is concerned. He had been sent from Madras with a reinforcement of 200 men and arrived at Fulta a fortnight before the letter was despatched.82 [He arrived on 31st July. Letter from Council at Fulta to Council, Fort Saint George, dated 18th August, 1756. (Hill, Vol. I, p. 197).] British officers do not grovel at the feet of the murderers of their countrymen. Again we were taught at school to look upon Clive not only as the vindicator of British might, but also as the avenger of blood and then we read in the records that the Madras Council, who fitted out the expedition, in the true spirit of Christian charity, were prepared to forgive the Nawab all the injuries he had done to them, including the massacre of their countrymen, provided be restored Calcutta and their other settlements and made ample reparation for the pecuniary loss they had sustained. “Should the Nabob,” the Council wrote, “on the news of the arrival of these forces, make offers tending to the acquiring to the Company the before-mentioned advantages, rather than risque the success of a war, we think that sentiments of revenging injuries, although they were never more just, should give place to the necessity of sparing as far as possible the many bad consequences of war, besides the expence of the Company’s treasures ”83 [Letter from Select Committee, Fort Saint George to Select Committee, Fort William, 13 October, 1756 (Hill, Vol. I p. 12239.] and directed Clive to consult the Council at Fort William on the nature of the treaty to be made with the Nawab.

Further when we read the terms of the treaty made with Siraj-ud-daula on the 9th February, 1757,84 [Hill, Vol. 2 p. 215.] and the terms of the treaty made with Mir Jafar85 [Walsh's Murshidabad, p. 150.] a few months later we are struck with the fact that there is not a word about compensation to the widows and children86 [Of the relatives of victims of the Black Hole we find mention of Mrs. Buchanan and one child, Mrs. Dnmbleton (two children), Mrs. Coales (one child), Mrs. Clayton, Mrs. Bellamy, Mrs. Hunt, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Porter, Miss Bellamy and Miss Carey. (Hill Vol. 3 p. 76).] of the men said to have been put to death in the Black Hole, nor a demand for justice on the murderers.87 [Scrafton writing from Murshidabad to Walsh suggested that one of the terms of the treaty with Mir Jafar should be:-- "the guilty in the affair of the Black Hole to be given up to us." Hill, Vol. 2. p. 350. Why was this not done?]

Lastly the records reveal the astonishing fact that no official account of the Black Hole tragedy was ever sent home by the Bengal Council to the Court of Directors.[/b][/size] After narrating events up to the 18th June, 1756, the letter from the Council at Fulta to the Court of Directors, proceeds as follows:—“The next morning they commenced a brisk fire upon the fort which they continued the whole day and great part of Sunday the 20th; and having gained possession of the several houses near the factory and the Church, they destroyed a great many of our officers and private men, who being harassed out with continual duty and the enemy overpowering us with their numbers, the walls were scaled on the evening of the 20th, and the fort surrendered upon promise of their civil treatment of the prisoners. We have now given your Honours a summary relation of the Nabob's proceedings at Cassimbazar, his march against Calcutta, the attack and capture of that place."88 [Letter from Council at Fulta to Court of Directors, dated 17 September 1756. Hill, Vol I, p. 217.] The Council promised to send further particulars of the siege, but in their next letter they refer to this promise and proceed “upon second consideration we find it impracticable to form a narrative that will be assented to by all the members of the Board who were concerned in these transactions. We must therefore beg leave to refer your Honours to the several addresses those gentlemen have separately made you through the channel of this Board. They are transmitted in this packet and to your candour we submit our conduct, without any further comment.”89 [Letter from Council, Fort William, to the Court of Directors, dated, 31 January, 1757 Hill Vol. 2, p. 187.] Now it is quite easy to trace these letters. They were written by Drake, Watts, Becher, Collet and Holwell.90 [Drake's Letter (Hill Vol. 2, p. 134); Watt’s Letter (Hill Vol. 3, p. 331); Becher’s Letter (Hill Vol. 2, p. 157); Collet’s Letter (Hill Vol. 2, p. 128); Holwell's Letter (Hill Vol. 2, p. 1).] They are full of charges, countercharges and recriminations on such subjects as the cause of the Nawab's attack on Calcutta, the defence of Cassimbazar and the mistakes made in the defence of Calcutta. The only one who refers to the Black Hole incident is Holwell and he casually mentions his sufferings there. It is difficult to understand how the Black Hole incident could have been a subject of controversy if it really happened and still more difficult to understand why the Council mentioned, in their former letter, that the fort surrendered upon promise of civil treatment of the prisoners and omitted to state immediately after that 23 of the Company’s servants alone had lost their lives in consequence of that promise being broken, if it had been broken.

The lists of victims and survivors also are unofficial and seem to have been compiled by Holwell.
91 [One is appended to his letter to Council, Fort Saint George, dated Hugli, 3 August, 1756 (Hill I 185) and the other to his narrative (Hill 3 p. 153).]

5.

The reference to the victims of the Black Hole tragedy at the end of the last section must have caused the reader to ask, “Then how did those men die?” The labours of Mr. S. C. Hill, late officer in charge of the records of the Government of India, who has collected together and printed in his three volumes entitled “Bengal in 1756-1757" probably every memorial of the time relating to the Black Hole that is to be found in the archives of London, Calcutta, Paris and The Hague, enables this question to be answered.

The genesis of the National Archives of India may be traced back to the year 1860 when Sandeman, the Civil Auditor, in his report stressed the need of relieving the offices of congestion by destruction of the papers of routine nature and transfer of all valuable records to a ‘Grand Central Archive’. However, things took a concrete shape in 1889, when Professor G.W. Forrest of Elphinstone College, Bombay was entrusted the job of examining the records of the Foreign Department of the Government of India. Earlier, he had earned reputation as an Archivist for his work in the Bombay Records Office. In his report, he made a strong plea for transferring all records of the administration of East India Company to a Central Repository. As a result, Imperial Records Department (IRD) came into existence on 11 March 1891 which was located in Imperial Secretariat Building at Calcutta (Kolkata). Professor G.W Forrest was made its Officer in Charge. His main task was to examine, transfer, arrange and catalogue records of all the Departments and to organise a Central Library in place of various Departmental Libraries. After G.W. Forrest, the work at Imperial Records Department (IRD) progressed well under S.C. Hill (1900), C.R. Wilson (1902), N.L. Hallward (1904), E. Denison Ross (1905), A.F. Scholfield (1915), R.A. Blaker (1919), J.M. Mitra (1920) and Rai Bahadur A.F.M. Abdul Ali (1922-1938) who were scholars as well as Records Keepers in their own right.

-- History of National Archives of India, by National Archives of India


From those volumes we can learn what happened from 10 o’clock in the morning of the 19th June, when Governor Drake and his companions deserted the Fort, to the evening of the 20th when the Fort was captured. Captain Grant, Adjutant-General, who deserted with the Governor writes:—"The place was taken the next day the 20th afternoon, about 30 hours after the Governor left it, during which time upwards of 50 Europeans were killed on the Bastions by the enemy’s small arms from Mr. Cruttenden’s, Eyre’s, the Church and the Company’s House. The firing was so hot from the top of the Church that they at last were obliged to abandon the easterly curtain and bastions.” Then when the enemy scaled the walls of the Fort “numbers were cut to pieces on the walls: all who wore red coats without mercy."92 [Hill, Vol. 1 p. 88.] Mr. Grey, Junior, one of the Company’s servants, relates:—"Next morning the enemy having got possession of the Church and houses round the fort from thence galled our men with small arms killing several of them (among whom was Captain Smith) and wounding many of the officers."93 [Hill, Vol. I p. 108.] Holwell’s evidence may be admitted when corroborated:—"The 20th in the morning the enemy formed three assaults at once against the north-west bastion, against the north-west futtock or barrier, and against the windows of the labratory (sic) on the eastern curtain, and attempted to scale to the north-westward. From each of these assaults they were beat off with great loss to them before noon .... when finding we had 25 killed and 70 or more of our best men wounded and our Train killed, wounded and deserted to all but 14 and not two hours’ ammunition left, we threw out a flag of truce towards the evening intending to amuse the enemy and make the best retreat we could in the night to the “Saint George,” not then knowing she was on a sand opposite to Omichund’s house."94 [Hill, Vol. 1 p. 88, 114.] Governor Drake in his Narrative gives similar evidence.95 [Hill, Vol. 1 p. 159.] Mr. William Lindsay, who received permission to leave the Fort on the 19th on account of his lameness, wrote to the historian Orme at Madras thus:—“The gentlemen in the Fort being now quite desperate fought like madmen. On Sunday morning there was above forty men killed on one bastion .... About half an hour after this the Moors scaled the walls on all quarters in a manner almost incredible to Europeans. Now the gentlemen looked upon their situation as the most desperate. Lieutenant Blagg defended the bastion he was upon till he and his men were cut to pieces. This officer behaved with the greatest bravery."96 [Hill, Vol. I p. 168.] William Tooke, who left the fort on the 19th relates:—“The defence of the place was carried on briskly under the new commanderie, but with the loss of several people; among the killed was Lieutenant Smyth and the wounded Ensign Coales of the militia and Piccard of the military .... June the 20th, early in the morning the enemy attacked the N.E. and N.W. bastions with great fury, but after a dispute of about three hours were obliged to retire .... About four o’clock in the afternoon the factory was taken, when many lost their lives."97 [Hill, Vol. 1 p. 263, 293.] Then there is the account sent by the Council to the Court of Directors which has already been quoted in full.

Thus stands revealed the story of a memorable and gallant defence, a defence so desperate that it did not cease till all the defenders except a mere handful were lying dead or dying on the bastions of the fort, a defence worthy of a place in the annals of British valour. But what has been the fate of the heroic defenders of Fort William? Has any Englishman reverently searched for their names? Has any historian worthily enshrined their heroism in his pages? One only has done this—and he a man of alien race—and his words have been despised and rejected by us all. “Mr. Drake,” writes Ghulam Husain Khan, the author of the Seir Mutaqherin, “finding that matters went hard with him, abandoned everything, and fled without so much as giving notice to his countrymen. He took shelter on board a ship, and with a small number of friends and principal persons he disappeared at once. Those that remained, finding themselves abandoned by their chief, concluded their case must be desperate; yet most of them were impressed with such a sense of honour that preferring death to life, they fought it out until their powder and ball failing at last, they bravely drank up the bitter cup of death; some others, seized by the claws of destiny, were made prisoners.” Even through the words of the translation we can respond to the thrill in the heart of the gallant historian—a soldier himself—when he wrote about “most of them” dying gloriously and we can feel the perceptible cold drop when he added, almost by an afterthought it seems, “some others” were made prisoners. Do we know the grave of these men? Yes; their bodies were promiscuously thrown into the ditch of the ravelin of Fort William and their names are inscribed on a monument built over the spot which libellously proclaims to the world that they died ignominious deaths in a dungeon.98 [This is a melancholy fact, but the words are not intend to convey the shadow of a reproach on the donor of the monument. That would be both ungrateful and unjustifiable. The monument expressed in a concrete form the belief universal among English-speaking races all over the world. It is obvious that this paper could not have been written before 1905 the year in which Mr. Hill’s volumes were published. All, therefore, that is permitted to us is to regret that the information published in 1905 was not known in 1902 the year in which the monument was erected.] Has the reader the slightest doubt of this? Does not his heart instinctively tell him who is speaking the truth—Holwell who declares that Lieutenant Blagg died in the Black Hole, or Lindsay who asserts that the Lieutenant died as a British officer knows how to die—sword in hand, leading his men in one last desperate charge against an overwhelming band of foes.

But the reader may call for cold proof, and that, too, is forthcoming. What has to be proved is this; if these men died in the defence of the fort there were only a very few left to go into the Black Hole. What will actually be proved is the converse of this, that is, if the men whose names are in Holwell’s list died in the Black Hole then not more than one or two died in the defence of the fort. Once more we delve in99 [Vol. 3 p. 415.] Mr. Hill’s rich mine and bring forth “a Summary of a list of Inhabitants, &c., who bore arms at late siege of Calcutta, dated 1 July, 1756.” The names of those who were “killed or otherwise lost their lives" are placed in italics in the list and the only liberty the writer has taken is to set them out in two columns, the first column containing the names of those who survived the siege and the second those who lost their lives. The writer has added the particulars placed against each name and the references are to Mr. Hill’s volumes.

SURVIVORS.

COMPANY'S SERVANTS.


Drake (Governor); left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 112, 158, 189, 262).
Manningham; left fort 18th June (I 41,86, 107, 112, 151, 154,165, 189, 261).
Pearkes; escaped when fort was taken (I 44.)
Frankland; left fort 18th June (I 41, 86, 107, 112, 151, 154, 165, 189, 261.)
Macket; left fort 19th June (I 41, 87, 107, 112, 158, 189, 262.)
Holwell; survived Black Hole.
Sumner; left fort 18th June (I 189).
Court; survived Black Hole.
Cooke; survived Black Hole.
Billers; left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 190.)
Ellis; left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 190.)
Tooke; left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 190.)
Rider; left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 190.)
Lindsay; left fort 19th June (1 153, 154.)
Senior; left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 190.)
Vasmer; left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 190.)
Orr; left fort 19th June (I 107, 190.)
Leycester; left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 190.)
Lushington; survived Black Hole.
Charlton; left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 190.)
Bardet; survived Black Hole.
Gray; escaped after fort taken.

MILITARY OFFICERS.

Minchin (Commandant); left fort 19th June (I 41, 87, 112, 158, 189, 262.)
Capt. Grant; left fort 19th June (I 41, 87, 112, 158, 189, 262.)
Ensign Walcot; survived Black Hole.
Ensign Carstairs; Wounded on 18th June (I 80, 111, 148, 191) see note.
O'Hara (Engineer); left fort 19th June (I 41, 87, 107, 112, 158, 189, 262.)

CLERGY.

Mapletoft; left fort 19th June (I 41, 87, 107, 112, 158, 189, 262.)

DOCTORS.

Gray; escaped when fort taken (I 44).
Fullerton; left fort 19th June (I 41, 190.)
Taylor; escaped when fort taken (I 44.)
Knox Senior; escaped when fort taken (I 44).
Knox junior; escaped when fort taken (I 44).
Fletcher; cannot be traced.

LAWYERS.

Putham; left fort 18th or 19th (I 190)
Ridge; left fort 19th June (I 41, 190).
Atkinson; at Fulta in July (III 76) (died in Black Hole-Holwell)
Mackpherson; cannot be traced (marked sick in list)

FREE MERCHANTS.

Beaumont; left fort 18th or 19th (I 153, 120).
Margas; left fort 18th or 19th (I 190).
Holmes; left fort 18th June (I 152, 154, 189, 261).
Douglas; left fort 18th June (I 112, 189, 262).
Wood; left fort 18th or 19th (I 190).
Cruttenden; left fort 19th June (I 41, 107, 190).
Blachford; cannot be traced; marked sick in list
Nixon; left fort 19th June (I 153, 190)
Cole; cannot be traced; marked sick in list.

INHABITANTS.

Baldrick; left fort 19th June (I 41, 112, 189).
Pyefinch; left fort 18th or 19th (I 190).
Wilson (tailor); a mistake? (died in Black Hole, III 72).
Rannie (tailor); cannot be traced.
Phillips (tailor); cannot be traced.
Whaley (butcher); left fort 19th June (I 41, 190).
Burton (butcher); left fort 18th or 19th (I 190)
Alsop (butcher); a mistake? (died in Black Hole; III 72)
Cole (carpenter); at Fulta in July (III 76).
Todd (carpenter); at Fulta? see declaration signed James Tod (III 418).
Tilley (court serjeant); a mistake? died in Black Hole (III. 72)
Blaney (joiner); at Fulta in July (III. 76.)
Barnet (joiner); a mistake? (died in Black Hole? III. 72.)
Moulder (coachman); cannot be traced.
Simms (footman); cannot be traced.

FOREIGNERS.

Carvalho; left fort 18th or 19th (I. 190.)
Albert; left fort 18th or 19th (I. 190.)
La Beaum; wounded 18th and escorted ladies on board ships (I, 80, 148, 151, 154.)
Montague; cannot be traced.
Montre; cannot be traced.
Fieze; cannot be traced.
Piniot; cannot be traced.
(1) Beanto, (2) Caytano, (3) Joam. No trace unless these are the three Portuguese priests at Fulta in July (III. 76.)
Bodle; cannot be traced.

FIDLERS (sic).

Ling; left fort on 19th June.
Tuball; cannot be traced.
Hilmbrat; cannot be traced.
Heneriko; cannot be traced.
John; cannot be traced.

SEA CAPTAINS AND OFFICERS.

Rannie; left fort 18th or 19th (I. 190.)
Walmsley; left fort 18th or 19th (I 190.)
Wedderburn; left fort on 18th (I. 112, 152, 189, 261).
Widdrington; at Fulta in July (III. 76.)
Nickleson; left fort 18th or 19th (I. 190.)
Young; left fort 18th or 19th (I. 190.)
Watmore; left fort 19th (I. 190.)
Sanders; at Fulta in July (III. 76.)
Campbell; left fort on 19th (I. 190.)
Dixon; survived Black Hole (I. 190.)
Mills; survived Black Hole (I. 190.)
Lewis; escaped when fort taken (I. 44).
Baldwin; died at Fulta in July (III. 76.)
Austin; left fort on 19th (I. 190).
Best; died at Fulta (III. 76.)
Baillie left fort 19th (I. 41, 190.)
Laing; left fort 19th (I. 41, 190.)
Savage; escaped when fort was taken (I. 44.)
Johnson; escaped when fort was taken (I. 44.)
Smith; left fort 19th (I. 41.)
Costelly; at Fulta in July (III. 76).
Cozens; at Fulta in July (III. 76).
Lord; left fort an 19th (I. 41.)
Graham; went off in one of the Company’s sloops (I. 263.)
Aston; at Fulta in July (III. 75.)
Summers; left fort on 19th (I. 41, 190.)
Iver; cannot be traced.
Caley; cannot be traced.
Elvis; left fort on 19th (I. 41, 190)
Champion, left fort on 19th (I. 190.)
Brown; cannot be traced.
Hugue; captain of Prince George, escaped to Chinsurah (I 42; III. 416).
Downey; Cannot be traced but probably the officers who are mentioned as having left the fort with their captains (I. 190.)
Whiteridge; Cannot be traced but probably the officers who are mentioned as having left the fort with their captains (I. 190.)
Morain; Cannot be traced but probably the officers who are mentioned as having left the fort with their captains (I. 190.)
McKenzie; Cannot be traced but probably the officers who are mentioned as having left the fort with their captains (I. 190.)
Dundas; Cannot be traced but probably the officers who are mentioned as having left the fort with their captains (I. 190.)
Lemmon; Cannot be traced but probably the officers who are mentioned as having left the fort with their captains (I. 190.)

PILOTS.

Deans; Cannot be traced.
Parsons; Cannot be traced.
Tool; Cannot be traced.
Mc Laughlin; Cannot be traced.
Tart; Cannot be traced.
Pennatz; Cannot be traced.
Morris; Ran the "Prince George” ashore and escaped to Chinsurah (I. 42.)

KILLED.

Eyre; died in Black Hole. (I 190; III 153) see note at end.
Baillie (of Council); died in Black Hole.
Bellamy; shot himself before the attack (I 43; III 71.)
Coales; died in Black Hole.
Valicourt; died in Black Hole.
Jenks; died in Black Hole.
Reveley; died in Black Hole.
Law; died in Black Hole.
Jeb; died in Black Hole.
Carse; died in the Black Hole.
Drake; died in Black Hole.
Smith; killed 18th June (I 40, 107, 260.)
Thoresby; killed 17th June (I 40, 107, 145, 257.)
Dalrymple; died in Black Hole.
Wilkinson; killed 18th June (I 40, 107, 260.)
Byng; died in Black Hole.
Page Stephen; died in Black Hole.
Page, Edward; died in Black Hole.
Johnson; died in Black Hole.
Harwood; died in Black Hole (Harod, III 153.)
Grub; died in Black Hole.
Street; died in Black Hole.
Gosling; died in Black Hole.
Ballard; died in Black Hole.
Dodd; died in Black Hole.
Toriano; died in Black Hole.
Knapton; died in Black Hole.

MILITARY OFFICERS.

Capt. Clayton; died in Black Hole.
Capt. Buchanan; died in Black Hole.
Capt. Smith; killed on 20th June (I 42, 108, 190. 263.)
Caot, Witherington; died in Black Hole.
Lieut. Blag; died in Black Hole.
Lieut. Hays; died in Black Hole.
Lieut. Simpson; died in Black Hole.
Lieut. Pickard; died in Black Hole.
Lieut. Talbot; Wounded 20th, died 21st (I 42, 190.)
Lieut. Bishop; died in Black Hole.
Ensign Bellamy; died in Black Hole.
Ensign Scott; died in Black Hole.
Ensign Hastings; died in Black Hole.
Ensign Wedderburn; died in Black Hole.

CLERGY.

Bellamy; died in Black Hole (III 153) (marked sick in list).

DOCTORS.

Inglis; a mistake? a Dr. English escaped when fort taken (I 44.) Perhaps died at Fulta.

LAWYERS.

Dumbleton (Registrar); died in Black Hole.
Berdal; (Bendal? died in Black Hole).
Cocker; died in Black Hole (I 43; III 72)
Porter; died in Black Hole (I 43, 190; III 72)
Hillier; died in Black Hole (I 43, III 72)

FREE MERCHANTS.

Stevenson; died in Black Hole.

INHABITANTS

Parker; died in Black Hole (190; III 154).
Stopford (butcher); died in Black Hole (I 43).
Guy (carpenter); died in Black Hole (I 190; III 154).
Surman (carpenter); cannot be traced.
Stopford (carpenter); died in Black Hole (I 43).
Blue (carpenter) Bleau? died in Black Hole (I 190; III 153).
Leech (smith); died in Black Hole (III 154.)
Burton (smith); died in Black Hole (III 72).
Cartwright (court serjeant); died in Black Hole (I 190; III 154).
Bruce (court serjeant); cannot be traced.
Coverley (tailor; gaoler?) a mistake? at Fulta in July (III. 76.)
Osborne (sailmaker); died in Black Hole (I 190; III 154.)
Johnson (farrier); cannot be traced.

FOREIGNERS.

Mackpherson Daniel; killed in attack (I. 261; II. 37; III. 72.)
Montrong; cannot be traced.
Coquelin; a mistake? there is a Cockylane, a French seafaring gentlemen, at Fulta in July (III. 76.)

FIDLERS (sic)

Janniko; cannot be traced.

SEA CAPTAINS AND OFFICERS.

Purnel; survived Black Hole, died next day. (III, I54.)
Carey; died in Black Hole (I. 190; III. 154.)
Hunt; died in Black Hole (I. 190; III. 154.)
Collins; drowned when making his escape from the fort (I. 44; III. 72.)
Pickering; wounded on 20th (I. 42, 191) no further trace.

In addition to the above there were 35 European soldiers, 25 European artillery, 190 topazes, 50 Portuguese and Armenian militia. (These European soldiers were probably Dutch.)100 [The above list contains the names of 194 Europeans. in addition there were 300 defenders besides, making a total of 494. It may be asked if the list is accurate. Governor Drake, who kept the rolls, gives the total as 515 and William Lindsay gives the same figure. They give the artillery as 35 instead of 25 as in the list and thus 10 are accounted for William Tooke gives the total as 475. In each list the number of Europeans, apart from Dutch, approximates to 200. (Hill, Vol. I. 137, 171, 255). With regard to Ensign Carstairs who was wounded on the 18th no further information is obtainable except that he lost an arm (I. 189) and survived the siege. Captain Mills, however, says that all the wounded were taken on board the ships on the 19th and he probably was taken with them. Where no reference has been given for victims or survivors of Black Hole Holwell's lists (I. 190; III. 153) are to be understood.]

Image
Monument at Calcutta Called the Black-Hole." (Center: The Monument; Far Right Black Building: The Old Fort; Building Left: Buildings for the Civil Officers of the Company; Far Right Top Fenced Area: Enclosed pond in the middle of the Town; Bottom Left: A Palanquin.)
Frontispiece to Vol. II of A Voyage in the Indian Ocean and Bengal undertaken in the years 1789 and 1790. Translated from the French of L. de Grandpre, an Officer in the French Army. London, 1803.


From the list the reader will see that the casualties in the 30 hours fighting were:—none of the Company’s servants killed; one military officer (Smith) killed and one (Talbot) wounded who died the next day but was not placed in the Black Hole; one sea-lieutenant (Pickering) wounded who subsequently died but where is not known; in addition one foreigner, with the familiar name of Macpherson, was killed in the attack but whether in the fighting that took place from the 16th to the 19th June or afterwards is not known; lastly the deaths of one carpenter, one court serjeant, one farrier, one foreigner and one fiddler cannot be accounted for.

On the other hand 23 of the Company's servants died in the Black Hole; 12 military officers; one clergyman; 5 lawyers: 1 free merchant; 9 (or 13) men of various trades, and 3 sea-captains.

But Holwell says that by one o’clock on the 20th he had lost of his best men 25 killed and more than 70 wounded and to these must be added those who fell in the final assault; which is manifestly absurd. Therefore, Holwell cannot have his casualties and also his Black Hole victims. Quod erat demonstrandum [Google translate: It can be shown].

The reader may enquire, “Did no inkling of the truth filter through to England?,” and once more we find the information required in Mr. Hill’s volumes.101 [Vol. III. p. 70-72.] In the “London Chronicle” (From Tuesday, 7 June, to Thursday, 9 June 1757, No. 69) appeared a letter “received by the India ships arrived in Ireland, containing a particular account of the unfortunate affair at Bengal.” It seems to have been written by one of the survivors of the Black Hole tragedy for it relates how “170 of us102 [The writer may however, possibly be writing merely as one of the Company's servants of military expression "Jones of Ours."] were crammed into a hole not large enough for fifty of us to breathe in; the effect of it was, that only sixteen were alive the next morning, four of us were sent to the Nabob’s camp, and put into irons; but what became of the other twelve that escaped hell in miniature, I have not been able to learn.” To this letter is appended a list “of the persons killed in the defence of Calcutta and Fort William when attacked by the Moors in June 1756, also those who died in the Black Hole overheated and for want of water.” Yet from this list, apparently made out by a survivor, we learn that William Baillie (of Council) died “with a shot in his head.” Lieutenant Pickard was "wounded and died before the place was taken.” Lieutenant Bishop died of his wounds before the place was taken. Ensign Blagg was "cut to pieces on a bastion” (corroborating Lindsay); Carse was “cut to pieces, having rashly fired a pistol after the place was taken.” Sea-captain Purnal was killed in the attack and Stephenson also; so too were Parker, Cary and Macpherson. All these, except Macpherson, are in Holwell’s list of victims. The probability is that the writer gave these particulars from his own personal knowledge while those about whom he had no personal knowledge he placed in the Black Hole. Had more such lists been sent home we should probably be able, by comparing them all, to eliminate all the names of the men said to have been in the Black Hole except those of the few who were actually there.

But the writer may be asked:--“How do you explain the fact that the Black Hole is mentioned by men who were in Bengal at the time when the incident is said to have occurred?” These men are:—Captain Grant,103 [Hill, Vol.1. p. 88.] Watts and Collet104 [p. 103.] (joint letter), Grey Junior,105 [p. 109.] Drake,106 [p. 159.] Lindsay107 [p. 168.] and Tooke.108 [p. 264.] But surely this is not strange. There was a Black Hole prison. Men were shut up in it on the night of the 20th June. Holwell could place his hand on his heart and declare he was there. Cooke could swear on the Bible to the same effect.
Besides there is a very significant fact about all these accounts. They were all written in the month of July, 1756,109 [Except Tooke's Account, which was written at the end of the year. Probably in writing his long account he did not wish to omit a good story. The slightly veiled references of Governor Pigot and Clive to the event are not to be taken seriously. They are so evidently written to support the attack of the English on Siraj-ud-daula and were only written to Indians -- Pigot to Siraj-ud-daula (Hill, I. 242); Clive (I) to Jagat Seth (I. 24) (2) to the Emperor at Delhi (II. 461) (3) to the Vizier (II. 463). They seem half-ashamed to refer plainly to the affair. In any case they must stand by their official words and deeds.] when rumours were flying broadcast. After that month there is a significant silence. Men began to think. They began to add up and subtract and to ask how it was possible that all those men could have died in the Black Hole. So that in September when the Council at Fulta sent their letter to the Court of Directors the matter was dropped entirely. That letter was signed by Drake, Watts, Killpatrick, Becher, Pearkes, Frankland, Collet, Holwell, Mackett, Amyatt and Boddam. Is it believable that Holwell did not strive to add to the concluding words of the 11th paragraph of the letter (which has already been quoted in full) the sentence “but the Nawab broke his promise and 123 men lost their lives in the Black Hole?” Is it unfair to draw the conclusion that he was overruled by a majority of the Council? Can we blame these men that the world has believed a fable? If we do have they not their reply? “The fable is not supported by our authority. Read our words given to the world after grave deliberation in Council. We stated that the fort surrendered on promise of civil treatment to the prisoners but we nowhere said that they did not receive civil treatment. We stated that the Rev. Gervas Bellamy died in the Black Hole, and that statement is true, but we nowhere said that any other of the Company’s servants died in the Black Hole. Nay, we plainly said that they were killed at the capture of Fort William.110 [“Enclosed is a list of the covenant servants upon our establishment, which compared with the list sent you last season will mark out those who are dead, most of whom were killed at the taking of Fort William: Messrs. Hyndman, Lyndsay, and Vasmer died at Fulta of fevers." Letter of Council to Court of Directors dated the 31st January 1757 (Hill II. p. 192).] If in place of calling for our official despatches the world accepted the statements of irresponsible individuals let the world look to it. It was not our duty to prick a bubble nor to expose any of the Company’s Servants.”

Nor does the fable appear to have received the support of the Directors of the East India Company.
They picked out a man whom they considered to be entitled to a particular mark of their regard for “the hardships he underwent in continuing to discharge his duty in the defence thereof (Fort William) until the Nabob became master of the place.” The name of that man was not John Zephaniah Holwell. It was Paul Richard Pearkes111 [Long's Selections from Unpublished Records of Govt. p. 130.].

A few words on the narratives of “survivors” may be of interest. Holwell’s chief narrative has been dealt with in full, but the remains are extant of what was evidently the rough draft of an original version. When Holwell, on his journey to Murshidabad, passed Cassimbazar he wrote to Sykes, one of the Company’s servants there, and therefore this must be the very earliest version of the incident that we have. Sykes gives the purport of Holwell’s letter,112 [Hill, Vol. I. p. 62.] as far as it referred to the Black Hole thus:—“As soon as the Nabob arrived in the fort he found with covenanted servants, soldiers and officers to the number of 160 (sic) who were put into a place called the Black Hole and jamed so close that out of 160 put in alive the next morning 110 were brought out dead for want of air. Jenks Reveley, Law, Eyres, Baillie, Cooke, Captain Buchanan, Scott and all our other military officers and Covenanted servants dead. The writers and officers behaved bravely. A prodigious number of Moors are killed. All the night our poor gentlemen were in the Black Hole the Nabob's people keep firing at them through the door.” That this was not a mistake on the part of Sykes is shown by Captain Grant’s account which states “Some of those who give us the account, say that they fired upon them all night with small arms through the doors and windows, but this is contradicted by others.”113 [Hill, Vol. I. p. 88.] Was it originally intended to make the tragedy a massacre?

Mr. Secretary Cooke's account may be read in the First Report of the Committee of the House of Commons and extracts have already been made from this. There remain two other narratives by survivors. One of these occurs in the diary of Captain Mills114 [Hill Vol. I. p. 43; spelling as given in original.] and runs thus:—“Most of those that remained in the fort where put into the Black Hole, to the number of 144 men, women, and children. Off whome upwards of 120 where miserably smuthered by the heat occationed by so many being shut up in so small a place, as to be obliged to stand upon one another." He then gives a list of the victims followed by one of the survivors. The list of the latter agrees with that of Holwell in including Captain Mills himself, Captain Dickson and Messrs. Moran and Meadows. The existence of the last two men rests solely on the evidence of Holwell and Mills.115 [Holwell calls Meadows “John.” Mills calls him “Thomas."] The lists differ in the fact that while Holwell is content to dismiss the remaining survivors under the general term “soldiers and Gunners,” Mills gives ten more names. His poverty of invention in the matter of Christian names is shown by the fact that he calls six of the ten “John.” The writer of the letter in the “London Chronicle" quoted above states that Captain Mills was one of those who were in the fort at the time of its capture, but who were not put into the Black Hole, and the nature of his narrative bears out this statement. Then there is the note discovered in a copy of Holwell’s “Tracts” and reproduced by Dr. Busteed in his “Echoes from Old Calcutta."116 [p. 30 (2nd edition), Holwell is the sole authority for the existence of Mrs. Carey. Mills does not include her in his list. It is very significant also that Holwell forgot her when he compiled his first list (I. 190) and only added her name when he compiled the list appended to his "Narrative." (Another name that Holwell forgot in his first list is that of Leech, who figures in the "Narrative"). There was a Miss Carey at Fulta in July.”] which records a visit paid to Mrs. Carey “the last survivor of those unfortunate persons who were imprisoned in the Black Hole of Calcutta)". Of this it is sufficient to say that the lady confirmed all that Holwell had said about the Black Hole in his “Narrative,” that she was only fifteen at the time of the occurrence and that she puts her mother, her sister, and an indefinite number of soldiers’ wives and children into the Black Hole besides herself.

To conclude, what shall be said of Messrs. Holwell, Cooke and Co. who did this thing. Clive read them aright. “I would have you guard against anything these gentlemen can say,” he warned Governor Pigott, “for, believe me, they are bad subjects and rotten at heart .... the riches of Peru and Mexico should not induce me to dwell among them.”117 [Malcolm’s Life I. 158.] As for us let us repair the mischief they have wrought and let them go.

J. H. LITTLE.

MURSHIDABAD,
August, 1915.
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Part 3 of 6

Full Proceedings of the Black Hole Debate
Bengal, Past & Present
Journal of the Calcutta Historical Society
Vol. XII
Jan. - June, 1916
Serial Nos. 23-24

FULL PROCEEDINGS OF THE DEBATE.

A special meeting of the Calcutta Historical Society was held on the 24th March 1916, at 9 P.M. in the hall of the Asiatic Society of Bengal to have a discussion on the Black Hole Question. The Venerable Archdeacon, W. K. Firminger, M.A., BD. presided.

Walter Kelly Firminger (28 September 1870 - 1940) was archdeacon of Calcutta and a historian of India who was the first editor of Bengal, Past & Present, the journal of Calcutta Historical Society. He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society....

Firminger was ordained deacon at Hereford in 1893. He served as a UMCA missionary in Zanzibar from 1893 to 1897 and was subdean in 1896. He was a curate in Margate from 1897 to 1898. He had clerical appointments in India from 1899 to 1923 being Archdeacon of Calcutta from 1914 to 1923. He was editor of the Indian Churchman from 1900 to 1905. He was Vicar of Padbury, Bucks from 1923 to 1926. He was Chaplain to the King at Hampton Court Palace from 1926 until he died in 1940. B.Litt. and D.D.

-- Walter K. Firminger, by Wikipedia


Mr. J.H. Little, who started the controversy in the pages of Bengal Past & Present, opened the debate:--

MR. J. H. LITTLE:—

I shall place before you all the contemporary evidence we have in favour of the Black Hole story; I shall show that this evidence is neither great in quantity nor trustworthy in character; then I shall give you three good reasons for rejecting the evidence which are quite independent of its unsatisfactory character. I have assumed that you have read my article in the Society’s Journal and have omitted as much of that as I could.

Take any historian you please who has written on the subject and you will find that he has derived his information, directly or indirectly, from Holwell’s Narrative or from Cooke’s Evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons or from both. These are the two primary authorities for the story. I have dealt at length with Holwell's Narrative in Bengal Past & Present and I need not go over the ground again, but there is one point in connection with the Narrative which I have not treated in an adequate manner, and another which I have not mentioned at all. The former point is this. Holwell’s Narrative is essentially different from the original story he told. He has omitted, he has altered, he has added. The main outlines of the story concocted in Calcutta before the prisoners were dispersed will be found in a letter written by Francis Sykes at Cossimbazar on the 8th July, 1756. Sykes gives the purport of a letter which Holwell, who had just passed Cossimbazar on his way to Murshidabad, wrote to the Englishmen who were there and he informs us that Holwell made the following startling statement:— “all the night our poor gentlemen were in the Black Hole the Nabob’s people kept firing at them through the door.” Nor have we any reason to suppose that Sykes reported Holwell incorrectly for the same story was current at Fulta. Captain Grant wrote on the 13th July:—"Some of those who give us the account say that they fired upon them all night with small arms through the doors and windows, but this is contradicted by others." The Fulta story, too, sprang up quite independently of Sykes’ letter for even assuming that his letter was sent direct to Fulta, and we do not know that it was sent there at all, it could not have reached Fulta before the 13th, the day on which Captain Grant wrote his account. The Consultations at Fulta given in Long’s Unpublished Records of Government inform us that a letter of Warren Hastings’ from Cossimbazar dated the 3rd October was received at Fulta on the 8th. In July it would probably have taken longer. Why was this part of the story discarded? The reason is to be found in a letter written at Chandernagore on the 3rd July which relates that the two first days after the capture of the fort “passed in licence and all the disorders of a place taken by assault, with the exception of massacre to which the Moors are not accustomed in regard to people disarmed." This incident, then, was a fatal flaw in their story. People would say, perhaps they did say, “the Muhammadans of Bengal do not do such things.” I think we have evidence, too, of how this incident was explained away. M. Law in his account of the tragedy has these words:--“The most bitter insults were employed to excite the rage of the Moors and persuade the guard to fire on the prisoners. One of the latter, seeing a pistol in the belt of a companion, seized it and fired on the Moors who were passing the window. The pistol had only powder in it, but the guards were so frightened that immediately several guns were thrust through the bars and fired several times. This was exactly what the wretched prisoners wanted. Every shot was a coup-de-grace which they strove with each other to obtain for themselves.” No one else relates this incident. Unless Law is retailing idle rumour, this is how Holwell explained away his former statement when he returned to Cossimbazar on the 19th July. In August Holwell amended his statement still further. He said the guards “ceased not insulting us the whole night.” In his Narrative it was the prisoners who insulted the guards to provoke them to fire upon them and put an end to their misery. Holwell also made important additions to his original story. On the 3rd August he made lists of the victims and survivors of the tragedy and those two lists were, he declared, deficient in nothing. They contain the names neither of Leech nor of Mrs. Carey. Yet in the Narrative we have a pretty story about Leech and the statement that Mrs. Carey accompanied her husband into the prison.

The second point to which I referred is this. Hardly had Holwell put his Narrative together than, in the most deliberate manner, he knocked it to pieces again. He wrote the Narrative on his voyage home in the early part of 1757.
In August he was in London and while there replied to a letter written by William Watts, chief of the factory at Cossimbazar. The letter of Watts was, in turn, a reply to a letter of Holwell’s. Watts complained of Holwell’s “laboured endeavours through five sheets of paper" to set his conduct in the worst possible light and pointed out that Holwell, when he surrendered Fort William, had five times the number of men that he had had at Cossimbazar. To this Holwell replied:—“Had not Mr. Watts been guided more by malice than truth in this and his subsequent interrogatories, he would, from the letter he is answering, have found the number left in the Factory did not exceed 170; that of these we had 25 killed and 70 wounded by noon, the 20th, and that every man who survived was exhausted of strength and vigour." The number of prisoners in the Black Hole was 146; but 25 from 170 leaves 145 and when we make further deductions for the deserters and those who escaped when the fort was taken [“I did not advise that the guard there and a great part of the garrison, military and militia rushed out the moment the gate was opened and endeavoured to escape; many were killed, some escaped and others received quarter." Holwell’s Letter of 3rd August, 1756.] Holwell’s Narrative is clearly absurd. But it may be asked; Were there any non-combatants in the fort? I have not been able to find a trace of any except women and children and these were allowed in the fort because their men folk refused to fight unless they were admitted. Is Holwell, regardless of consequences, trying to score a victory over Watts? He is careful to point out that he made this particular statement in the letter to which Watts was replying. Did Holwell include all the defenders of the fort? In the previous letter he had declared that the number included “officers, volunteers, soldiers and militia”; that is, every class of men in the fort. Then Holwell is deliberately overthrowing his Narrative.

Cooke’s Evidence was given in 1772 when Holwell’s story had established itself. He states that nearly 150 souls were thrust into the dungeon among whom were one woman and twelve of the wounded officers. Picture the scene of 150 people being crammed into a room which would hardly hold them and then compare the picture of your imagination with the reality as described by Cooke. He says:—“The circumstances of the Black Hole affair, with all the horrors of that night, are so well known, and so much surpass any description that words can paint it in that I shall say no more upon that subject than that a little before eight we were all of us directed to withdraw and remain in a place contiguous to the Black Hole (where our soldiers were usually confined in the stocks). While we were wondering what this should mean and laughing at the oddity of it, a party of fellows came and ordered us to walk into the place before mentioned called the Black Hole, a room or rather dungeon, about 18 feet long and 14 wide, with only two holes, barricaded with iron bars, to let in air, which opened into a low piazza, where a guard was set. Into this hole we were forcibly crammed about eight o'clock in the evening, and the door immediately locked upon us.” How simple it all was. One might almost believe those men wished to be shut up. I think, however, there would be no reason to find fault with these words were it not for the figures which follow them. For what he is really describing is how a very few men quietly walked into the prison and were locked up for the night and I shall endeavour to prove that this was the case with John Cooke as my chief witness.

I must first put you in possession of certain facts. Who were the men shut up in the Black Hole prison? They were the defenders of the fort. Then who were these defenders? There were the military who before the Nawab attacked Calcutta numbered 180. Of these 45 were Europeans. The rest, we are told, were black Portuguese. In one list they are called topazes and Holwell’s definition of a topaz is “a black Christian soldier; usually termed subjects of Portugal." There were 50 European volunteers. There were 60 European militia and 150 militia consisting of Armenians and Portuguese. There were 35 European artillery men and 40 volunteers consisting of sea-officers and Portuguese helmsmen. The figures are those of Governor Drake who had the rolls in his possession. The Europeans consisted of British and Dutch and it is necessary for me to estimate the number of the Dutch. At first sight it seems strange to find any Dutch at all among the defenders of the fort for the Dutch authorities, before the Nawab attacked Calcutta, absolutely refused to help the English in any way and after the capture of Calcutta they refused to supply them with food and other necessaries. The mystery is cleared up by Governor Drake who says they were deserters from Dutch ships [“We could have but few Europeans and those deserters from the Dutch ships, the remainder country-born Portugueze wedded to a place of tranquillity.” Drake's Narrative.] and the word matross is used in connection with them which, according to Mr. Hill, means a sailor and almost all the artillery men were sailors. The number of Dutch, then, could hardly have been very great. According to Drake’s list the total number of Europeans was 230. You will find the names of 194 of them in the list I gave in the Society’s Journal. The remaining 36 were Dutch. The prisoners in the Black Hole, then, necessarily consisted of British, Dutch, Armenians and Portuguese. This is confirmed by the various accounts of the tragedy we have. One account says 200 Europeans, Portugese and Armenians were shut up. Holwell heads his list of victims thus:—“A list of those smother’d in the Black Hole, the 20th June, 1756, exclusive of the English, Dutch, and Portuguese soldiers, whose names I am unacquainted with.”

Now I can return to Cooke and his evidence. Before the Nawab left the fort on the evening of the 20th and two hours before the prisoners were put in the Black Hole Cooke asserts that “the Armenians and Portuguese were at liberty, and suffered to go to their own houses.” Mr. Hill endorses this and states in his Introduction, “the Portuguese and Armenians were allowed to go free and disappeared.” If they disappeared, if they went to their own houses, they were not put into the Black Hole. With regard to the Dutch Cooke relates that a “Dutchman of the Artillery Company broke open the back door of the Factory, and with many others attempted to make their escape that way.” Perhaps we ought not to assume that the “many others” were all Dutch but no doubt a part of them were. Holwell asserts that these men broke open the gate with the aid of friends who had deserted the night before and Mr. Hill, following other authorities, relates that on that night, “a corporal and fifty-six soldiers, chiefly Dutch, deserted to the enemy.” I think the number is exaggerated but this, at least, seems clear that a party of Dutch deserted on the 19th and another party broke out of the fort on the 20th. There were only 36 to begin with so that even assuming that none left the fort with the Governor and that none were killed in the fighting, the number of Dutch who remained to go into the Black Hole was negligible. Only the British are left. On the 19th, says Cooke, a prodigious number of the garrison was killed and wounded and we may assume that a fair proportion were British. On the 20th all the attacks of the besiegers were beaten off with great loss to them, but as far as we can learn from Cooke with no loss to the defenders. If, however, you will accept provisionally my statement that most of the British were killed in the fighting, then you will be able to discern at once that very small band of men who walked quietly into the Black Hole prison in the manner so truthfully described by Mr. Secretary Cooke.

In addition to those of Holwell and Cooke we have the accounts of two other so-called survivors. One of these was Captain Mills who states that 144 men, women and children were shut up in the prison. The addition of women and children may have been careless exaggeration on the part of Mills, but I suggest that he made the statement deliberately knowing full well that it was impossible to find such a number of men and that those were the only possible conditions under which the tragedy could have occurred.

We do not know who the fourth survivor was, but the letter he wrote came home in one of the India ships and appeared in the London Chronicle in June 1757. From a list appended to this letter we find that nine men who were supposed to have died in the Black Hole were killed in the fighting and we also learn that Captain Mills was not in the Black Hole at all. This, then, is what we find about the evidence of the four chief witnesses:—two of them overthrow their own stories. The remaining two contradict the two former and also contradict each other.

Now I will deal with the secondary authorities for the story. First in order come the men who took part in the defence of Calcutta or who were in Bengal at the time. Their accounts which are all very short were, with one exception, written in the month of July. Captain Grant referred to the tragedy on the 13th, Watts and Collet on the 14th, Governor Drake on the 19th and William Lindsay’s letter is merely dated July. Then in November William Tooke wrote a narrative of the loss of Calcutta and mentioned the tragedy in it. All these accounts agree in one respect. They contain the true story side by side with the false and we must choose which of the two we will accept. By September, 1756, Governor Drake, Watts and Collet had made their choice and it was the Black Hole story they rejected.

In December the Madras expedition, with Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive in command, arrived in Bengal. I shall now ask you to consider what these two men had to say on the subject and I will take Admiral Watson first. On the 17th December, 1756, he wrote to the Nawab as follows:—“The King my master (whose name is revered among the monarchs of the world) sent me to these parts with a great fleet to protect the East India Company’s trade, rights and privileges. The advantages resulting to the Mogul’s dominions from the extensive commerce carried on by my master’s subjects are too apparent to need enumerating. How great was my surprise therefore to be informed that you had marched against the said Company’s factories with a large army, and forcibly expelled their servants, seized and plundered their effects, amounting to a large sum of money, and killed great numbers of the King my master‘s subjects." There is nothing here about the Black Hole. On the 3rd January 1757, Admiral Watson declared war on the Nawab in the following terms:— "Whereas the President and Council for the affairs of the United Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies in Bengall have represented to me, that in consequence of the many hostilities and acts of violence committed against the servants of the said Company, His Majesty’s subjects, by the Subah of Bengal, Bahar and Orixa, and his officers to the great detriment of the Company, the ruin of many private people His Majesty's good subjects residing under their protection, many of whom have also been deprived of their live: in the most barbarous and inhuman manner,” and so forth. “Many of whom have also been deprived of their lives in the most barbarous and inhuman manner.” Do these words refer to the Black Hole tragedy? If so, it is strange that Admiral Watson was not more explicit. We should not expect to find such reticence in a declaration of war. We should not expect it from Admiral Watson at any time, for he was in the habit of using terribly plain language. I will give you two examples of this. On the 27th January he wrote to the Nawab:—“Your letter of the 23rd day of this month I have this day received. It has given me the greatest pleasure, as it informs me you had written to me before, a circumstance I am glad to be assured of under your hand, as the not answering my letter would have been such an affront as I could not have put up with without incurring the displeasure of the King my master.” Again on the 4th March he wrote to the Nawab in this strain:—“It is now time to speak plain, if you are really desirous of preserving your country in peace and your subjects from misery and ruin, in ten days from the date of this, fulfil your part of the treaty in every Article, that I may not have the least cause of complaint; otherwise, remember, you must answer for the consequences: and as I have always acted the open, unreserved part in all my dealings with you, I now acquaint you that the remainder of the troops which should have been here long since...will be at Calcutta in a few days; that in a few days more I shall dispatch a vessel for more ships and more troops: and that I will kindle such a flame in your country, as all the water in the Ganges shall not be able to extinguish. Farewel: remember that he promises you this, who never yet broke his word with you or with any man whatsoever."

It is the fashion to say that the Nawab was innocent in the matter of the Black Hole murders. Those who say this are merely repeating the statements of Holwell and Cooke, and this is but another instance of how they made truth serve the ends of falsehood. Those who use the argument have still to explain how the officers of the Nawab dared to disregard his known wishes with regard to the prisoners. The officers of the present Nawab Bahadur of Murshidabad would not dare to act in such a manner. But assuming that the Nawab had no direct responsibility for the crime could Admiral Watson have written to him in the following manner if he had not disavowed it and punished the guilty? “I call upon the Almighty,” wrote the Admiral, “whom we both worship, to bear witness against me and punish me, if I ever fail in observing to the utmost of my power every part of the treaty, concluded between yourself and the English nation, so long as you shall faithfully observe your part, which I make no doubt will be as long as you have life. What can I add more but my wishes, that your life may be long and crowned with all manner of prosperity?"

As a matter of fact I claim Admiral Watson as a witness on my side. He is not referring to the Black Hole tragedy at all but to the men who were killed at the time of the capture of the fort. He knew those men had been killed after the fort had been formally surrendered by its governor and put the worst construction on this. I have no doubt he learned subsequently that the slaughter had been a terrible mistake and had been stopped by the Nawab himself. If you are inclined to doubt this I will remove your doubt by showing that Mr. Pigot, Governor of Madras, used almost the same words as Admiral Watson—they are precisely similar in meaning— and plainly said he was referring to something that happened before the Nawab entered the fort. On the 14th October, 1756, he wrote to the Nawab:—“I received the letter you was pleased to write me on the 30th June advising me that it was not your intention to remove the mercantile business of the English Company out of the subah of Bengal, and at the same time I received information that all the Company's factories in the said province with their effects, amounting to several kerows had been seized by your people, also the effects of all the merchants who resided in the said settlements amounting to a great many lacks more, and I was further informed that the greatest part of the merchants were killed by your people in a cruel and barbarous manner beyond what can be described in writing." After relating how the English had enriched the province, how the Emperor had granted them certain privileges and how they had been treated by the Nawabs of Bengal he goes on “all that the Subahs, your predecessors, have done is nothing in comparison to what you have lately done. I should have been willing to have believed that the violence and cruelties exercised by your army against the English was without your knowledge but I find you commanded your army in person and after killing and murdering our people took possession of the Fort. The great commander of the King of England's ships has not slept in peace since this news and is come down with many ships, and I have sent a great Sardar, who will govern after me, by name Colonel Clive, with troops and land forces. Full satisfaction and restitution must be made for the losses we have sustained. You are wise: consider whether it is better to engage in a war that will never end or to do what is just and right in the sight of God: a great name is obtained by justice as well as by valour.” Were all the English in India of the tribe of Chadband?


Credit Charles Dickens for creating Rev. Mr. Chadband, a greedy preacher, in his 1853 novel “Bleak House”; hence, a chadband is an oily, hypocritical person.

-- Put on your Mae West, but try to avoid being a Chadband, by Bill & Rich Sones


I pass now to Clive and will first give you extracts from the family papers of the Earl of Powis. I had no difficulty whatever in obtaining these. The papers have been examined twice—first by Sir John Malcolm whose life of Clive was published in 1836 and recently they were examined again by Mr. Hill. The extracts I shall give were taken from Malcolm’s Life of Clive and Mr. Hill certifies they have been copied from the papers at Walcot. Before Clive left Madras he wrote to the Directors thus:—“From many hands you will hear of the capture of Calcutta by the Moors, and the chain of misfortune and losses which have happened to the Company in particular, and to the nation in general: every breast here seems filled with grief, horror, and resentment: indeed, it is too sad a tale to unfold, and I must beg leave to refer you to the general letters, consultations, and committees which will give you a full account of this catastrophe.” Apart from any Black Hole affair is this more than Clive should have said of the loss of the Company’s most flourishing settlement in India attended with the deaths of a great number of men and the infliction of great suffering and privation on the survivors? Writing to Mr. Mabbot he observes:—“Providence, who is the disposer of all events, has thought proper to inflict the greatest calamity that ever happened to the English nation in these parts; I mean the loss of Calcutta, attended with the greatest mortifications to the Company, and the most barbarous and cruel circumstances to the poor inhabitants.” In a letter to Mr. Roger Drake a gentleman then high in the Court of Directors, Clive writes, “A few weeks ago I was happily seated at St. Davids’s, pleased with the thoughts of obtaining your confidence and esteem, by my application to the civil branch of the Company’s affairs, and of improving and increasing the investment; but the fatal blow given to the Company’s estate at Bengal has superseded all other considerations, and I am now at this presidency upon the point of embarking on Buard His Majesty’s squadron, with a very considerable body of troops, to attempt the recovery of Calcutta and to gain satisfaction from the Nawab for the losses which the Company have sustained in those parts." In a letter to his father he wrote:—“It is not possible to describe the distresses of the inhabitants of this once opulent and populous town. It must be many years before it is restored to its former grandeur. It is computed the private losses amount to upwards of two millions sterling." In an earlier letter also Clive did not think it worth while to mention the Black Hole story to his father. Mr. Hill gives us another letter written by Clive to his father in which after describing his attack on the Nawab’s army early in February, 1757, he writes “This blow has obliged the Nawab to decamp and to conclude a peace very honorable and advantageous to the Company’s affairs." The day before Clive had written to the Secret Committee, London:—“I have little to observe on the terms obtained from the Nabob except that they are both honourable and advantageous for the Company." A British historian declares that no sufficient apology can be found for that treaty. “Peace was desirable,” he adds, “but even peace is bought too dearly when the sacrifice of national honour is the price.” The explanation is very simple. The historian was thinking of the Black Hole affair, Clive was not.

I will now give a different series of utterances by Clive which are not to be found in the family papers, but among the Orme Mss. Writing to the Nawab in December, 1756, he refers to “great numbers of the Company’s servants and other inhabitants inhumanly killed.” However, if the Nawab would make proper satisfaction for the losses sustained by the Company he would make Clive his sincere friend and get eternal honour for himself. On the 21st January, 1757, Clive wrote to Jagat Seth and clearly referred to the Black Hole incident:—“It would be unfolding a tale too horrible to repeat if I was to relate to you the horrid cruelties and barbarities inflicted upon an unfortunate people to whom the Nabob in a great part owes the riches and grandeur of his province. No less than 120 people, the greatest part of them gentlemen of family and distinction being put to an ignominious death in one night and in such a manner as was quite inconsistent with the character of a man of courage or humanity, such as I have always heard the Nabab represented to be, and for this reason I believe it must have been done without his knowledge.” After the battle of Plassey and when Siraj-ud-daula was dead Clive wrote a different version to the Emperor Alamgir Sani. Then he said. “The English, who as merchants were destitute of all implements of war, were easily defeated and Surajah Dowlat took and plundered Calcutta the 20th June 1756 and all the great men and other Englishmen that fell into his hands were by his orders suffocated in one night." Comment is needless. It must be remembered, however, that the standard of honour in the 18th century was not very high where politics were concerned. Twenty years had hardly passed since

Walpole talked of ‘a man and his price’;
Nobody’s virtue was over-nice.


Clive would have scorned to do for his own private benefit what he thought he was justified in doing for the good of the Company.

I have next to deal with the French and Dutch accounts of the capture of Calcutta. I will take the Dutch accounts first. The extracts I shall give were obtained by Mr. Hill from the archives at the Hague. On the 5th July the Dutch Council at Hugli wrote to the Supreme Council at Batavia thus:—“The whole world thought and expected that the Nawab would have knocked his head against such a strong place, but time has shown that the English defended themselves for three days only. A part of them fled in their ships down the river, and the rest, who did not perish by the sword, have fallen into the Nawab’s hands, and are bound in irons." We know that only four men were bound in irons. Therefore, according to this account the rest perished by the sword. It may be that this account absolutely accurate. In any case the error is a very trifling one. There were probably one or two prisoners who were not put in irons. The next account is that of the chief of the Dutch factory at Cossimbazar and is dated the 7th July, 1756. It runs thus:—“The Nawab in accordance with our letter of the 10th ultimo having left for Calcutta and arrived there on the evening of the 15th, has met with the same success as here; for after a five days’ investment he took the same, but, according to the testimony of everyone not by his tactful management or bravery, but rather owing to the ill-behaviour of the Governor Drake, who taking a good 200 picked soldiers with him left the fort, on pretext of attacking the enemy, but far from doing so, he embarked with those men, accompanied by the Commandants Messrs. Manningham and Frankland, after putting considerable treasure and all the women on board a few days before and dropped down the river leaving to the fury of the Nawab a number of brave men, among whom, when the fort was taken, a great carnage was wrought, but soon after put a stop to by the Prince." On the 24th November the Dutch Council at Hugli sent a reasonable account of the Black Hole tragedy to the Supreme Council at Batavia. “The rest who were taken prisoners at Calcutta,” they wrote, “have had, in the first fury, a dreadful time of it, about 160 prisoners being sent into the so-called Black Hole or Donkergat (Dark or Black Hole) in which there was not room for 40 prisoners, and there shut up. Thus they were trampled underfoot or suffocated, all but 15 or 16 who were brought out half dead next morning and being fettered were led by the Nawab in his suite in triumph to Muxadavad." In the following January the same Council, writing to the Assembly of Seventeen in Holland merely state that the Nawab treated the British who had fallen into his hands with great cruelty. How was it the Dutch Council at Hughli gave one account in July and a contradictory account in November? I think there is a simple explanation of this. Holwell was at Hugli in August. It was there that he compiled his first list of victims. He probably stayed with the Governor and must certainly have talked about the tragedy to him and the members of his Council. The result was that the Dutch changed their story. The numbers given in the Dutch account are not correct, but they approximate very closely to the figures which Holwell gave in his first account and subsequently corrected.

The French accounts of the capture of Calcutta are greater in number than the Dutch and more varied in character. Mr. Hill gives nine of the year 1756, and one dated 1757. Five of these, including one written by the Governor of Chandernagore, do not mention the tragedy. Another refers to the many jocular stories that were made up about the business. The first account that mentions the Black Hole incident was written on the 3rd July. The writer seems to have been under the impression that the affair lasted two days and gives some grotesque details on the authority of “an Englishman who survived this Hell.” I have shown elsewhere that this Englishman was, in all probability, Captain Mills who had arrived at Chandernagore a day or two before the letter was written. No further reference was made to the tragedy until October 8th. On that date a letter from Chandernagore contained the following extraordinary account:—“They put in prison more than 120 persons, men and women, and forgot them there for seven days at the end of which time when it was opened, only 14 came out alive, the rest were dead.” The prisoners, then, died of starvation. On the 16th December, 1756, the French Council at Chandernagore wrote an apparently reasonable account of the incident. They say that “the prisoners to the number of 200 having been hurriedly shut up in a warehouse were almost all suffocated in one night.” But were the Council thinking of the tragedy described by Holwell, or were they thinking of a fire? Mr. Hill found in the British Museum a French manuscript entitled. “Revolutions in Bengal”. It seems to have been written two years after the capture of Calcutta by a Frenchman of Chandernagore and contains the following account of the Black Hole affair:—"Night was approaching and the Moors wishing to make sure of their prisoners, shut them up hurriedly in a warehouse which caught fire. There were nearly 150 suffocated." M. Law also has something similar to this. He says:—“The Moors looked with pleasure on the scene of horror which was passing in the dungeon, for them it was a tamasha. To increase their pleasure the idea suggested itself to them of placing below, outside the window, a heap of damp straw to which they set fire. The outer air drove the smoke into the dungeon but the hopes of the Moors were deceived, they could see nothing more.” If the French Council were thinking of a fire, then the first reasonable French account of the tragedy is dated the 7th March, 1757, and came from the Isle of France (Mauritius I think). This relates that the defenders of the fort were made prisoners and thrown into a dungeon so small that the next morning 124 were suffocated.

I have placed before you all the contemporary evidence in favour of the Black Hole story. I will now give you three good reasons for rejecting that evidence.

(1) The story of the tragedy was, for many years, unknown to the people of of Bengal. In 1789, 33 years after the event was supposed to have occurred, the translator of the Seir Mutaqherin, not seeking to prove or disprove anything, but engaged in the task of annotating the historian he was translating, gave this evidence: "This much is certain, that this event...is not known in Bengal; and even in Calcutta, it is ignored by every man out of the four hundred thousand that inhabit that city: at least it is difficult to meet a single native that knows any thing of it; so careless and so incurious are those people.”
This silence of a whole people has hitherto been dismissed in summary fashion. The people were indifferent to the tragedy says one. Their mouthpieces, the historians, says another, were partial and suppressed the story. How can I meet these indictments of a whole nation? Will it be sufficient if I prove that when a real tragedy occurred the people were not silent and their historians recorded the event in their pages? Seven years after the capture of Calcutta another band of men of British birth became the prisoners of a Nawab of Bengal and he, maddened with defeat after defeat, wreaked his vengeance upon the helpless captives. Let the Muhammadan historian tell the story. “A few days after that, on hearing that the English had possessed themselves of the fortress of Monghyr by treason, his temper, soured by misfortunes and perfidies, broke all bounds: Incensed beyond measure at so unexpected a reverse, and mistrusting the future still more than the past, he gave orders to Sumro, the European, [The translator of the Seir Mutaqherin states that Sumro was a German.] to put to death all the prisoners of that nation; and that man, of a flint-like heart, without any regard to the ties which bound him to those unfortunates, who were of the same Christian religion with him, accepted the commission without horror, and without reluctance. That stony man repaired to the house, then called Hadji-ahmed’s, where those ill-fated people were confined,...and without the least hesitation, or the least remorse, he ordered all those unarmed men to be killed with musket balls. It is reported, that in such a moment of distress and perturbation, those unfortunate men, without losing courage marched up to their murderers, and, with empty bottles, and stones, and brickbats, fought them to the last man, until they were all killed." We seem to recognise our countrymen in that story but do we recognise them in the bowling, frenzied mob fighting with each other for water or for a place at the window and ruthlessly trampling down the weak? The translator adds a note which has a direct bearing on our subject. “The next year after that catastrophe,” he writes, “and it was in 1765, I remember to have seen, both at Benares, and at Moorshoodabad, three or four commanders, who had refused the commission with indignation. One of them, an elderly stout man with a large pair of whiskers, speaking to a company where I was, expressed himself in these words: I did not refuse to do it: no: I only desired the Nawab to give them swords and bucklers and that I would fight them then: but, as to killing prisoners disarmed that I will never do. Send your scavengers for that business.” This was the class of men whom Holwell, exonerating the Nawab, charged with the Black Hole murders. He declared that they revenged themselves in that manner for the number of their body who had been killed in the siege. A real tragedy, then, was talked about by the people of Bengal, and the story is recorded in the pages of their historians. They were silent about the Black Hole affair because they were ignorant of it and they were ignorant of it because there had been no tragedy. In the pages of their historians you will find the true story of the capture of Fort William.

(2) My second reason for rejecting the story is that the Bengal Council by their conduct ignored it and by their words contradicted it.
The Council unanimously agreed that before the capture of the fort the enemy destroyed a great many of their officers and private men. When the Council speak of their private men I do not think they are referring to the Dutch or the Armenians or to the topazes but to their own covenanted servants and “young men in the Settlement” who, Drake said, “entered as volunteers in the military doing duty in every respect as common soldiers." In their next letter the Council remove all doubt on this point. They said that most of their covenanted servants that died in the year 1756 “were killed at the taking of Fort William.” According to the Black Hole story, 12 officers and 23 of the covenanted servants of the Company died in the Black Hole. Further, in their letter of the 17th September, 1756, the Council unanimously agreed that the fort surrendered upon promise of civil treatment of the prisoners. How could they have left the matter there if the promise had been broken? In all their acts, too, they ignored the tragedy. In July they wrote to the principal ministers of the Nawab begging them to intercede for them. In August Major Kilpatrick was anxious that the Nawab should look upon him as a friend. It has been said that the necessities of their situation forced them to conceal their true feelings. There is no excuse for the statement. It has been said that they dissociated the Nawab from the crime. We have not their authority for this. But those who use these arguments must admit that when they came to an open rupture with the Nawab they had no necessity for concealment. When they declared war on the Nawab they would not nicely discriminate between his responsibility and that of his officers. They would have stated that on the night of the 20th June the Nawab had done to death over a hundred men in the Black Hole prison. In reality their declaration of war was milder than that of Admiral Watson. “Whereas the aforesaid Sirrajud Dowla," runs the document, "not satisfied with this violent proceeding and, without assigning any reason or even proposing any demands to us the President and Council, did sometime in the said month of June 1756 march towards Calcutta and Presidency of Fort William with a large army and train of artillery, attacked the said factory, took the fort, seized and plundered the effects of the Company and of the private inhabitants to a considerable amount, killed many of their servants both civil and military and expelled the few who escaped” and so forth. Surely common decency and the bonds of fellowship and nationality demanded that the Council, as a Council, should somewhere, at some time, have expressed their sorrow at the miserable deaths of the victims of the Black Hole tragedy, their detestation of the crime and their resentment against the perpetrators of it. They did none of these things. Contrast their conduct seven years afterwards when they were confronted with a real tragedy. When the news of the Patna massacre reached them they met together and passed this resolution:— “After reflecting with the most unfeigned sorrow and regret on this act of unparalleled and barbarous cruelty, which we have now no room left to doubt has been perpetrated at Patna by the emissaries of Cossim Aly Khan on the lives of our countrymen who were prisoners in his hands; although in the ordinary and usual calamities of war it becomes the business of the Heads of a Government to avoid shewing any marks of public concern which may be attended with the bad effects of depressing the spirits of a Colony, yet as the situation of our affairs is such as to give no occasion for apprehending any ill consequences to our public operations from a contrary conduct at this time, and the present calamity being in itself of so singular and heavy a nature, we think it highly proper to enter upon some public methods of manifesting to the world our concern on this occasion, as well because it is a necessary tribute to the memory of the unfortunate gentlemen who have thus fallen the victims of a horrid cruelty, as that it will serve to testify to the Natives of the country the sentiment we feel for the loss of our friends and imply our resolution of revenging their untimely fate. It is therefore agreed and ordered that a general deep mourning shall be observed in the settlement for the space of fourteen days to commence next Wednesday, the 2nd of November.

That the morning of that day shall be set apart and observed as a public fast and humiliation, and that intimation be accordingly given to the chaplains to be prepared with a sermon and forms of prayer suitable to the occasion.” They then order minute guns to be fired and proceed:—

“After paying this necessary duty to the memory of our countrymen, we are further agreed and determined to use all the means in our power for taking an ample revenge on the persons who may have been concerned in this horrid execution, and with a view of deterring in future all ranks and degrees of people from ordering or executing such acts of barbarity.

Resolved therefore that a Manifesto of the action be published throughout all the country, with a proclamation promising an immediate reward of a Lack of Rupees to any person or persons who shall seize and deliver up to us Cassim Aly Khan, and that he or they further receive such other marks of favour and encouragement as may be in our power to show in return for this act of public justice.

That an immediate reward of Rs. 40,000 shall be given to any person or persons who shall apprehend the Chief named Summereau and bring him a prisoner to us.”

Could the Council have called the massacre an act of unparalleled cruelty if a greater act of cruelty had been perpetrated seven years before? Would not that greater act of cruelty have recurred to their minds again and again and could they possibly have refrained from referring to it when they framed the above resolution? By this resolution alone the Black Hole story stands condemned.

(3) My third reason for rejecting the Black Hole story is the mass of evidence which proves that the men died fighting.
Most of the English evidence, but not quite all, will be found in my article in the Society’s Journal. The Dutch evidence I have read to you to-night. The French do not say very much on the point but it must be remembered they were enemies at the time. In addition, after the fall of Calcutta, the Nawab had forced them to pay 350,000 rupees and they blamed the English for this. In their opinion the English were cowards unworthy of the name of Europeans. But even the French were not silent and their evidence is all the more valuable. They testify to the procession of wounded men that passed by their factory on the 19th June and in their first account of the capture of the fort, written the day after the occurrence, they state that those who made no resistance were spared which implies that some did make resistance and were not spared. Governor Renault states that the English lost 200 men at the siege of Calcutta and the natural inference is that the men were lost under circumstances usually attending a siege. Another account says that when the Nawab’s troops broke into the fort they killed many of the English and still another relates that they killed all who tried to resist. Lastly we have the evidence of Persian historians. Two of these speak of the suicide of the defenders of the fort, but there is a general agreement on two points (1) men lost their lives (2) only a few became prisoners.

Test the Black Hole story by this evidence. Take the evidence most favourable to the story—that of Holwell. Holwell suppresses all reference to the men who were killed at the capture of the fort but he states, in four separate letters, that 25 men were killed and 70 wounded by noon of the 20th and those were among his best men. In my article in the Society’s Journal I have shown that these men must have been one officer, perhaps one foreigner, and perhaps a carpenter, a court serjeant, a farrier, another foreigner and a fiddler. [Two of the wounded (Talbot and Pickering) died the next day. The remaining 98 must have died in the Black Hole according to Holwell.] The rest must have been Dutch, Armenians and Portuguese. Difficulties such as this are no new discovery of mine. They were noted and pointed out on the 12th July, 1756, by the Dacca Council who wrote thus to the Court of Directors:—“The accounts we have vary much and are difficult to reconcile. All agree in this that many brave men died miserably whose lives might have been saved by the smallest degree of good conduct and resolution in their leaders." The accounts vary much and are difficult to reconcile; in fact, they cannot be reconciled and we must choose between them. We know the choice made by Richard Becher the chief of the Dacca factory. All agree in this that many brave men died. If you believe they perished in the Black Hole you must reject all this evidence. You must say with Stewart and Orme—“In this scene of confusion no resistance was made" or with Macaulay— "The fort was taken after a feeble resistance." But if you accept this evidence the Black Hole story disappears at once and brave men come to their own again for their deeds will no longer be obscured by

a lamentable tale of things
Done long ago, and ill done.


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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Wed Oct 28, 2020 5:35 am

Part 4 of 6

PROFESSOR E. F. Oaten:—

Investigation of disputed problems in modern history is seldom free from bias of some sort. The events of the last two hundred years are still comparatively near us; passions stirred up by those events, or passions of which those events were the outcome, are sometimes not allayed for centuries; and we are in regard to those events rarely free from the danger of consciously or unconsciously allowing our judgment to be swayed according as we are Whig or Tory, Radical or Conservative, Royalist or Republican, or bear any other of the various labels by which modern men have in politics been distinguished from their fellows of opposing schools of thought.

The history of British India is recent enough to provide numerous examples of this truism. Warren Hastings provides, of course, the classic example. In his case what should have been the clear river of history has been made muddy by two baleful influences, party feeling in England and race prejudice in India. For instance, whereas under the influence of English party prejudices Hastings’ character and actions were depicted in unfairly dark colours, there has been for some time a tendency which is exhibited, to take an example, in Forrest's introduction to the Consultations of 1772-85, and which is not unnatural in Englishmen writing of a great Englishman to whitewash his actions overmuch.

It is an unfortunate fact that in the question before us, there is a tendency, or rather an eagerness, to take sides on other than historical grounds. Now I entirely fail to understand this. Rather I would say, we all ought to be prejudiced—and in one direction. For the sake of our common humanity we ought to hope that the view which Mr. Little is championing will finally triumph.

In approaching the mystery of the Black Hole I confess myself frankly prejudiced. I want to be able to disbelieve the story. I want to have a real excuse for relegating Holwell’s Narrative to a museum of literary curiosities, side by side with fourteenth century Sir John Mandeville, the father of English sensation writers, as Sir George Birdwood calls him, or nineteenth century Louis de Rougemont. I want to disbelieve Holwell’s Narrative for the same reason as that for which I would, if I could, wipe off from the page of history the massacres of the ancient democrats of Corcyra, or, to come down to our time, the sinking of the Lusitania or the murder of Edith Cavell. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see the names of Mr. Little, Mr. Akshay Kumar Maitra, and other gentlemen, who have ere this whispered their suspicions of Holwell’s Narrative, flame across the Historical Reviews of Europe and America as authors of the most remarkable and valuable discovery in the realm of British Indian historical research. For there are certain happenings of the past the mere memory of which brands and sears the sensitive places of our common human nature; history, too, places, as Germany will yet discover, certain dreadful barriers between nations and races, which only time can remove. For this reason, I should regard any one who could prove that Holwell’s Narrative is a tissue of lies as one of the truest servants of our Indian land; but for the same reason I would enter a caution against the subject being too frequently dragged to light, and made a topic of newspaper controversy in a land such as modern India, unless the cogency of the aggressive argument is indubitable, or new evidence can be adduced. It is emphatically not a matter for leading articles in newspapers, or for polemic letters from politicians and professors, however distinguished.

Prejudiced though I am in favour of Mr. Little’s hypothesis, I am as yet quite unable to go all the way with him. Mr. Little and his supporters must not forget that they are in the position of assailants and not of defenders; the current view of the Black Hole incident has been practically unchallenged, even from the very beginning, for a hundred and fifty years; and the orthodox historians are not likely to yield the fort except in the face of overwhelming artillery. That Mr. Little, by his skilful selection and marshalling of the evidence contained in Hill’s Records and other documents of the time, has seriously weakened the conviction with which most of us hold the received story, is, I take it, indubitable. Before however he can claim to have destroyed the received story, and ask us, as he does, to execrate Messrs. Cooke, Holwell and Co., he has to establish indubitably the main props of his argument, to face all possible objections, and perhaps new evidence, which, if sought for, may come to light, and get the subject at least considered and pronounced upon by trained minds in Europe and America. In other words, there remains a good deal of bombardment yet to be done. I am of opinion that Mr. Little, though he has been able to gall the garrison with a very disturbing rifle and machine-gun fire, has failed as yet to bring up those seventeen-inch howitzers which the capture of most forts to-day seems to demand. The question is: Is his theory the only possible explanation of the facts? And can he explain every new difficulty to which his theories, if true, give rise? I cannot in a short paper deal exhaustively with Mr. Little’s views; I shall mention merely one or two points on which I disagree with his views, or on which I should like fuller conviction that he is right.

One of the shots which Mr. Little may, perhaps, fairly consider to be heavy ammunition, is his attempt to show that Holwell was a scoundrel. Perhaps he was; from the point of view of our 20th century morality a good many of the eighteenth century folk both in India and in England were. Mr. Little has succeeded in proving that Holwell was not above current morality of the time. It may be he has proved that he was below it. I do not, however, dwell on this point, because I consider it comparatively unimportant; the Black Hole question is not solely a question of Holwell’s veracity; it is, as I shall mention presently, the question of the veracity of a considerable number of people. But I must enter a protest against any attempt to discredit Holwell on the ground that he did not know Sanscrit in the middle of the eighteenth century. How was Holwell to know that a mixture of colloquial Bengali and Hindustani was not the ancient language of India? Cleverer men than Holwell have been deceived by wily pundits not averse to fooling the inquisitive sahib and making a little money thereby.

However, suppose we admit that Holwell was not the bright unsullied character of certain history books. We reach the position that Holwell, given sufficient motive, was ready to deceive and even forge. What sufficient motive has Mr. Little provided to bind together Holwell and his twenty-two or twenty-three companion-survivors in a conspiracy of silence, nay, more, in a conspiracy of misrepresentation? First what did Holwell get out of it? Which is the noble figure, Holwell inspiring the garrison to a resistance so desperate that only twenty-three prisoners were taken, or Holwell escaping death in the Black Hole by an admitted fight for the window with his gasping and often weaker fellow men, Holwell clinging to the bars while a woman lay gasping (presumably) in the interior of the prison? What possible motive could have bound together Messrs. Cooke and Lushington, Captains Mills and Dickson, Holwell, Court, and Burdet, and fourteen seamen and soldiers in backing up so fearful a story? It is one of the weaknesses of Mr. Little’s attack that he omits to provide any adequate motive to explain why so many men should have joined in concocting and backing a story so singularly unheroic. For by the nature of things in the Black Hole the survivors were those who most successfully fought and trod their fellow creatures to death. Judged by our standards of today (though we should be on our guard against such judgment) to have survived the Black Hole was rather disgrace than glory. I have never been able to see Holwell in the Black Hole as a hero; one might as well consider as heroes those struggling wretches, victims of a wreck, who clasp their fellow victims in the water in one last sub-conscious attempt to seize something solid, till they sink together in the embrace of death.

Suppose, however, Mr. Little provides us with a motive powerful enough to cause all the survivors of the attack upon the Calcutta Fort to spread the story of the Black Hole, though they never suffered it. This implies at least that Holwell and the leading survivors agreed to concoct a tale. If that is so, why did their accounts differ? If the various accounts were various impressions of a real event, it would be perfectly natural that they should differ; but why could not the concocters agree as to the kind of story which they should spread abroad? Why did Holwell in his first official letter of July 17th put 170 people in the Black Hole, and only allow 16 to escape? Why did Mills put 144 in, and save twenty-four of them? Why did Secretary Cooke’s notes, from which he gave his evidence before the Parliamentary Committee, in 1772, put “near 150 souls” in, and rescue only 22? Why did Holwell tell Sykes at Cossimbazar, on the 8th July, as he passed as a prisoner on his way to Murshidabad, that 160 went into the Hole, and 110 came out dead. “And that all night the Nabob’s people kept firing at them through the door." (I would enter a “caveat,” however, against much reliance of any kind upon this report by Sykes of Holwell’s statements, since Sykes says that “the 20th and 21st they fought all day and night.” Holwell could not have written or said this.)

Why did Holwell eventually reduce his numbers on August 3rd to 146 in the Hole, and 123 dead? Does it not seem possible that the first accounts were the excited and inaccurate impressions of men who had passed through a fearful experience, and that Holwell, as he became calmer and thought and talked about the matter, had somewhat to alter his numbers and statements? I cannot but feel that the differing accounts given of the tragedy are some testimony to its truth. Had the narratives agreed in unessential details, there would then have been strong ground for suspicion. There are, I know, other suggested explanations, less favourable to the alleged victims; but if they are true, the new difficulty is raised that the most gigantic and successful hoax in history was successfully perpetrated by the most arrant set of clumsy bunglers imaginable. In any case, an exhaustive and close hypothetical narration of the genesis and growth of the legend, which creates no new difficulties, is a desideratum.

The most important part of Mr. Little’s argument is his attempt to prove that the English in the Fort made such a desperate final resistance on the 20th June that there were not enough survivors left to make up Holwell’s Black Hole numbers.

 In proof of this final desperate resistance, he quotes:—

1. Ghulam Husain Khan, a gossipy writer who certainly cannot be relied upon in any matter of doubt. He wrote 25 years later.

2. Captain Grant, who deserted on the 19th June, and was not in the Fort during the last resistance. If he may be quoted as an authority for this, he may also be quoted as an authority for the Black Hole, which (13th July) he also describes.

3. Mr. Grey, Junior. He was in the Fort on the last day, till it was taken, and then escaped by the river. He is the latest of the witnesses except Holwell. We learn from him that, on the 20th, several men including one officer, Captain Smith, was killed, and several officers were wounded. He tells us nothing of a desperate final resistance: on the contrary, when the officers were out of sight, the men “skulked and would not go up." “About four o’clock in the afternoon, the enemy called out to us not to fire in consequence of which the Governor shewed a flag of truce, and gave orders for us not to fire." “At the time the fort was taken, there was not above the number of twenty men upon the walls. The greatest part of the soldiers were drunk.” I find no evidence here of a desperate final resistance, in which most of the officers and writers fell. We may notice in passing that Grey also accepts the Black Hole story.

4. Holwell, who admits 25 killed, and 70 wounded, “of the best men.” This leaves an insoluble difficulty if we regard “best men” as meaning officers and writers; but surely it means what it says, men. We get over the patent difficulty that no officers were killed besides Smith when we remember Cooke’s evidence before Parliament, that twelve wounded officers went into the Black Hole. And if the London Chronicle letter be adduced to prove that some of the alleged victims like Blagg and Baillie perished fighting, the defender of the orthodox view will reply:—

(a) In a scene of such horror as the fall of the fort memory plays strange tricks. And how was the writer, who was presumably doing his duty fighting, to know whether a writer or an officer whom he saw fall, was killed or only wounded?

(b) Who is to be believed, Holwell, and Cooke giving evidence before Parliament, or an anonymous newspaper correspondent? And if you accept that part of the evidence of the anonymous newspaper correspondent, which suits you, can you reject that part which you don’t like, namely his testimony that “170 of us were crammed into a hole,” and only 16 were alive next morning?

5. Drake, and William Lindsay, both of whom left the Fort on the 19th June.

6. William Tooke, who fled with the Governor on the 19th. Thus, of Mr. Little’s witnesses to the alleged last desperate defence, only three stayed till the taking of the fort. Of these, one declares that the soldiers were drunk, and that only twenty were on the walls at the last rush; another is anonymous; and the third is Holwell, Mr. Little being in the unfortunate position of having to make him his best witness. All these testify to the Black Hole story, and two say they were actually in the Black Hole.

I am forced reluctantly to the conclusion that the attractive argumentum ad hominem, the picture so attractive to Englishmen, of Englishmen resisting to the death and dying gloriously on the bastions as English officers know how to die so gloriously, that there were not enough left to fill the Black Hole, needs more convincing testimony, if it is to be one of the main props of Mr. Little’s theory. I am far from saying it is false; I have a leaning towards faith in it; but it is so important a part of the foundations of his theory, that the fact must be placed beyond a doubt.

There are numerous other points I should like to take up in Mr. Little’s argument. But I must restrict myself to one or two.

Mr. Little’s view is that a month or two after the Fort was captured it was generally recognised by the Council and most thinking men that Holwell was the biggest liar in existence; but that for the credit of the Company, and because the tale of the Black Hole might have its uses, people, including the other members of the Council, tacitly agreed not to show him up, though they refrained from giving the story confirmation by an official account to the Directors. The absence of an official account is curious: but surely the sending home of five separate accounts of the fall of the Fort partly explains it; Holwell, being the only member of the Council of Fulta, who was in the Black Hole, would naturally be the only one to spend any time on the subject. The members of the Council at Fulta were too busy attacking one another on far more important topics. Why should we assume that their inability to agree upon the Black Hole question was the reason why they were unable to send home a joint report? The fact that the four of the members of Council who do not mention the story also sent home separate accounts, shows that the Councillors’ points of difference involved quite other questions than the precise way in which Baillie and other Company’s servants died. At the same time, I do not wish unduly to minimise the significance of the absence of an official account. And yet it is worth while asking whether the following extract from the letter of the Council, Fort William, to the Court of Directors, dated 31st January 1757, does not constitute at least official recognition of the story within seven months of the event: "Our chaplains having both demised, Mr. Gervas Bellamy in the Black Hole......we have appointed the Reverend Mr. Cobbe our chaplain etc.” This casual reference, which certainly is official testimony to the story, was made in a letter signed by Drake, Kilpatrick, Becher, Pearkes, Frankland, and Macket. Holwell was not a signatory, so that the Council’s recognition of the story was not due to him.

In any case, Mr. Little is not, in my opinion, entitled so easily to dismiss the testimony of Clive and Pigott. His view is that at the time it was recognised by the leading Englishmen of the day that Holwell was a liar, and that Black Hole story was a myth. He is not entitled to disregard the following words, written by Clive to the Mogul Emperor: “Surajah Dowlat took and plundered Calcutta the 20th June, and all the great men and other Englishmen that fell into his hands were by his orders suffocated in one night." (30 July, 1757). Pigott too, on the 14th October, 1756, wrote to Suraja Dowlah, thus: “I was further informed that the greatest part of the merchants were killed by your people in a cruel and barbarous manner beyond what can be described in writing." It is true, as Mr. Little says, that these letters were written to Indians for a political purpose, but one of them was the greatest of all Indians. I am not yet convinced that the great men of Bengal knew at the time that the Black Hole story was an invention of Holwell. If it had been general knowledge in high places, I believe that Orme the historian, would have learnt enough of the truth to make him minimise the story in his History, or exclude it altogether. I do not believe, in short, that a secret, known on Mr. Little’s hypothesis to so many, could possibly have remained a secret for ever, especially in fierce years of party controversy that followed.

We may admit, and gladly admit, that Holwell, through ignorance or forgetfulness of the concluding features of the struggle, placed some people, like Blagg, in the Black Hole, who died honourably outside it. Reduction of the number to nine, of whom three died of their wounds, is an attractive theory, but surely as yet scarcely a matter for historical assertion.

If Mr. Little is right, we are face to face with a stupid and enormous hoax. It is extremely difficult to believe that if Mr. Little’s assertions are correct, no hint exists in the periodical literature of the last hundred years, except the “Calcutta Review" (reference to the “said catastrophe of the so-called Black Hole.” (1856). If Mr. Little can discover more such sceptical references in journals, say between 1757 and 1800, in India or England, he would remove one of the greatest difficulties in the way of accepting his position. Otherwise, one cannot but be reminded of the Americanism: “You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time; but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”

Thus it remains for Mr. Little to—

1. Suggest a motive adequate to causing twenty people or more to bolster up a fearful tale of suffering, and three or four men of outward respectability to give written testimony to it.

2. Prove that Mills and Cooke were active liars and scoundrels, and Lushington, Court, Burdet, and the rest of them were at least passive ones. It is scarcely enough to prove only that Holwell was dishonest.

3. Prove incontrovertibly his theory of the fierceness of the final struggle, especially the numerous killings of officers and writers at the final rush.

4. Search for evidence, which may possibly exist, to show that people were sceptical, in India or in England, say between 1760 and 1800. Surely, if the twenty-three survivors, and all the leading men of Bengal knew the story was a fraud, some reference to the fact must have crept into newspapers or reviews before 1856.

I by no means assert that all these four tasks are beyond Mr. Little’s powers. I merely throw out the suggestions as lines along which further pressure may usefully be applied when he has leisure. Some of us who, dreading the unknown, hesitate to abandon the old familiar landmarks, feel that, detest and hate the orthodox story as we may, we cannot throw aside history which has stood for a hundred and fifty years unchallenged, unless certain points of difficulty which remain are fully cleared up. In other words a good deal of work yet remains to be done. We all ought to hope that it will be successfully accomplished.

***

THE HON'BLE MR. E.J. MONAHAN:--

Observed that one or two of Professor Oaten’s observations seemed to him rather like begging the question.

In classical rhetoric and logic, begging the question or assuming the conclusion is an informal fallacy that occurs when an argument's premises assume the truth of the conclusion, instead of supporting it. It is a type of circular reasoning: an argument that requires that the desired conclusion be true. This often occurs in an indirect way such that the fallacy's presence is hidden, or at least not easily apparent.

-- Begging the Question, by Wikipedia


Professor Oaten spoke of the account of the Black Hole being the orthodox view and accepted history. That was not a position which could be safely taken up in a discussion of this kind. The burden of proof in this matter did not lie on one side more than on the other. Anyone who wished the story of the Black Hole to be believed must produce the evidence or refer to the evidence in favour of it. The speaker was not prepared to go into the evidence in detail. Not very long ago he went through the records which were published by Professor Hill and compared them with considerable care, and he supposed there was room for two opinions on the subject, but, personally he was entirely unable to understand how anyone could find in those records satisfactory evidence of the truth of the Black Hole story, or satisfactory evidence that the incident of the Black Hole as described by Holwell or any incident similar in kind and dimensions ever took place. They had official documents in which they would expect to find the incident referred to if it had really happened, and to him it seemed almost incredible that there should have been no record of it in those documents if it was a real occurrence. Then they had discrepancies and improbabilities in the different accounts, and the various explanations that had been put forward to account for them, seemed to him entirely inadequate and unconvincing.

At the same time the man who tried to prove that the Black Hole incident did not occur was met by certain difficulties. Mr. Little had put forward a theory to account for Holwell’s motive in inventing the story to the effect that it was a story which accounted for the deaths of a number of people who really lost their lives in the defence of Calcutta. But then they had to ask themselves why Clive accepted the story. His theory was that as Holwell had a private motive, Clive had a political and patriotic motive for making public opinion hostile to the Nawab. Hence Clive’s acquiescence in Holwell’s story. He (the speaker) would say that while the “orthodox" historians’ view rested on extremely weak evidence, it had not been conclusively proved that the story was false.

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