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There was wanting in the Cabinet that energy which enables a Prime Minister to discard the rules of seniority in the selection of a General. There was wanting in short a master mind like Chatham's, to discover and call forth a master mind like Wolfe's.' On July 27, 1778, Admiral (afterwards Viscount) Keppel met Count D’Orvilliers off Ushant. After three hours' indecisive engagement, he made signals and sent orders to Sir Hugh Palliser, his second in command, to renew the contest; but the latter being unable to do so, in consequence of his own ship being disabled, the French fleet got away to Brest, and Keppel retired to Plymouth. Palliser charged his chief with misconduct and incapacity. A courtmartial ensued, which, after sitting for thirty-two days, decided that these charges were malicious and unfounded,' and that Keppel had acted as became a judicious, brave, and experienced officer'; and the thanks of both Houses of Parliament were voted to him. Hereupon Sir Hugh demanded a court-martial on himself; and after twenty-three days, he too was pronounced to have shown himself in many respects an exemplary and meritorious officer. These indecisive actions greatly irritated the impetuous patriotism of Cowper, and made him exclaim,
“Thy mariners explore the wild expanse,
Return ashamed without the wreaths they sought.' In April, 1780, Rodney was engaged in ineffectual skirmishes in the West India Isles with the French and Spanish fleets, under Count de Guichen and Admiral Solano; but the latter evaded a general engagement. So in 1781, Admiral Graves with nineteen ships of the line, had a gallant encounter at the mouth of the Chesapeake, with Count de Grasse and a fleet of twenty-eight French ships; but they parted without any decisive result. Again on Aug. 5, in that year, Sir Hyde Parker, who was escorting a merchant fleet from the Baltic, fell in with a Dutch squadron under Admiral Zouttman, off the Dogger Bank. After heavy loss on both sides, the latter
bore away to the Texel; and Parker found himself not in a condition to follow him.
The history of India in Cowper's time resolves itself into the story of the career of two men, Clive and Hastings. Robert Clive, born in 1725, began life as a Writer in the East India Company's service at Madras. In 1747 he exchanged the desk for the camp; and in 1751 he withdrew the French under Duplex from Trichinopoly, by the occupation of Arcot, the capital of the Carnatic, which he took on Aug. 31; and this was followed by other brilliant successes in the Madras Presidency. The settlement of Calcutta, founded by the English in 1689, and strengthened by the erection of Fort William in 1698, was conquered in 1756 by Surajah Dowlah, the Nawab of Bengal. On the 20th of June he shut up 146 captives in the notorious Black Hole, a room just eighteen feet square, whence only twenty-three came out alive the next morning. Clive retook Calcutta, Jan. 2, 1757 ; and on June 23, with an army of 3000 men (two thirds of whom were Sepoys), he defeated the Surajah with 68,000 men, at Plassey; and in his place set up Mir Jaffier on the throne of Bengal. Thus was the British supremacy established in Northern India. In 1765 the Nawab of Oude and Shah-Ahum the eldest son of the Great Mogul, made an effort to depose Mir Jaffier. Clive came to his support; and Jaffier testified his gratitude by bestowing on him the quit-rent which the East India Company were bound to pay to their Nawab, amounting to some £30,000 per annum.
By the Treaty of Allahabad in the same year, the Great Mogul ceded to the Company the revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, for an annual payment of twelve lacs of rupees; by which transaction the administration and sovereignty of the country was secured to the Company. In 1767 the Presidency of Madras was attacked by Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore ; but peace was restored in 1769. Clive had been created an Irish Peer in 1760, by the title of Lord Clive, Baron of Plassey; and he finally returned to England in 1767. In May, 1773, a vote of censure upon him was brought forward in the House of Commons, by Burgoyne; the charge
being that Clive, in the acquisition of his wealth, had 'abused his powers, and set an evil example to the servants of the public. This did not pass; the House agreeing almost unanimously to the amendment of Wedderburn, 'that Robert Lord Clive did at the same time render great and meritorious services to his country. Yet the fact that such a motion should have been brought up at all, preyed so much upon the mind of Clive, that he put an end to his own life a few months afterwards. It is with reference to Clive's career in India, that Cowper expostulates with his country, as
Fed from the richest veins of the Mogul,
And that obtained by rapine and by stealth.' Warren Hastings, an old Westminster schoolfellow of Cowper's, was sent out at the age of seventeen as a Writer to the Company, in 1750. After the battle of Plassey, he was appointed to reside as the Company's agent, at the Court of Mir Jaffier; and in 1761 he became a member of the Council at Calcutta. Having returned to England in 1764, he was sent out again in 1769 as a member of the Madras Council; and in 1772 he was placed by the Directors at the head of the Bengal Government. The internal government had hitherto been entrusted to a native minister, responsible only to the British rulers of the country. Hastings abolished this office, transferred the civil administration to the Company's servants, and thus extinguished even the nominal authority of the Hindoo rulers. He next turned his attention to economic matters. The annual payment of £320,000 to the Nawab of Bengal was curtailed to one half, and the Great Mogul's pension of £300,000, was entirely withdrawn from him. Furthermore, Hastings made an actual sale of Corah and Allahabad to the Nawab of Oude, for half a million sterling; and even hired out British troops to him, for a sum of £400,000, to aid him in the subjugation of the Rohillas, a tribe of Affghans. By these means the annual income of the Company was increased by £450,000, and a sum of nearly a million secured in ready money; whilst the military expenses,
which had cost the Company about a quarter of
million a year, were defrayed by the Nawab of Oude. In 1774, Lord » North's Act of Regulations was introduced into India. By
this it was provided, that the Governor of Bengal should become the Governor-General of all the British possessions in India, with the highest civil and military powers; that he should be assisted by a Supreme Council of four members, who were entrusted with the civil and criminal jurisdiction ; that a Supreme Court of Judicature should be erected by the Crown, with appeal to the Privy Council; that all declarations of war and peace, and all negociations with native powers, should be vested in the Governor-General and the Supreme Council; and that all regulations, civil and military, should be laid before the Secretary of State in England, with a power in the Crown to annul them. Finally, Hastings was made the first Governor-General, for a period of five years. But disputes soon arose between him and the Supreme Council, and the latter brought charges of corruption against him; while the Hindoo population were incensed by the execution (for forgery) of Nuncomar, their chief Brahmin, who had been the personal foe of Hastings. Hereupon the latter resigned his office : but on the arrival of a successor to supersede him, he declared his resignation to be invalid; and as the Supreme Court supported him in this, he was quietly re-appointed at the end of the five years. Meanwhile the Mahratta tribes, originally mere freebooters, became powerful in Guzerat, Berar, and Tanjore. In 1779, their Peshwa, residing at Poonah, allied himself with Hyder Ali against the Company. They invaded the Carnatic, and maintained their position until, in 1781, Sir Eyre Coote defeated Hyder Ali at Porto Novo, with a force of barely 9000 men against 150,000, July 1; and again at Pollilore, Aug. 27. The peace with France, in 1783, put an end for a time to this war, which had been continued by Hyder's son, Tippo Saib. In 1784, the younger Pitt passed his East India Bill. By this a Board of Control was erected, and the Company's servants were made responsible, in respect of territorial dominion and patronage, to the Government at home. Warren Hastings returned to England
in 1785, and was impeached before the House of Lords. The trial was protracted till April, 1795; when he was acquitted upon each charge brought against him. In the next year the East India Company granted him an annual pension of £4000 ; besides lending him a sum of £50,000 for eighteen years without interest. Cowper always believed that his old schoolfellow had been “injuriously treated,' and 'as an act merely of justice' addressed to him the following lines, which he sent to Lady Hesketh,
Hastings! I knew thee young, and of a mind,
With this kindly tribute to the friend of his school days, we take our leave of William Cowper. As a Poet, he commands our admiration; as a Man, he wins our sympathy and love. There are greater English Poets than he, yet in his own age none greater; and throughout his life, saddened as it was by the most distressing of all maladies, he maintained the noble character of a Man, a Gentleman, and an Englishman.