Three Frenchmen in Bengal
S.C. Hill

Part 1 out of 3

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BENGAL, 1756 (_After Rennell_.)]





S.C. HILL, B.A., B.Sc.







This account of the commercial ruin of the French Settlements, taken
almost entirely from hitherto unpublished documents, originated as
follows. Whilst engaged in historical research connected with the
Government Records in Calcutta, I found many references to the
French in Bengal which interested me strongly in the personal side
of their quarrel with the English, but the information obtainable
from the Indian Records alone was still meagre and incomplete. A few
months ago, however, I came across Law's Memoir in the British
Museum; and, a little later, when visiting Paris to examine the
French Archives, I found not only a copy of Law's Memoir, but also
Renault's and Courtin's letters, of which there are, I believe, no
copies in England. In these papers I thought that I had sufficient
material to give something like an idea of Bengal as it appeared to
the French when Clive arrived there. There is much bitterness in
these old French accounts, and much misconception of the English,
but they were written when misconception of national enemies was the
rule and not the exception, and when the rights of non-belligerents
were little respected in time of war. Some of the accusations I have
checked by giving the English version, but I think that, whilst it
is only justice to our Anglo-Indian heroes to let the world know
what manner of men their opponents were, it is equally only justice
to their opponents to allow them to give their own version of the
story. This is my apology, if any one should think I allow them to
say too much.

The translations are my own, and were made in a state of some
perplexity as to how far I was bound to follow my originals--the
writings of men who, of course, were not literary, and often had not
only no pretension to style but also no knowledge of grammar. I have
tried, however, to preserve both form and spirit; but if any reader
is dissatisfied, and would like to see the original papers for
himself, the courtesy of the Record officials in both Paris and
London will give him access to an immense quantity of documents as
interesting as they are important.

In the various accounts that I have used there are naturally
slightly different versions of particular incidents, and often
it is not easy to decide which is the correct one. Under the
circumstances I may perhaps be excused for not always calling
attention to discrepancies which the reader will detect for himself.
He will also notice that the ground covered in one narrative is
partly traversed in one or both of the others. This has been due to
the necessity of treating the story from the point of view of each
of the three chief actors.

I may here mention that the correspondence between Clive and the
princes of Bengal, from which I have given some illustrative
passages, was first seen by me in a collection of papers printed in
1893 in the Government of India Central Printing Office, Calcutta,
under the direction of Mr. G.W. Forrest, C.I.E. These papers have
not yet been published, but there exists a complete though slightly
different copy of this correspondence in the India Office Library
(Orme MSS. India XI.), and it is from the latter copy that I have,
by permission, made the extracts here given. The remaining English
quotations, when not from printed books, have been taken chiefly
from other volumes of the Orme MSS., a smaller number from the
Bengal and Madras Records in the India Office, and a few from MSS.
in the British Museum or among the Clive papers at Walcot, to which
last I was allowed access by the kindness of the Earl of Powis.

Finally, I wish to express my thanks to M. Omont of the Bibliotheque
Nationale, Paris, to Mr. W. Foster of the Record Department of the
India Office, and to Mr. J.A. Herbert of the British Museum, for
their kind and valuable assistance.


_September_ 6, 1903.









(_After Rennell_) _Frontispiece_

face page_








Writing in 1725, the French naval commander, the Chevalier d'Albert,
tells us that the three most handsome towns on the Ganges were
Calcutta, Chandernagore, and Chinsurah, the chief Factories of the
English, French, and Dutch. These towns were all situated within
thirty miles of each other. Calcutta, the latest founded, was the
greatest and the richest, owing partly to its situation, which
permitted the largest ships of the time to anchor at its quays, and
partly to the privilege enjoyed by the English merchants of trading
freely as individuals through the length and breadth of the land.
Native merchants and native artisans crowded to Calcutta, and the
French and Dutch, less advantageously situated and hampered by
restrictions of trade, had no chance of competing with the English
on equal terms. The same was of course true of their minor
establishments in the interior. All three nations had important
Factories at Cossimbazar (in the neighbourhood of Murshidabad, the
Capital of Bengal) and at Dacca, and minor Factories at Jugdea or
Luckipore, and at Balasore. The French and Dutch had also Factories
at Patna. Besides Calcutta, Chandernagore, and Chinsurah, the only
Factory which was fortified was the English Factory at Cossimbazar.

During the long reign of the usurper, Aliverdi Khan,[1] that strong
and politic ruler enforced peace among his European guests, and
forbade any fortification of the Factories, except such as was
necessary to protect them against possible incursions of the
Marathas, who at that time made periodical attacks on Muhammadans
and Hindus alike to enforce the payment of the _chauth_,[2] or
blackmail, which they levied upon all the countries within their
reach. In Southern India the English and French had been constantly
at war whenever there was war in Europe, but in Bengal the strength
of the Government, the terror of the Marathas, and the general
weakness of the Europeans had contrived to enforce a neutrality.
Still there was nothing to guarantee its continuance if the fear of
the native Government and of the Marathas were once removed, and if
any one of the three nations happened to find itself much stronger
than the others. The fear of the Marathas had nearly disappeared,
but that of the Government still remained. However, it was not till
more than sixty years after the foundation of Calcutta that there
appeared any possibility of a breach of peace amongst the Europeans
in Bengal. During this time the three Factories, Calcutta always
leading, increased rapidly in wealth and importance. To the
Government they were already a cause of anxiety and an object of
greed. Even during the life of Aliverdi Khan there were many of his
counsellors who advised the reduction of the status of Europeans to
that of the Armenians, i.e. mere traders at the mercy of local
officials; but Aliverdi Khan, whether owing to the enfeeblement of
his energies by age or to an intelligent recognition of the value of
European commerce, would not allow any steps to be taken against the
Europeans. Many stories are told of the debates in his _Durbar_[3]
on this subject: according to one, he is reported to have compared
the Europeans to bees who produce honey when left in peace, but
furiously attack those who foolishly disturb them; according to
another he compared them to a fire[4] which had come out of the sea
and was playing harmlessly on the shore, but which would devastate
the whole land if any one were so imprudent as to anger it. His
wisdom died with him, and in April, 1756, his grandson,
Siraj-ud-daula, a young man of nineteen,[5] already notorious for
his debauchery and cruelty, came to the throne. The French--who, of
all Europeans, knew him best, for he seems to have preferred them to
all others--say his chief characteristics were cruelty, rapacity,
and cowardice. In his public speeches he seemed to be ambitious of
military fame. Calcutta was described to him as a strong fortress,
full of wealth, which belonged largely to his native subjects, and
inhabited by a race of foreigners who had grown insolent on their
privileges. As a proof of this, it was pointed out that they had not
presented him with the offerings which, according to Oriental
custom, are the due of a sovereign on his accession. The only
person who dared oppose the wishes of the young Nawab was his
mother,[6] but her advice was of no avail, and her taunt that he, a
soldier, was going to war upon mere traders, was equally
inefficacious. The records of the time give no definite information
as to the tortuous diplomacy which fanned the quarrel between him
and the English, but it is sufficiently clear that the English
refused to surrender the son of one of his uncle's _diwans_,[7] who,
with his master's and his father's wealth, had betaken himself to
Calcutta. Siraj-ud-daula, by the treacherous promises of his
commanders, made himself master of the English Factory at
Cossimbazar without firing a shot, and on the 20th of June, 1756,
found himself in possession of Fort William, the fortified Factory
of Calcutta.[8] The Governor, the commandant[9] of the troops, and
some two hundred persons of lesser note, had deserted the Fort
almost as soon as it was actually invested, and Holwell, one of the
councillors, an ex-surgeon, and the gallant few who stood by him and
continued the defence, were captured, and, to the number of 146,
cast into a little dungeon,[10] intended for military offenders,
from which, the next morning, only twenty-three came out alive. The
English took refuge at Fulta, thirty miles down the river, where the
Nawab, in his pride and ignorance, left them unmolested. There they
were gradually reinforced from Madras, first by Major Kilpatrick,
and later on by Colonel Clive and Admiral Watson. About the same
time both French and English learned that war had been declared in
Europe between England and France in the previous May, but, for
different reasons, neither nation thought the time suitable for
making the fact formally known.

Towards the end of December the English, animated by the desire of
revenge and of repairing their ruined fortunes, advanced on
Calcutta, and on the 2nd of January, 1757, the British flag again
floated over Fort William. The Governor, Manik Chand, was, like many
of the Nawab's servants, a Hindu. Some say he was scared away by a
bullet through his turban; others, that he was roused from the
enjoyment of a _nautch_--a native dance--by the news of the arrival
of the English.[11] Hastening to Murshidabad, he reported his
defeat, and asserted that the British they had now to deal with were
very different from those they had driven from or captured in

The English were not satisfied with recovering Calcutta. They wished
to impress the Nawab, and so they sent a small force to Hugli, which
lies above Chandernagore and Chinsurah, stormed the Muhammadan fort,
burnt the town, and destroyed the magazines, which would have
supplied the Nawab's army in an attack on Calcutta. The inhabitants
of the country had never known anything so terrible as the big guns
of the ships, and the Nawab actually believed the men-of-war could
ascend the river and bombard him in his palace at Murshidabad.
Calling on the French and Dutch for aid, which they refused, he
determined to try his fortune a second time at Calcutta. At first,
everything seemed the same as on the former occasion: the native
merchants and artisans disappeared from the town; but it was not as
he thought, out of fear, but because the English wished to have them
out of the way, and so expelled them. Except for the military camp
to the north of the city, where Clive was stationed with his little
army, the town lay open to his attack. Envoys from Calcutta soon
appeared asking for terms, and the Nawab pretended to be willing to
negotiate in order to gain time while he outflanked Clive and seized
the town. Seeing through this pretence Watson and Clive thought it
was time to give him a lesson, and, on the morning of the 5th of
February, in the midst of a dense fog, Clive beat up his quarters.
Though Clive had to retire when the whole army was roused, the
slaughter amongst the enemy had been immense; and though he
mockingly informed the Nawab that he had been careful to "injure
none but those who got in his way," the Nawab himself narrowly
escaped capture. The action, however, was in no sense decisive. Most
of the Nawab's military leaders were eager to avenge their disgrace,
but some of the chief nobles, notably his Hindu advisers,
exaggerated the loss already incurred and the future danger, and
advised him to make peace. In fact, the cruelty and folly of the
Nawab had turned his Court into a nest of traitors. With one or two
exceptions there was not a man of note upon whom he could rely, and
he had not the wit to distinguish the faithful from the unfaithful.
Accordingly he granted the English everything they asked for--the
full restoration of all their privileges, and restitution of all
they had lost in the sack of Calcutta. As the English valued their
losses at several hundreds of thousands, and the Nawab had found
only some L5000 in the treasury of Fort William, it is clear that
the wealth of Calcutta was either sunk in the Ganges or had fallen
as booty into the hands of the Moorish soldiers.

Siraj-ud-daula, though he did not yet know it, was a ruined man when
he returned to his capital. His only chance of safety lay in one of
two courses--either a loyal acceptance of the conditions imposed by
the English or a loyal alliance with the French against the English.
From the Dutch he could hope for nothing. They were as friendly to
the English as commercial rivals could be. They had always declared
they were mere traders and would not fight, and they kept their
word. After the capture of Calcutta the Nawab had exacted heavy
contributions from both the French and Dutch; but France and England
were now at war, and he thought it might be possible that in these
circumstances the restoration of their money to the French and the
promise of future privileges might win them to his side. He could
not, however, decide finally on either course, and the French were
not eager to meet him. They detested his character, and they
preferred, if the English would agree, to preserve the old
neutrality and to trade in peace. Further, they had received no
supplies of men or money for a long time; the fortifications of
Chandernagore, i.e. of Fort d'Orleans, were practically in ruins,
and the lesser Factories in the interior were helpless. Their
military force, for attack, was next to nothing: all they could
offer was wise counsel and brave leaders. They were loth to offer
these to a man like the Nawab against Europeans, and he and his
Court were as loth to accept them. Unluckily for the French,
deserters from Chandernagore had served the Nawab's artillery when
he took Calcutta, and it was even asserted that the French had
supplied the Nawab with gunpowder; and so when the English heard of
these new negotiations, they considered the proposals for a
neutrality to be a mere blind; they forgot the kindness shown by the
French to English refugees at Dacca, Cossimbazar, and Chandernagore,
and determined that, as a permanent peace with the Nawab was out of
the question, they would, whilst he hesitated as to his course of
action, anticipate him by destroying the one element of force which,
if added to his power, might have made him irresistible. They
continued the negotiations for a neutrality on the Ganges only until
they were reinforced by a body of 500 Europeans from Bombay, when
they sent back the French envoys and exacted permission from the
Nawab to attack Chandernagore. Clive marched on that town with a
land force of 4000 Europeans and Sepoys, and Admiral Watson
proceeded up the river with a small but powerful squadron.

Thus began the ruin of the French in Bengal. The chief French
Factories were, as I have said, at Chandernagore, Cossimbazar, and
Dacca. The Chiefs of these Factories were M. Renault, the Director
of all the French in Bengal; M. Law, a nephew of the celebrated Law
of Lauriston, the financier; and M. Courtin. It is the doings and
sufferings of these three gallant men which are recorded in the
following chapters. They had no hope of being able to resist the
English by themselves, but they hoped, and actually believed, that
France would send them assistance if they could only hold out till
it arrived. Renault, whose case was the most desperate, perhaps
thought that the Nawab would, in his own interest, support him if
the English attacked Chandernagore; but knowing the Nawab as well as
he did, and reflecting that he had himself refused the Nawab
assistance when he asked for it, his hope must have been a feeble
one. Still he could not, with honour, give up a fortified position
without attempting a defence, and he determined to do his best. When
he failed, all that Law and Courtin could expect to do was to
maintain their personal liberty and create a diversion in the north
of Bengal when French forces attacked it in the south. It was not
their fault that the attack was never made.

I shall make no mention of the fate of the Factories at Balasore and
Jugdea. At these the number of Frenchmen was so very small that
resistance and escape were equally hopeless. Patna lay on the line
of Law's retreat, and, as we shall see, he was joined by the
second and other subordinate officers of that Factory. The chief, M.
de la Bretesche, was too ill to be moved, but he managed, by the
assistance of his native friends, to secure a large portion of the
property of the French East India Company, and so to finance Law
during his wanderings.


[Footnote 1: Aliverdi Khan entered Muxadavad or Murshidabad as a
conqueror on the 30th of March, 1742. He died on the 10th of April,
1756. (_Scrafton_.)]

[Footnote 2: Literally the fourth part of the Revenues. The Marathas
extorted the right to levy this from the Emperor Aurengzebe, and
under pretext of collecting it they ravaged a large portion of

[Footnote 3: Court, or Court officials and nobles.]

[Footnote 4: Such fires are mentioned in many Indian legends. In the
"Arabian Nights" we read of a demon changing himself into a flaming

[Footnote 5: His age is stated by some as nineteen, by others as
about twenty-five. See note, p. 66.]

[Footnote 6: Amina Begum.]

[Footnote 7: _Diwan_, i.e. Minister or Manager.]

[Footnote 8: The English at Dacca surrendered to the Nawab of that
place, and were afterwards released. Those at Jugdea and Balasore
escaped direct to Fulta.]

[Footnote 9: Captain George Minchin.]

[Footnote 10: Known in history as the Black Hole of Calcutta.]

[Footnote 11: Both stories may be true. Manik Chand was nearly
killed at the battle of Budge Budge by a bullet passing through his
turban, and the incident of the _nautch_ may have happened at
Calcutta, where he certainly showed less courage.]

[Illustration: FORT D'ORLEANS, CHANDERNAGORE, 1749. (_Mouchet._)]



The French East India Company was founded in 1664, during the
ministry of M. Colbert. Chandernagore, on the Ganges, or rather that
mouth of it now known as the River Hugli, was founded in 1676; and
in 1688 the town and territory were ceded to France by the Emperor
Aurengzebe. I know of no plan of Chandernagore in the 17th century,
and those of the 18th are extremely rare. Two or three are to be
found in Paris, but the destruction of the Fort and many of the
buildings by the English after its capture in 1757, and the decay of
the town after its restoration to the French, owing to diminished
trade, make it extremely difficult to recognize old landmarks. The
Settlement, however, consisted of a strip of land, about two leagues
in length and one in depth, on the right or western bank of the
Hugli. Fort d'Orleans lay in the middle of the river front. It was
commenced in 1691, and finished in 1693.[12] Facing the north was
the Porte Royale, and to the east, or river-side, was the Water
Gate. The north-eastern bastion was known as that of the Standard,
or Pavillon. The north-western bastion was overlooked by the Jesuit
Church, and the south-eastern by the Dutch Octagon. This last
building was situated on one of a number of pieces of land which,
though within the French bounds, belonged to the Dutch before the
grant of the imperial charter, and which the Dutch had always
refused to sell. The Factory buildings were in the Fort itself. To
the west lay the Company's Tank, the hospitals, and the cemetery.
European houses, interspersed with native dwellings, lay all around.
M. d'Albert says that these houses were large and convenient, but
chiefly of one story only, built along avenues of fine trees, or
along the handsome quay. D'Albert also mentions a chapel in the
Fort,[13] the churches of the Jesuits and the Capucins, and some
miserable _pagodas_ belonging to the Hindus, who, owing to the
necessity of employing them as clerks and servants, were allowed the
exercise of their religion. In his time the Europeans numbered about
500. There were besides some 400 Armenians, Moors[14] and Topasses,
1400 to 1500 Christians, including slaves, and 18,000 to 20,000
Gentiles, divided, he says, into 52 different castes or occupations.
It is to be supposed that the European houses had improved in the
thirty years since d'Albert's visit; at any rate many of those which
were close to the Fort now commanded its interior from their roofs
or upper stories, exactly as the houses of the leading officials in
Calcutta commanded the interior of Fort William. No other fact could
be so significant of the security which the Europeans in Bengal
believed they enjoyed from any attack by the forces of the native
Government. The site of the Fort is now covered with native huts.
The Cemetery still remains and the Company's Tank (now known as Lal
Dighi), whilst Kooti Ghat is the old landing-place of Fort

As regards the European population at the time of the siege we have
no definite information. The Returns drawn up by the French
officials at the time of the capitulation do not include the women
and children or the native and mixed population. The ladies,[15] and
it is to be presumed the other women also, for there is no mention
of women during the siege, retired to the Dutch and Danish
settlements at Chinsurah and Serampore a few days before, and the
native population disappeared as soon as the British army
approached. The Returns therefore show only 538 Europeans and 66
Topasses. The Governor or Director, as already mentioned, was Pierre
Renault: his Council consisted of MM. Fournier, Caillot, Laporterie,
Nicolas, and Picques. There were 36 Frenchmen of lesser rank in the
Company's service, as well as 6 surgeons. The troops were commanded
by M. de Tury and 10 officers. There were also 10 officers of the
French East India Company's vessels, and 107 persons of sufficient
importance for their _parole_ to be demanded when the Fort fell.
Apparently these Returns do not include those who were killed in the
defence, nor have we any definite information as to the number of
French sepoys, but Eyre Coote[16] says there were 500.

The story of the siege is to be gathered from many accounts. M.
Renault and his Council submitted an official report; Renault wrote
many letters to Dupleix and other patrons or friends; several of the
Council and other private persons did the same.[17] M. Jean Law,
whose personal experiences we shall deal with in the next chapter,
was Chief of Cossimbazar, and watched the siege, as it were, from
the outside. His straightforward narrative helps us now and then to
correct a mis-statement made by the besieged in the bitterness of
defeat. On the English side, besides the Bengal records, there are
Clive's and Eyre Coote's military journals, the Logs of the British
ships of war, and the journal of Surgeon Edward Ives of His
Majesty's ship _Kent_. Thus this passage of arms, almost the only
one in Bengal[18] in which the protagonists were Europeans, is no
obscure event, but one in which almost every incident was seen and
described from opposite points of view. This multiplicity of
authorities makes it difficult to form a connected narrative, and,
in respect to many incidents, I shall have to follow that account
which seems to enter into the fullest or most interesting detail.

It will now be necessary to go back a little. After the capture of
Calcutta in June, 1756, the behaviour of the Nawab to all Europeans
was so overbearing that Renault found it necessary to ask the
Superior Council of Pondicherry for reinforcements, but all that he
received was 67 Europeans and 167 Sepoys. No money was sent him, and
every day he expected to hear that war had broken out between
France and England.

"Full of these inquietudes, gentlemen, I was in the
most cruel embarrassment, knowing not even what to
desire. A strong detestation of the tyranny of the Nawab,
and of the excesses which he was committing against
Europeans, made me long for the arrival of the English in
the Ganges to take vengeance for them. At the same time
I feared the consequences of war being declared. In every
letter M. de Leyrit[19] impressed upon me the necessity of
fortifying Chandernagore as best I could, and of putting the
town in a state of security against a surprise, but you have
only to look at Chandernagore to see how difficult it was for
us, absolutely destitute as we were of men and money, to do
this with a town open on all sides, and with nothing even to
mark it off from the surrounding country."[20]

He goes on to describe Fort d'Orleans--

"almost in the middle of the settlement, surrounded by
houses, which command it, a square of about 600 feet,[21]
built of brick, flanked with four bastions, with six guns
each, without ramparts or glacis. The southern curtain,
about 4 feet thick, not raised to its full height, was
provided only with a battery of 3 guns; there was a similar
battery to the west, but the rest of the west curtain was
only a wall of mud and brick, about a foot and a half thick,
and 8 or 10 feet high; there were warehouses ranged
against the east curtain which faced the Ganges, and which
was still in process of construction; the whole of this side
had no ditch, and that round the other sides was dry, only 4
feet in depth, and a mere ravine. The walls of the Fort up
to the ramparts were 15 feet high, and the houses, on the
edge of the counterscarp, which commanded it, were as much
as 30 feet."

Perhaps the Fort was best defended on the west, where the Company's
Tank[22] was situated. Its bank was only about twelve feet from the
Fort Ditch. This use of tanks for defensive purposes was an
excellent one, as they also provided the garrison with a good supply
of drinking water. A little later Clive protected his great barracks
at Berhampur with a line of large tanks along the landward side.
However, this tank protected one side only, and the task of holding
such a fort with an inadequate garrison was not a hopeful one even
for a Frenchman. It was only his weakness which had made Renault
submit to pay the contribution demanded by the Nawab on his
triumphant return from Calcutta in July of the previous year, and he
and his comrades felt very bitterly the neglect of the Company in
not sending money and reinforcements. One of his younger
subordinates wrote to a friend in Pondicherry:[23]--

"But the 3-1/2 lahks that the Company has to pay to the
Nawab, is that a trifle? Yes, my dear fellow, for I should
like it to have to pay still more, to teach it how to leave
this Factory, which is, beyond contradiction, the finest of its
settlements, denuded of soldiers and munitions of war, so
that it is not possible for us to show our teeth."

The wish was prophetic.

Like the English the French were forbidden by the Nawab to fortify
themselves. Renault dared not pay attention to this order. He had
seen what had happened to the English by the neglect of proper
precautions, and when things were at their worst, the Nawab had to
seek his alliance against the English, grant him leave to fortify
Chandernagore, and, later on, even to provide him with money under
the pretence that he was simply restoring the sum forcibly extorted
from him the previous year.[24] Trade was at a standstill, and
Renault was determined that if the enemies of his nation were
destined to take the Company's property, they should have the utmost
difficulty possible in doing so. He expended the money on provisions
and ammunition. At the same time, that he might not lose any chance
of settling affairs peaceably with the English, he refused to
associate himself with the Nawab, and entered upon negotiations for
a neutrality in the Ganges. To protect himself if these failed, he
began raising fortifications and pulling down the houses which
commanded the Fort or masked its fire.

He could not pull down the houses on the south of the Fort, from
which Clive subsequently made his attack, partly for want of time,
partly because the native workmen ran away, and partly because of
the bad feeling prevalent in the motley force which formed his
garrison.[25] The most fatal defect of all was the want of a
military engineer. The person who held that position had been sent
from France. He was a master mason, and had no knowledge of
engineering. It had been the same story in Calcutta. Drake's two
engineers had been a subaltern in the military and a young
covenanted servant. Renault had to supervise the fortifications

"I commenced to pull down the church and the house
of the Jesuit fathers, situated on the edge of the Ditch, also
all the houses of private persons which masked the entire
north curtain. The wood taken from the ruins of these
served to construct a barrier extending from bastion to
bastion and supporting this same north curtain, which
seemed ready to fall to pieces from old age."

This barrier was placed four feet outside the wall, the intervening
space being filled in with earth.

"Also in front of Porte Royale" (i.e. outside the gate in
the avenue), "the weakest side of the Fort, I placed a battery
of 3 guns, and worked hard at clearing out and enlarging
the Ditch, but there was no time to make it of any use as a
defence. A warehouse on which I put bales of _gunny_[26] to
prevent cannon balls from breaking in the vaults of the roof,
served it as a casemate."

The east or river curtain was left alone. The French were, in fact,
so confident that the ships of war would not be able to force their
way up the river, and that Clive would not therefore think of
attacking on that side, that the only precaution they took at first
was the erection of two batteries outside the Fort. It is a
well-known maxim in war that one should attack at that point at
which the enemy deems himself most secure, and it will be seen that
all Clive's efforts were aimed at preparing for Admiral Watson to
attack on the east.

As regards artillery Renault was better off.

"The alarm which the Prince" (Siraj-ud-daula) "gave us
in June last having given me reason to examine into the
state of the artillery, I found that not one of the carriages
of the guns on the ramparts was in a serviceable condition,
not a field-piece mounted, not a platform ready for the
mortars. I gave all my attention to these matters, and
fortunately had time to put them right."

To serve his guns Renault had the sailors of the Company's ship,
_Saint Contest_, whose commander, M. de la Vigne Buisson, was the
soul of the defence.

About this time he received a somewhat doubtful increase to his
garrison, a crowd of deserters from the English East India Company's
forces. The latter at this time were composed of men of all
nationalities, English, Germans, Swiss, Dutch, and even French. Many
of them, and naturally the foreigners especially, were ready to
desert upon little provocation. The hardships of service in a
country where the climate and roads were execrable, where food and
pay were equally uncertain, and where promises were made not to be
kept, were provocations which the best soldiers might have found it
difficult to resist. We read of whole regiments in the English and
French services refusing to obey orders, and of mutinies of officers
as well as of men. The one reward of service was the chance of
plunder, and naturally, then, as soon as the fighting with the Nawab
had stopped for a time, the desertions from the British forces were
numerous. Colonel Clive had more than once written to Renault to
remonstrate with him for taking British soldiers into his service.
Probably Renault could have retorted the accusation with justice--at
any rate, he went on enlisting deserters; and from those who had now
come over he formed a company of grenadiers of 50 men, one of
artillery of 30, and one of sailors of 60, wisely giving them a
little higher pay than usual, "to excite their emulation." One of
these was a man named Lee,--

"a corporal and a deserter from the _Tyger_, who pledged
himself to the enemy that he would throw two shells out of
three into the _Tyger_, but whilst he was bringing the mortars
to bear for that purpose, he was disabled by a musket bullet
from the _Kent's_ tops. He was afterwards sent home a
prisoner to England."[27]

As might be expected the younger Frenchmen were wild with delight at
the chance of seeing a good fight. Some of them had been much
disappointed that the Nawab had not attacked Chandernagore in June,
1756. One of them wrote[28]--

"I was charmed with the adventure and the chance
of carrying a musket, having always had" (what Frenchman
hasn't?) "a secret leaning towards a military life. I
intended to kill a dozen Moors myself in the first sortie we
made, for I was determined not to stand like a stock on a
bastion, where one only runs the risk of getting wounds
without having any of the pleasure of inflicting them."

If not the highest form of military spirit, this was at any rate one
of which a good commander might make much use. Renault took
advantage of this feeling, and from the young men of the colony,
such as Company's servants, ships' officers, supercargoes, and
European inhabitants,[29] he made a company of volunteers, to whom,
at their own request, he gave his son, an officer of the garrison,
as commander.

One of the volunteer officers writes:--

"I had the honour to be appointed lieutenant, and was
much pleased when I saw the spirit of emulation which
reigned in every heart. I cannot sufficiently praise the
spirit of exactitude with which every one was animated, and
the progress which all made in so short a time in the
management of their arms. I lay stress on the fact that it
was an occupation entirely novel to them, and one of which
the commencement always appears very hard, but they overcame
all difficulties, and found amusement in what to others
would appear merely laborious."

All this time Renault was watching the war between the English and
the Moors. In January the English sailed up the Hugli, passed
Chandernagore contemptuously without a salute, burned the Moorish
towns of Hugli and Bandel, ravaged the banks of the river, and
retired to Calcutta. Up to this the Nawab had not condescended to
notice the English; now, in a moment of timidity, he asked the
intervention of the French as mediators.[30] Renault eagerly
complied, for had his mediation been accepted, he would have
inserted in the treaty a clause enforcing peace amongst the
Europeans in Bengal; but the English refused to treat through the
French. This could have only one meaning. Renault felt that his
course was now clear, and was on the point of offering the alliance
which the Nawab had so long sought for, when he received orders from
M. de Leyrit forbidding him to attack the English by land. As M. Law
writes, if Renault had been free to join the Nawab with 500
Europeans, either Clive would not have ventured a night attack on
the Nawab's camp, or, had he done so, the event would probably have
been very different. Under the circumstances, all that Renault could
do was to continue his fortifications. It was now that he first
realized that Admiral Watson would take part in the attack.

"As the ships of war were what we had most to fear
from, we constructed on the river bank a battery of 6 guns,
four of which covered the approach to the Fort. From the foot
of the battery a bank twenty-two feet high stretching to
the Fort, was begun, so as to protect the curtain on this side
from the fire of the ships, _but it was not finished_. We had
also to attend to the inhabited portion of the town; it was
impossible to do more, but we determined to protect it from
a surprise, and so ditches were dug across the streets and
outposts established."[31]

It was this waste of valuable time upon the defence of the town that
a capable engineer would have saved Renault from the mistake of
committing. Had he limited his efforts to strengthening the walls of
the Fort and cleared away the surrounding houses, he would have been
not only stronger against the attack of the land force, but also in
a much better position to resist the ships.

The issue of the Nawab's attack on Calcutta has already been told.
He was so depressed by his failure that he now treated Renault with
the greatest respect, and it was now that he gave him the sum of
money--a lakh of rupees, then worth L12,500--which he spent on
provisions and munitions of war. Renault says:--

"The Nawab's envoy further gave me to understand that
he was, in his heart, enraged with the English, and continued
to regard them as his enemies. In spite of this we saw
clearly from the treaty just made" (with the English)
"that we should be its victims, and knowing Siraj-ud-daula's
character, his promise to assist me strongly if the
English attacked us did not quiet my mind. I prepared for
whatever might happen by pressing on our preparations and
collecting all kinds of provisions in the Fort."

The Nawab and the English concluded a treaty of peace and alliance
on the 9th of February, 1757. Renault mentions no actual treaty
between the Nawab and the French, but the French doctor referred to
in a note above asserts that the Nawab demanded that the Council
should bind itself in writing,

"to oppose the passage of the English past Chandernagore....
It was merely engaging to defend ourselves against
the maritime force of the English ... because Chandernagore
was the only place on this coast against which they
could undertake any enterprise by water. _This engagement
was signed_ and sent to the Nawab three days after he had
made peace with the English. The Council received in
reply two privileges, the one to coin money with the King's
stamp at Chandernagore, the other liberty of trade for
individual Frenchmen on the same footing as the Company,
and 100,000 rupees on account of the 300,000 which he had
extorted the previous year."

It does not matter whether this engagement was signed or not.[32] As
a Frenchman thus mentions it, the rumour of its signature must have
been very strong. It is probable that the English heard of it, and
believed it to be conclusive proof of the secret understanding
between the Nawab and the French. The privilege of individual trade
was particularly likely to excite their commercial jealousy, for it
was to this very privilege in their own case that the wealth and
strength of Calcutta were due. Such a rumour, therefore, was not
likely to facilitate negotiations. Nevertheless, Renault sent MM.
Fournier and Nicolas, the latter of whom had many friends amongst
the English, to Calcutta, to re-open the negotiations for a
neutrality. These negotiations seemed to be endless. The most
striking feature was Admiral Watson's apparent vacillation. When the
Council proposed war he wanted peace, when they urged neutrality he
wanted war. Clive went so far as to present a memorial to the
Council, saying it was unfair to continue the negotiations if the
Admiral was determined not to agree to a treaty. It seems as if the
Council wanted war, but wished to throw the responsibility upon the
Admiral. On the other hand the Admiral was only too eager to fight,
but hesitated to involve the Company in a war with the French and
the Nawab combined, at a moment when the British land forces were so
weakened by disease that success might be considered doubtful. He
had also to remember the fact that the Council at Chandernagore was
subordinate to the Council at Pondicherry, and the latter might,
whenever convenient to the French, repudiate the treaty. However, in
spite of all difficulties, the terms were agreed to, the draft was
prepared, and only the signatures were wanting, when a large
reinforcement of Europeans arrived from Bombay, and the Admiral
received formal notification of the declaration of war, and orders
from the Admiralty to attack the French.[33] This put an immediate
end to negotiations, and the envoys were instructed to return to
Chandernagore. At the same time the English determined to try and
prevent the Nawab from joining the French.

Whilst the Admiral was making up his mind fortune had favoured the
English. The Nawab, in fear of an invasion of Bengal by the Pathans,
had called upon the British for assistance, and on the 3rd of March
Clive's army left Calcutta _en route_ for Murshidabad. The Admiral
now pointed out to the Nawab that the British could not safely leave
Chandernagore behind them in the hands of an enemy, and Clive wrote
to the same effect, saying he would wait near Chandernagore for a
reply. On the 10th of March the Nawab wrote a letter to the Admiral,
which concluded with the following significant words:--

"You have understanding and generosity: if your enemy
with an upright heart claims your protection, you will give
him life, but then you must be _well_ satisfied of the innocence
of his intentions: if not, whatever you think right, that do."

Law says this letter was a forgery,[34] but as the Nawab did not
write any letters himself, the only test of authenticity was his
seal, which was duly attached. The English believed it to be
genuine, and the words quoted could have but one meaning. Admiral
Watson read them as a permission to attack the French without fear
of the Nawab's interference. He prepared to support Clive as soon as
the water in the Hugli would allow his ships to pass up, and, it
must be supposed, informed Clive of the letter he had received. At
any rate, he so informed the Council.

Clive reached Chandernagore on the 12th, and probably heard on that
day or the next from Calcutta. On the 13th he sent the following
summons--which Renault does not mention, and did not reply to--to


"The King of Great Britain having declared war
against France, I summons you in his name to surrender the
Fort of Chandernagore. In case of refusal you are to answer
the consequences, and expect to be treated according to the
usage of war in such cases.

"I have the honour to be, sir,

"Your most obedient and humble servant,


It is important, in the light of what happened
later, to notice that Clive addresses Renault as a
combatant and the head of the garrison.

In England we have recently seen men eager to vilify their own
nation. France has produced similar monsters. One of them wrote from

"The English having changed their minds on the arrival
of the reinforcement from Bombay, our gentlemen at Chandernagore
prepared to ransom themselves, and they would have
done so at whatever price the ransom had been fixed
provided anything had remained to them. That mode of
agreement could not possibly suit the taste of the English.
It was rejected, and the Council of Chandernagore had
no other resource except to surrender on the best conditions
they could obtain from the generosity of their enemy. This
course was so firmly resolved upon that they gave no
thought to defending themselves. The military insisted only
on firing a single discharge, which they desired the Council
would grant them. It was only the marine and the citizens
who, though they had no vote in the Council, cried out
tumultuously that the Fort must be defended. A plot was
formed to prevent the Director's son, who was ready to carry
the keys of the town to the English camp, from going out.
Suddenly some one fired a musket. The English thought
it was the reply to their summons. They commenced on
their side to fire their artillery, and that was how a defence
which lasted ten whole days was begun."

How much truth is contained in the above paragraph may be judged by
what has been already stated. It will be sufficient to add that
Clive, receiving no answer to his summons, made a sudden attack on a
small earthwork to the south-west of the fort at 3 A.M. on the 14th
of March. For two whole days then, the English had been in sight of
Chandernagore without attacking. The French ladies had been sent to
Chinsurah and Serampore, so that the defenders had nothing to fear
on their account. Besides the French soldiers and civilians, there
were also about 2000 Moorish troops present, whom Law says he
persuaded the Nawab to send down as soon as the English left
Calcutta. Other accounts say that Renault hired them to assist him.
The Nawab had a strong force at Murshidabad ready to march under one
of his commanders, Rai Durlabh Ram; but the latter had experienced
what even a small English force could do in the night attack on the
Nawab's camp, and was by no means inclined to match himself a second
time against Clive; accordingly, he never got further than five
leagues from Murshidabad. Urgent messages were sent from
Chandernagore as soon as the attack began. M. Law begged of the
Nawab to send reinforcements. Mr. Watts, the English Chief, and all
his party in the _Durbar_, did their utmost to prevent any orders
being issued. The Nawab gave orders which he almost immediately
countermanded. Renault ascribes this to a letter which he says
Clive wrote on the 14th of March, the very day of the attack,
promising the Nawab to leave the French alone, but it is not at all
likely that he did so. It is true Clive had written to this effect
on the 22nd of February; but since then much had happened, and he
was now acting, as he thought and said, with the Nawab's permission.
On the 16th of March he wrote to Nand Kumar, Faujdar[35] of Hugli,
as follows:--

"The many deceitful wicked measures that the French
have taken to endeavour to deprive me of the Nawab's
favour (tho' I thank God they have proved in vain, since
his Excellency's friendship towards me is daily increasing)
has long made me look on them as enemies to the English,
but I could no longer stifle my resentment when I found
that ... they dared to oppose the freedom of the English
trade on the Ganges by seizing a boat with an English
_dustuck_,[36] and under English colours that was passing by their
town. I am therefore come to a resolution to attack them.
I am told that some of the Government's forces have been
perswaded under promise of great rewards from the French
to join them against us; I should be sorry, at a time when
I am so happy in his Excellency's favour and friendship, that
I should do any injury to his servants; I am therefore to
desire you will send these forces an order to withdraw, and
that no other may come to their assistance."[37]

What Clive feared was that, though the
Nawab might not interfere openly, some of his
servants might receive secret orders to do so, and
on the 22nd of March he wrote even more curtly
to Rai Durlabh himself:--

"I hear you are arrived within 20 miles of Hughly.
Whether you come as a friend or an enemy, I know not. If
as the latter, say so at once, and I will send some people out
to fight you immediately.... Now you know my mind."[38]

When diplomatic correspondence was conducted in letters of this
kind, it is easy to understand that the Nawab was frightened out of
his wits, and absolutely unable to decide what course he should
take. There was little likelihood of the siege being influenced by
anything he might do.

The outpost mentioned as the object of the first attack was a small
earthwork, erected at the meeting of three roads. It was covered by
the Moorish troops, who held the roofs of the houses around. As the
intention of the outposts was merely to prevent the town from being
surprised, and to enable the inhabitants to take shelter in the
Fort, the outpost ought to have been withdrawn as quickly as
possible, but, probably because they thought it a point of honour
to make a stout defence wherever they were first attacked,
the defenders stood to it gallantly. Renault sent repeated
reinforcements, first the company of grenadiers, then at 9 o'clock
the company of artillery, and at 10 o'clock, when the surrounding
houses were in flames, and many of the Moors had fled, a company of
volunteers. With these, and a further reinforcement of sixty
sailors, the little fort held out till 7 o'clock in the evening,
when the English, after three fruitless assaults, ceased fire and
withdrew. Street fighting is always confusing, and hence the
following vague description of the day's events from Captain Eyre
Coote's journal:--

"Colonel Clive ordered the picquets, with the company's
grenadiers, to march into the French bounds, which is encompassed
with an old ditch,[39] the entrance into it a gateway
with embrasures on the top but no cannons, which the
French evacuated on our people's advancing. As soon as
Captain Lynn, who commanded the party, had taken possession,
he acquainted the Colonel, who ordered Major Kilpatrick
and me, with my company of grenadiers, to join Captain
Lynn, and send him word after we had reconnoitred the
place. On our arrival there we found a party of French was
in possession of a road leading to a redoubt that they had
thrown up close under their fort, where they had a battery
of cannon, and upon our advancing down the road, they fired
some shots at us. We detached some parties through a wood,
and drove them from the road into their batteries with the
loss of some men; we then sent for the Colonel, who, as soon
as he joined us, sent to the camp for more troops. We
continued firing at each other in an irregular manner till
about noon, at which time the Colonel ordered me to continue
with my grenadier company and about 200 sepoys at the
advance post, and that he would go with the rest of our
troops to the entrance, which was about a mile back. About
2 o'clock word was brought me that the French were making
a sortie. Soon after, I perceived the sepoys retiring from
their post, upon which I sent to the Colonel to let him know
the French were coming out. I was then obliged to divide
my company, which consisted of about 50 men, into 2 or 3
parties (very much against my inclination) to take possession
of the ground the sepoys had quitted. We fired pretty
warmly for a quarter of an hour from the different parties
at each other, when the French retreated again into their
battery. On this occasion I had a gentleman (Mr. Tooke[40]),
who was a volunteer, killed, and 2 of my men wounded.
The enemy lost 5 or 6 Europeans and some blacks. I got
close under the battery, and was tolerably well sheltered by
an old house, where I continued firing till about 7 o'clock,
at which time I was relieved, and marched back to camp."

The defenders were much exhausted, as well by the fighting as by the
smoke and heat from the burning houses and the heat of the weather,
for it was almost the hottest season of the year. It seemed probable
that the English would make another attack during the night, and as
the defenders already amounted to a very large portion of the
garrison, it was almost impossible to reinforce them without
leaving the Fort itself in great danger, if Clive managed to
approach it from any other quarter. Renault called a council of war,
and, after taking the opinion of his officers in writing to the
effect that the outposts must be abandoned, he withdrew the
defenders at 9 o'clock, under cover of the darkness: The French had
suffered a loss of only 10 men killed and wounded. Clive mentions
that, at the same time, all the other outposts and batteries, except
those on the river side, were withdrawn.

Mustering his forces in the Fort, Renault found them to be composed
of 237 soldiers (of whom 117 were deserters from the British), 120
sailors, 70 half-castes and private Europeans, 100 persons employed
by the Company, 167 Sepoys and 100 _Topasses_. Another French
account puts the total of the French garrison at 489, but this
probably excludes many of the private people.[41]

On the 15th the English established themselves in the town, and
drove out the Moors who had been stationed on the roofs of the
houses. This gave them to some extent the command of the interior of
the Fort, but no immediate attack was made on the latter. A French
account[42] says this was because--

"all their soldiers were drunk with the wine they had found
in the houses. Unfortunately we did not know of this. It
would have been the moment to make a sortie, of which the
results must have been favourable to us, the enemy being
incapable of defence."

During the night of the 15th the Fort was bombarded, and on the
morning of the 16th the British completed the occupation of the
houses deserted by the Moors. The latter not being received into the
Fort, either fled or were sent away. They betook themselves to Nand
Kumar, the Faujdar of Hugli, announcing the capture of the town.
Nand Kumar, who is said to have had an understanding with the
British, sent on the message to Rai Durlabh and the Nawab, with the
malicious addition that the Fort, if it had not already fallen,
would fall before Rai Durlabh could reach it. This put an end to all
chance of the Nawab interfering.

The French spent the day in blocking a narrow passage formed by a
sandbank in the river, a short distance below the town. They sank--

"four large ships and a hulk,... and had a chain and boom
across in order to prevent our going up with the squadron.
Captain Toby sent his 2nd lieutenant, Mr. Bloomer, that night,
who cut the chain and brought off a sloop that buoyed it up."[43]

It was apparently this rapid attack on the position that accounts
for the timidity of the pilots and boatmen, who, Renault tells us,
hurried away without staying to sink two other ships which were half
laden, and which, if sunk, would have completely blocked the
passage. Even on the ships which were sunk the masts had been left
standing, so as to point out their position to the enemy.

Besides the ships sunk in the passage, there were at Chandernagore
the French East Indiaman the _Saint Contest_ (Captain de la Vigne
Buisson), four large ships, and several small ones. The French
needed all the sailors for the Fort, so they sank all the vessels
they could not send up the river except three, which it was supposed
they intended to use as fire-ships.

Clive, in the meantime, was advancing cautiously, his men erecting
batteries, which seemed to be very easily silenced by the superior
gunnery of the Fort. His object was partly to weary out the garrison
by constant fighting, and partly to creep round to the river face,
so as to be in a position to take the batteries which commanded the
narrow river passage, as soon as Admiral Watson was ready to attack
the Fort. Later on, the naval officers asserted he could not have
taken the Fort without the assistance of the fleet. He said he
could, and it is certain that if he had had no fleet to assist him
his mode of attack would have been a very different one.

Early in the siege the French were warned from Chinsurah to beware
of treachery amongst the deserters in their pay, and on the 17th of
March a number of arrows were found in the Fort with labels
attached, bearing the words:--

"Pardon to deserters who will rejoin their colours, and
rewards to officers who will come over to us."

These were seized by the officers before the men could see them, but
one of the officers themselves, Charles Cossard de Terraneau, a
sub-lieutenant of the garrison, took advantage of the offer to go
over to the English. This officer had served with credit in the
South of India, and had lost an arm in his country's service. The
reason of his desertion is said to have been a quarrel with M.
Renault. M. Raymond, the translator of a native history of the time
by Gholam Husain Khan,[44] tells a story of De Terraneau which seems
improbable. It is to the effect that he betrayed the secret of the
river passage to Admiral Watson, and that a few years later he sent
home part of the reward of his treachery to his father in France.
The old man returned the money with indignant comments on his son's
conduct, and De Terraneau committed suicide in despair. As a matter
of fact, De Terraneau was a land officer,[45] and therefore not
likely to be able to advise the Admiral, who, as we shall see,
solved the riddle of the passage in a perfectly natural manner, and
the Probate Records show that De Terraneau lived till 1765, and in
his will left his property to his wife Ann, so the probability is
that he lived and died quietly in the British service. His only
trouble seems to have been to get himself received by his new
brother officers. However, he was, so Clive tells us, the only
artillery officer the French had, and his desertion was a very
serious matter. Renault writes:--

"The same night, by the improved direction of the
besiegers' bombs, I had no doubt but that he had done us
a bad service."

On the 18th the French destroyed a battery which the English had
established near the river, and drove them out of a house opposite
the south-east bastion. The same day the big ships of the
squadron--the _Kent_ (Captain Speke), the _Tyger_ (Captain Latham),
and the _Salisbury_ (Captain Martin), appeared below the town. The
_Bridgewater_ and _Kingfisher_ had come up before. Admiral Watson
was on board the _Kent_, and Admiral Pocock on the _Tyger_. The
fleet anchored out of range of the Fort at the Prussian Gardens, a
mile and a half below the town, and half a mile below the narrow
passage in which the ships had been sunk.

On the 19th Admiral Watson formally announced the declaration of
war,[46] and summoned the Fort to surrender. The Governor called a
council of war, in which there was much difference of opinion. Some
thought the Admiral would not have come so far without his being
certain of his ability to force the passage; indeed the presence of
so many deserters in the garrison rendered it probable that he had
secret sources of information. As a matter of fact, it was only when
Lieutenant Hey, the officer who had brought the summons, and, in
doing so, had rowed between the masts of the sunken vessels,
returned to the _Kent_, that Admiral Watson knew the passage was
clear. Renault and the Council were aware that the Fort could not
resist the big guns of the ships, and accordingly the more
thoughtful members of the council of war determined, if possible, to
try and avoid fighting by offering a ransom. This apparently gave
rise to the idea that they wished to surrender, and an English
officer says:--

"Upon the Admiral's sending them a summons ... to
surrender, they were very stout; they gave us to understand
there were two parties in the Factory, the Renaultions and
the anti-Renaultions. The former, which they called the
great-wigg'd gentry, or councillors, were for giving up the
Fort, but the others vowed they would die in the breach. To
these high and lofty expressions the Admiral could give no
other answer than that in a very few days, or hours perhaps,
he would give them a very good opportunity of testifying
their zeal for the Company and the Grand Monarque."

The offer of ransom was made, and was refused by the Admiral.
Renault says, he--

"insisted on our surrendering and the troops taking possession
of the Fort, _promising, however, that every one should keep his
own property_. There was not a man amongst us who did not
prefer to run the risk of whatever might happen to surrendering
in this fashion, without the Fort having yet suffered any
material damage, and every one was willing to risk his own
interests in order to defend those of the Company. Every
one swore to do his best."

The Admiral could not attack at once, owing to the state of the
river, but to secure his own position against any counter-attack,
such as was very likely with a man like Captain de la Vigne in the
Fort, he sent up boats the same night, and sank the vessels which it
was supposed the French intended to use as fire-ships; and the next
day Mr. John Delamotte, master of the _Kent_, under a heavy fire,
sounded and buoyed the passage for the ships.

The army, meanwhile, continued its monotonous work ashore, the
soldiers building batteries for the French to knock to pieces, but
succeeding in Clive's object, which was "to keep the enemy
constantly awake."[47] Sometimes this work was dangerous, as, for
instance, on the 21st, when a ball from the Fort knocked down a
verandah close to one of the English batteries, "the rubbish of
which choked up one of our guns, very much bruised two artillery
officers, and buried several men in the ruins."[48]

By the 22nd Clive had worked his way round to the river, and was
established to the north-east and south-east of the Fort so as to
assist the Admiral, and on the river the Admiral had at last got the
high tide he was waiting for. Surgeon Ives tells the story as

"The Admiral the same evening ordered lights to be
placed on the masts of the vessels that had been sunk, with
blinds towards the Fort, that we might see how to pass
between them a little before daylight, and without being
discovered by the enemy.

"At length the glorious morning of the 23rd of March
arrived." Clive's men gallantly stormed the battery covering
the narrow pass,[50] "and upon the ships getting under sail the
Colonel's battery, which had been finished behind a dead
wall," to take off the fire of the Fort when the ships passed
up, began firing away, and had almost battered down the
corner of the south-east bastion before the ships arrived
within shot of the Fort. "The _Tyger_, with Admiral Pocock's
flag flying, took the lead, and about 6 o'clock in the morning
got very well into her station against the north-east bastion.
The _Kent_, with Admiral Watson's flag flying, quickly followed
her, but before she could reach her proper station, the tide of
ebb unfortunately made down the river, which occasioned her
anchor to drag, so that before she brought up she had fallen
abreast of the south-east bastion, the place where the _Salisbury_
should have been, and from her mainmast aft she was exposed
to the flank guns of the south-west bastion also. The accident
of the _Kent's_ anchor not holding fast, and her driving down
into the _Salisbury's_ station, threw this last ship out of action,
to the great mortification of the captain, officers, and crew,
for she never had it in her power to fire a gun, unless it was
now and then, when she could sheer on the tide. The French,
during the whole time of the _Kent_ and _Tyger's_ approach
towards the Fort, kept up a terrible cannonade upon them,
without any resistance on their part; but as soon as the
ships came properly to an anchor they returned it with such
fury as astonished their adversaries. Colonel Clive's troops
at the same time got into those houses which were nearest
the Fort, and from thence greatly annoyed the enemy with
their musketry. Our ships lay so near to the Fort that the
musket balls fired from their tops, by striking against the
_chunam_[51] walls of the Governor's palace, which was in
the very centre of the Fort, were beaten as flat as a half-crown.
The fire now became general on both sides, and was
kept up with extraordinary spirit. The flank guns of the
south-west bastion galled the _Kent_ very much, and the
Admiral's aide-de-camps being all wounded, Mr. Watson went
down himself to Lieutenant William Brereton, who commanded
the lower deck battery, and ordered him particularly
to direct his fire against those guns, and they were accordingly
soon afterwards silenced. At 8 in the morning
several of the enemy's shot struck the _Kent_ at the same
time; one entered near the foremast, and set fire to two or
three 32-pound cartridges of gunpowder, as the boys held
them in their hands ready to charge the guns. By the explosion,
the wad-nets and other loose things took fire between
decks, and the whole ship was so filled with smoke that the
men, in their confusion, cried out she was on fire in the
gunner's store-room, imagining from the shock they had
felt from the balls that a shell had actually fallen into her.
This notion struck a panic into the greater part of the crew,
and 70 or 80 jumped out of the port-holes into the boats
that were alongside the ship. The French presently saw
this confusion on board the _Kent_, and, resolving to take the
advantage, kept up as hot a fire as possible upon her during
the whole time. Lieutenant Brereton, however, with the
assistance of some other brave men, soon extinguished the
fire, and then running to the ports, he begged the seamen to
come in again, upbraiding them for deserting their quarters;
but finding this had no effect upon them, he thought the
more certain method of succeeding would be to strike them
with a sense of shame, and therefore loudly exclaimed, 'Are
you Britons? You Englishmen, and fly from danger? For
shame! For shame!' This reproach had the desired effect;
to a man they immediately returned into the ship, repaired
to their quarters, and renewed a spirited fire on the enemy.

"In about three hours from the commencement of the
attack the parapets of the north and south bastions were
almost beaten down; the guns were mostly dismounted, and
we could plainly see from the main-top of the _Kent_ that the
ruins from the parapet and merlons had entirely blocked up
those few guns which otherwise might have been fit for
service. We could easily discern, too, that there had been
a great slaughter among the enemy, who, finding that our
fire against them rather increased, hung out the white flag,
whereupon a cessation of hostilities took place, and the
Admiral sent Lieutenant Brereton (the only commissioned
officer on board the _Kent_ that was not killed or wounded)
and Captain Coote of the King's regiment with a flag of truce
to the Fort, who soon returned, accompanied by the French
Governor's son, with articles of capitulation, which being
settled by the Admiral and Colonel, we soon after took possession
of the place."

So far then from the besiegers' side; Renault's description of the
fight is as follows:--

"The three largest vessels, aided by the high-water of
the equinoctial tides, which, moreover, had moved the vessels
sunk in the narrow passage, passed over the sunken ships,
which did not delay them for a moment, to within half
pistol shot of the Fort, and opened fire at 6 a.m. Then the
troops in the battery on the bank of the Ganges, who had
so far fired only one discharge, suddenly found themselves
overwhelmed with the fire from the tops of the ships,
abandoned it, and had much difficulty in gaining the Fort....
I immediately sent the company of grenadiers, with a detachment
of the artillery company as reinforcements, to the
south-eastern bastion and the Bastion du Pavillon, which two
bastions face the Ganges; but those troops under the fire of
the ships, joined to that of the land batteries, _rebuilt the
same night_, and of more than 3000 men placed on the roofs
of houses which overlooked the Fort, almost all took flight,
leaving two of their officers behind, one dead and the other
wounded. I was obliged to send immediately all the marine
and the inhabitants from the other posts.

"The attack was maintained with vigour from 6 a.m. to
10.30, when all the batteries were covered with dead and
wounded, the guns dismounted, and the merlons destroyed,
in spite of their being strengthened with bales of cloth. No
one could show himself on the bastions, demolished by the
fire of more than 100 guns; the troops were terrified during
this attack by the loss of all the gunners and of nearly
200 men; the bastions were undermined, and threatened to
crumble away and make a breach, which the exhaustion of
our people, and the smallness of the number who remained,
made it impossible for us to hope to defend successfully.
Not a soldier would put his hand to a gun; it was only the
European marine who stood to their duty, and half of these
were already killed or disabled. A body of English troops,
lying flat on the ground behind the screen which we had commenced
to erect on the bank of the Ganges, was waiting the
signal to attack. Seeing the impossibility of holding out longer,
I thought that in the state in which the Fort was I could not
in prudence expose it to an assault. Consequently I hoisted
the white flag and ordered the drums to beat a parley."

According to an account written later by a person who was not
present at the siege, Renault lost his Fort by a quarter of an hour.
This writer says the tide was rapidly falling, and, had the eastern
defences of the Fort been able to resist a little longer, the ships
would have found their lower tiers of guns useless, and might have
been easily destroyed by the French. Suppositions of this kind
always suppose a stupidity on the part of the enemy which Renault
had no right to count upon. Admiral Watson must have known the
strength of the fortress he was about to attack before he placed
his ships in a position from which it would be impossible to
withdraw them whenever he wished to do so.

The flag of truce being displayed, Captain Eyre Coote was sent
ashore, and returned in a quarter of an hour with the Governor's son
bearing "a letter concerning the delivery of the place." Articles
were agreed upon, and about 3 o'clock in the afternoon Captain
Coote, with a company of artillery and two companies of grenadiers,
took possession of the Fort. Before this took place there occurred
an event the consequences of which were very unfortunate for the
French. Everything was in a state of confusion, and the deserters,
who formed the majority of the garrison, expecting no mercy from the
Admiral and Clive, determined to escape. Rushing tumultuously to the
Porte Royale, their arms in their hands, they forced it to be opened
to them, and, finding the northern road to Chinsurah unguarded, made
the best of their way in that direction. They were accompanied by a
number of the military and marine, as well as by some of the
Company's servants and private persons who were determined not to
surrender. As all this took place after the hoisting of the white
flag and pending the conclusion of the capitulation, the English
considered it a breach of the laws of warfare, and when later on
the meaning of the capitulation itself was contested they absolutely
refused to listen to any of the representations of the French. In
all about 150 persons left the Fort. They had agreed to reassemble
at a place a little above Hugli. The English sent a small force
after them, who shot some and captured others, but about 80 officers
and men arrived at the rendezvous in safety. The pursuit, however,
was carried further, and Law writes:--

"Constantly pursued, they had to make forced marches.
Some lost their way; others, wearied out, were caught as they
stopped to rest themselves. However, when I least expected
it, I was delighted to see the officers and many of the soldiers
arrive in little bands of 5 and 6, all naked, and so worn out
that they could hardly hold themselves upright. Most of
them had lost their arms."

This reinforcement increased Law's garrison from 10 or 12 men to 60,
and secured the safety of his person, but the condition of the
fugitives must have been an object lesson to the Nawab and his
_Durbar_ which it was not wise for the French to set before them. A
naval officer writes:--

"From the letters that have lately passed between the
Nawab and us, we have great reason to hope he will not
screen the French at all at Cossimbazar or Dacca. I only
wish the Colonel does not alarm him too much, by moving
with the army to the northward, I do assure you he is so
sufficiently frightened that he had rather encounter the new
Mogul[52] himself than accept our assistance, though he strenuously
begged for it about three weeks ago. He writes word
he needs no fuller assurance of our friendship for him, when
a single letter brought us so far on the road to Murshidabad
as Chandernagore."[53]

The escape of the French from Chandernagore is of interest, as it
shows the extraordinary condition of the country. It is probable
that the peasantry and gentry were indifferent as to whether the
English or the French were victorious, whilst the local authorities
were so paralyzed by the Nawab's hesitation that they did not know
which side to assist. Later on we shall find that small parties, and
even solitary Frenchmen, wandered through the country with little or
no interference, though the English had been recognized as the
friends and allies of the new Nawab, Mir Jafar.

To return, however, to Renault and the garrison of Chandernagore.
The capitulation proposed by Renault and the Admiral's answers were
to the following effect:--

1. The lives of the deserters to be spared. _Answer_. The deserters
to surrender absolutely.

2. Officers of the garrison to be prisoners on parole, and allowed
to keep their effects. _Answer_. Agreed to.

3. Soldiers of the garrison to be prisoners of war. _Answer_. Agreed
to, on condition that foreigners may enter the English service.

4. Sepoys of the garrison to be set free. _Answer_. Agreed to.

5. Officers and crew of the French Company's ship to be sent to
Pondicherry. _Answer_. These persons to be prisoners of war
according to articles 2 and 3.

6. The Jesuit fathers to be allowed to practise their religion and
retain their property. _Answer_. No European to be allowed to remain
at Chandernagore, but the fathers to be allowed to retain their

7. All inhabitants to retain their property. _Answer_. This to be
left to the Admiral's sense of equity.

8. The French Factories up-country to be left in the hands of their
present chiefs. _Answer_. This to be settled by the Nawab and the

9. The French Company's servants to go where they please, with their
clothes and linen. _Answer_. Agreed to.

It is evident that the capitulation was badly drawn up. Civilians
who had taken part in the defence, as had all the Company's
servants, might be justly included in the garrison, and accordingly
Admiral Watson and Clive declared they were all prisoners of war,
and that article 9 merely permitted them to reside where they
pleased on _parole_. On the other hand, Renault and the French
Council declared that, being civilians, nothing could make them part
of the garrison, and therefore under article 9 they might do what
they pleased. Accordingly, they expressed much surprise when they
were stopped at the Fort gates by one of Clive's officers, and
forced to sign, before they were allowed to pass, a paper promising
not to act against Britain directly or indirectly during the course
of the war.

Another point of difficulty was in reference to article 7. The town
had been in the hands of the British soldiers and sepoys for days.
Much had been plundered, and both soldiers and sailors were wild for
loot. They considered that the Admiral was acting unjustly to them
in restoring their property to civilians who had been offered the
chance of retaining it if they would avoid unnecessary bloodshed by
a prompt surrender. Instead of this, the defence was so desperate
that one officer writes:--

"Our losses have been very great, and we have never
yet obtained a victory at so dear a rate. Perhaps you will
hear of few instances where two ships have met with heavier
damage than the _Kent_ and _Tyger_ in this engagement."[54]

Clive's total loss was only about 40 men killed and wounded, but
the loss on the ships was so great, that before the Fort surrendered
the besiegers had lost quite as many men as the besieged, and it was
by no means clear to the common mind what claim the French had to
leniency. Even English officers wrote:--

"The Messieurs themselves deserve but little mercy from
us for their mean behaviour in setting fire to so many bales
of cloth and raw silk in the Fort but a very few minutes
before we entered, and it grieves us much, to see such a
number of stout and good vessels sunk with their whole
cargoes far above the Fort, which is a great loss to us and
no profit to them. Those indeed below, to hinder our passage
were necessary, the others were _merely through mischief_.
But notwithstanding this they scarcely ask a favour from
the Admiral but it is granted."

The result was that the soldiers on guard began to beat the coolies
who were helping the French to secure their goods, until they were
induced by gifts to leave them alone, and much plundering went on
when the soldiers could manage to escape notice. On one day three
black soldiers were executed, and on another Sergeant Nover[55] and
a private soldier of the 39th Regiment were condemned to death, for
breaking open the Treasury and stealing 3000 rupees. Another theft,
which was not traced, was the holy vessels and treasure of the

Many individual Frenchmen were ruined. Of one of these Surgeon Ives
narrates the following pleasing incident:--

"It happened unfortunately ... that Monsieur Nicolas,
a man of most amiable character, and the father of a large
family, had not been so provident as the rest of his countrymen
in securing his effects within the Fort, but had left them
in the town; consequently, upon Colonel Clive's first taking
possession of the place, they had all been plundered by our
common soldiers; and the poor gentleman and his family
were to all appearance ruined. The generous and humane
Captain Speke,[56] having heard of the hard fate of Monsieur
Nicolas, took care to represent it to the two admirals in all
its affecting circumstances, who immediately advanced the
sum of 1500 rupees each. Their example was followed by
the five captains of the squadron, who subscribed 5000
between them. Mr. Doidge added 800 more, and the same
sum was thrown in by another person who was a sincere well-wisher
to this unfortunate gentleman; so that a present of
9600 rupees, or L1200 sterling was in a few minutes collected
towards the relief of this valuable Frenchman and his
distressed family. One of the company was presently
despatched with this money, who had orders to acquaint
Monsieur Nicolas that a few of his English friends desired
his acceptance of it, as a small testimony of the very high
esteem they had for his moral character, and of their
unfeigned sympathy with him in his misfortunes. The poor
gentleman, quite transported by such an instance of generosity
in an enemy, cried out in a sort of ecstasy, 'Good God,
they axe friends indeed!' He accepted of the present with
great thankfulness, and desired that his most grateful
acknowledgements might be made to his unknown benefactors,
for whose happiness and the happiness of their
families, not only his, but the prayers of his children's
children, he hoped, would frequently be presented to heaven.
He could add no more; the tears, which ran plentifully down
his cheeks, bespoke the feelings of his heart: and, indeed,
implied much more than even Cicero with all his powers of
oratory could possibly have expressed."

This, however, was but a solitary instance; the state of the French
was, as a rule, wretched in the extreme, and Renault wrote:--

"The whole colony is dispersed, and the inhabitants are
seeking an asylum, some--the greatest part--have gone to
Chinsurah, others to the Danes and to Calcutta. This
dispersion being caused by the misery to which our countrymen
are reduced, their poverty, which I cannot relieve,
draws tears from my eyes, the more bitter that I have seen
them risk their lives so generously for the interests of the
Company, and of our nation."

In such circumstances there was but one consolation possible to
brave men--the knowledge that, in the eyes of friend and foe, they
had done their duty. The officers of the British army and navy all
spoke warmly of the gallant behaviour of the French, and the
historian Broome, himself a soldier and the chronicler of many a
brave deed, expresses himself as follows:--

"The conduct of the French on this occasion was most
creditable and well worthy the acknowledged gallantry of
that nation. Monsieur Renault, the Governor, displayed
great courage and determination: but the chief merit of the
defence was due to Monsieur Devignes" (Captain de la
Vigne Buisson), "commander of the French Company's ship,
_Saint Contest_. He took charge of the bastions, and directed
their fire with great skill and judgment, and by his own
example inspired energy and courage into all those around

Renault himself found some consolation in the gallant behaviour of
his sons.

"In my misfortune I have had the satisfaction to see my
two sons distinguish themselves in the siege with all the
courage and intrepidity which I could desire. The elder
brother was in the Company's service, and served as a
volunteer; the younger, an officer in the army, was, as has
been said above, commandant of the volunteers."

Others who are mentioned by Renault and his companions as having
distinguished themselves on the French side, were the Councillors
MM. Caillot, Nicolas, and Picques, Captain de la Vigne Buisson and
his son and officers, M. Sinfray (secretary to the Council), the
officers De Kalli[57] and Launay, the Company's servants Matel, Le
Conte Dompierre, Boissemont and Renault de St. Germain, the private
inhabitant Renault de la Fuye, and the two supercargoes of Indiamen
Delabar and Chambon. Caillot (or Caillaud) was wounded. The
official report of the loss of Chandernagore was drawn up on the
29th of March, 1757. The original is in the French Archives, and
Caillaud's signature shows that he was still suffering from his
wound. Sinfray we shall come across again. He joined Law at
Cossimbazar and accompanied him on his first retreat to Patna. Sent
back by Law, he joined Siraj-ud-daula, and commanded the small
French contingent at Plassey. When the battle was lost he took
refuge in Birbhum, was arrested by the Raja, and handed over to the

The immediate gain to the English by the capture of Chandernagore
was immense. Clive wrote to the Select Committee at Madras:--

"I cannot at present give you an account to what value
has been taken;[58] the French Company had no great stock
of merchandize remaining, having sold off most of their
Imports and even their investment for Europe to pay in part
the large debts they had contracted. With respect to the
artillery and ammunition ... they were not indifferently
furnished: there is likewise a very fine marine arsenal well
stocked. In short nothing could have happened more
seasonable for the expeditious re-establishment of Calcutta
than the reduction of Charnagore" (i.e. Chandernagore). "It
was certainly a large, rich and thriving colony, and the loss
of it is an inexpressible blow to the French Company."[59]

The French gentlemen, after having signed under protest the document
presented to them by Clive, betook themselves to Chinsurah, where
they repudiated their signatures as having been extorted by force,
subsequent to, and contrary to, the capitulation. They proceeded to
communicate with Pondicherry, their up-country Factories, and the
native Government; they also gave assistance to French soldiers who
had escaped from Chandernagore. Clive and the Calcutta Council were
equally determined to interpret the capitulation in their own way,
and sent Renault an order, through M. Bisdom, the Dutch Director, to
repair to the British camp. Renault refused, and when Clive sent a
party of sepoys for him and the other councillors, they appealed to
M. Bisdom for the protection of the Dutch flag. M. Bisdom informed
them somewhat curtly that they had come to him without his
invitation, that he had no intention of taking any part in their
quarrels, that he would not give them the protection of his flag to
enable them to intrigue against the English, and, in short,
requested them to leave Dutch territory. As it was evident that the
British were prepared to use force, Renault and the Council gave in,
and were taken to Calcutta, where, for some time, they were kept
close prisoners. It was not till the Nawab had been overthrown at
Plassey, that they were absolutely released, and even then it was
only that they might prepare for their departure from Bengal.
Renault surmises, quite correctly, that this severity was probably
due to the fear that they would assist the Nawab.

The following incident during Renault's captivity shows how little
could be expected from the Nawab towards a friend who was no longer
able to be of use to him. After the capture of Chandernagore the
English Council called on the Nawab to surrender the French
up-country Factories to them. Siraj-ud-daula had not even yet
learned the folly of his double policy. On the 4th of April he wrote
to Clive:--

"I received your letter and observe what you desire in
regard to the French factories and other goods. I address
you seeing you are a man of wisdom and knowledge, and
well acquainted with the customs and trade of the world;
and you must know that the French by the permission and
_phirmaund_[60] of the King[61] have built them several factories,
and carried on their trade in this kingdom. I cannot
therefore without hurting my character and exposing
myself to trouble hereafter, deliver up their factories and
goods, unless I have a written order from them for so doing,
and I am perswaded that from your friendship for me you
would never be glad at anything whereby my fame would
suffer; as I on my part am ever desirous of promoting" [yours].

"Mr. Renault, the French. Governor being in your power, if
you could get from him a paper under his own hand and
seal to this purpose; 'That of his own will and pleasure, he
thereby gave up to the English Company's servants, and
empowered them to receive all the factories, money and
goods belonging to the French Company without any hindrance
from the Nawab's people;' and would send this to
me, I should be secured by that from any trouble hereafter
on this account. But it is absolutely necessary you come
to some agreement about the King's duties arising from the
French trade.... I shall then be able to answer to his
servants 'that in order to make good the duties accruing
from the French trade I had delivered up their factories
into the hands of the English.'"[62]

Clive replied on the 8th of April:--

"Now that I have granted terms to Mr. Renault, and
that he is under my protection, it is contrary to our custom,
after this, to use violence; and without it how would he ever
of his own will and pleasure, write to desire you to deliver
up his master's property. Weigh the justice of this in your
own mind. Notwithstanding we have reduced the French
so low you, contrary to your own interest and the treaty
you have made with us, that my enemies should be yours,
you still support and encourage them. But should you
think it would hurt your character to deliver up the French
factories and goods, your Excellency need only signify to me
your approbation and I will march up and take them."[63]

The more we study the records of the time, the more clearly we
realize the terrible determination of Clive's character, and we
almost feel a kind of pity for the weak creatures who found
themselves opposed to him, until we come across incidents like the
above, which show the depths of meanness to which they were prepared
to descend.

As to Renault's further career little is known, and that little we
should be glad to forget. Placed in charge of the French Settlement
at Karical, he surrendered, on the 5th of April, 1760, to what was
undoubtedly an overwhelming British force, but after so poor a
defence that he was brought before a Court Martial and cashiered. It
speaks highly for the respect in which he had been held by both
nations that none of the various reports and accounts of the siege
mention him by name. Even Lally, who hated the French Civilians,
though he says he deserved death,[64] only refers to him indirectly
as being the same officer of the Company who had surrendered
Chandernagore to Clive.

We shall now pass to what went on in Siraj-ud-daula's Court and


[Footnote 12: Journal of M. d'Albert.]

[Footnote 13: Evidently the Parish Church of St. Louis. Eyre Coote
tells us the French had four guns mounted on its roof.]

[Footnote 14: In early accounts of India the Muhammadans are always
called _Moors_; the Hindus, _Gentoos_ or _Gentiles_. The _Topasses_
were Portuguese half-castes, generally employed, even by native
princes, as gunners.]

[Footnote 15: Captain Broome says there were fifty European ladies
in the Fort. The French accounts say they all retired, previous to
the siege, to Chinsurah and Serampore.]

[Footnote 16: Captain, afterwards Sir, Eyre Coote.]

[Footnote 17: The fullest account is one by Renault, dated October
26, 1758.]

[Footnote 18: The only one, excepting the battle of Biderra, between
the English and Dutch.]

[Footnote 19: Governor of Pondicherry and President of the Superior

[Footnote 20: Eyre Coote, in his "Journal," mentions an old ditch,
which surrounded the settlement.]

[Footnote 21: One hundred toises, or 600 feet; but Eyre Coote says
330 yards, the difference probably due to the measurement excluding
or including the outworks.]

[Footnote 22: Tanks, or artificial ponds, in Bengal are often of
great size. I have seen some a quarter of a mile long.]

[Footnote 23: Letter to M. de Montorcin, Chandernagore, August 1
1756. Signature lost.]

[Footnote 24: The Nawab, in July, 1756, extorted three lakhs from
the French and even more from the Dutch.]

[Footnote 25: British Museum. Additional MS. 20,914.]

[Footnote 26: A kind of fibre used in making bags and other coarse

[Footnote 27: Surgeon Ives's Journal.]

[Footnote 28: Letter to De Montorcin.]

[Footnote 29: Both English and French use this word "inhabitant" to
signify any resident who was not official, military, or in the
seafaring way.]

[Footnote 30: This he did through the Armenian Coja Wajid, a wealthy
merchant of Hugli, who advised the Nawab on European affairs.
_Letter from Coja Wajid to Clive, January 17, 1757_.]

[Footnote 31: A French doctor, who has left an account of the
Revolutions in Bengal, says there were eight outposts, and that the
loss of one would have involved the loss of all the others, as they
could be immediately cut off from the Fort, from which they were too
distant to be easily reinforced. The doctor does not sign his name,
but he was probably one of the six I mentioned above. Their names
were Haillet (doctor), La Haye (surgeon-major), Du Cap (second), Du
Pre (third), Droguet (fourth), and St. Didier (assistant).]

[Footnote 32: M. Vernet, the Dutch Chief at Cossimbazar, wrote to
the Dutch Director at Chinsurah that he could obtain a copy of this
treaty from the Nawab's secretaries, if he wished for it.]

[Footnote 33: See page 79 (and note).]

[Footnote 34: See note, p. 89.]

[Footnote 35: Governor.]

[Footnote 36: A document authorising the free transit of certain
goods, and their exemption from custom dues, in favour of English

[Footnote 37: Orme MSS. India XI., p. 2744, No. 71.]

[Footnote 38: Orme MSS. India XI., p. 2750, No. 83.]

[Footnote 39: Still visible, I believe, in parts. The gateway
certainly exists.]

[Footnote 40: Mr. Tooke was a Company's servant. He had
distinguished himself in the defence of Calcutta in 1756, when he
was wounded, and, being taken on board the ships, escaped the
dreadful ordeal of the Black Hole.]

[Footnote 41: Neither of these accounts agree with the Capitulation

[Footnote 42: British Museum. Addl. MS. 20,914.]

[Footnote 43: Remarks on board His Majesty's ship _Tyger_, March

[Footnote 44: His maternal grandfather was a cousin of Aliverdi

[Footnote 45: Malleson explains this by saying that De Terraneau was
employed in the blocking up of the passage, but the story hardly
needs contradiction.]

[Footnote 46: This announcement seems superfluous after fighting had
been going on for several days, but it simply shows the friction
between the naval and military services.]

[Footnote 47: Clive's journal for March 16th. Fort St. George, Sel.
Com. Cons., 28th April, 1757.]

[Footnote 48: Eyre Coote's journal.]

[Footnote 49: The passages interpolated are on the authority of a
MS. in the Orme Papers, entitled "News from Bengal."]

[Footnote 50: Accounts of this detail differ. One says it was
stormed on the 21st, but if so the French would have been more on
their guard, and would surely have strengthened the second battery
in front of the Fort.]

[Footnote 51: Lime plaster made extremely hard.]

[Footnote 52: The Emperor at Delhi, who was supposed to be about to
invade Bengal.]

[Footnote 53: Orme MSS. O.V. 32, p. 11.]

[Footnote 54: Orme MSS. O.V. 32, p. 10.]

[Footnote 55: Sergeant Nover was pardoned in consideration of
previous good conduct. _Letter from Clive to Colonel Adlercron,
March_ 29, 1757.]

[Footnote 56: Captain Speke was seriously and his son mortally
wounded in the attack on Chandernagore.]

[Footnote 57: I cannot identify this name in the Capitulation
Returns. Possibly he was killed.]

[Footnote 58: Surgeon Ives says the booty taken was valued at

[Footnote 59: Orme MSS. India X., p. 2390. Letter of 30th March,

[Footnote 60: _Firman_, or Imperial Charter.]

[Footnote 61: The Mogul, Emperor, or King of Delhi, to whom the
Bengal Nawabs were nominally tributary.]

[Footnote 62: Orme MSS. India XI. pp. 2766-7, No. 111.]

[Footnote 63: Ibid., p. 2768, No. 112.]

[Footnote 64: Memoirs of Lally. London, 1766.]

[Illustration: MUXADABAD, OR MURSHIDABAD. (_After Rennell_.)]



A few miles out of Murshidabad, capital of the Nawabs of Bengal
since 1704, when Murshid Kuli Khan transferred his residence from
Dacca to the ancient town of Muxadabad and renamed it after himself,
lay a group of European Factories in the village or suburb of
Cossimbazar.[65] Of these, one only, the English, was fortified; the
others, i.e. the French and Dutch, were merely large houses lying in
enclosures, the walls of which might keep out cattle and wild
animals and even thieves, but were useless as fortifications. In
1756 the Chief of the English Factory, as we have already seen, was
the Worshipful Mr. William Watts; the Dutch factory was under M.
Vernet,[66] and the French under M. Jean Law. The last mentioned was
the elder son of William Law, brother of John Law the financier,
who settled in France, and placed his sons in the French service.
French writers[67] on genealogy have hopelessly mixed up
the two brothers, Jean and Jacques Francois. Both came to
India, both distinguished themselves, both rose to the rank of
colonel, one by his services to the French East India Company, and
one by the usual promotion of an officer in the King's army. The
only proof that the elder was the Chief of Cossimbazar is to be
found in a few letters, mostly copies, in which his name is given as
Jean or John. As a usual rule he signed himself in the French manner
by his surname only, or as Law of Lauriston.

His experiences during the four years following the accession of
Siraj-ud-daula were painful and exciting, and he has recorded them
in a journal or memoir[68] which has never yet been published, but
which is of great interest to the student of Indian history. For us
it has the added charm of containing a picture of ourselves painted
by one who, though a foreigner by education, was enabled by his
birth to understand our national peculiarities. In the present
chapter I shall limit myself almost entirely to quotations from this

Law was by no means an admirer of Aliverdi Khan's successor,--

"Siraj-ud-daula, a young man of twenty-four or twenty-five,[69]
very common in appearance. Before the death of Aliverdi
Khan the character of Siraj-ud-daula was reported to be one
of the worst ever known. In fact, he had distinguished himself
not only by all sorts of debauchery, but by a revolting
cruelty. The Hindu women are accustomed to bathe on the
banks of the Ganges. Siraj-ud-daula, who was informed by
his spies which of them were beautiful, sent his satellites in
disguise in little boats to carry them off. He was often
seen, in the season when the river overflows, causing the
ferry boats to be upset or sunk in order to have the cruel
pleasure of watching the terrified confusion of a hundred
people at a time, men, women, and children, of whom many,
not being able to swim, were sure to perish. When it
became necessary to get rid of some great lord or minister,
Siraj-ud-daula alone appeared in the business, Aliverdi Khan
retiring to one of his houses or gardens outside the town, so
that he might not hear the cries of the persons whom he was
causing to be killed."

So bad was the reputation of this young prince, that many persons,
among them Mr. Watts, imagined it impossible that the people would
ever tolerate his accession. The European nations in Bengal had no
regular representatives at the Court of the Nawab; and the Chiefs of
the Factories at Cossimbazar, though now and then admitted to the
_Durbar_, transacted their business mainly through _wakils_, or
native agents, who, of course, had the advantage of knowing the
language and, what was of much greater importance, understood all
those indirect ways in which in Eastern countries one's own business
is forwarded and that of one's rivals thwarted. Then, as now, the
difficulty of dealing with native agents was to induce these agents
to express their own opinions frankly and clearly.[70] So far from
the English Chief being corrected by his _wakil_, we find the
latter, whilst applying to other nobles for patronage and
assistance, studiously refraining from making any application to
Siraj-ud-daula when English business had to be transacted at Court.

The English went even further:--

"On certain occasions they refused him admission into
their factory at Cossimbazar and their country houses,
because, in fact, this excessively blustering and impertinent
young man used to break the furniture, or, if it pleased his
fancy, take it away. But Siraj-ud-daula was not the man
to forget what he regarded as an insult. The day after the
capture of the English fort at Cossimbazar, he was heard to
say in full _Durbar_, 'Behold the English, formerly so proud
that they did not wish to receive me in their houses!' In
short, people knew, long before the death of Aliverdi Khan,
that Siraj-ud-daula was hostile to the English."

With the French it was different:--

"On the other hand, he was very well disposed towards


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