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THE FOUNDATION OF BRITISH RULE IN
SIR ALEXANDER JOHN ARBUTHNOT
K.C.S.I. and C.I.E.
If Sir Walter Ralegh, as Mr Martin Hume described him in the volume with which the present series began, was the man who laid the foundation stone of the Colonial Empire of Great Britain, Clive may be called with not less truth, in the words of Sir Alfred Lyall, “the man to whom above all others the English are indebted for the foundation of our Empire in India.'
There have been few men who have so rapidly established such a reputation as was achieved by Clive very shortly after he had reached his twenty-sixth year. The son of a small and impoverished country squire, belonging to a family which, although old, had never previously been distinguished, Robert Clive in a remarkably short time won for it a name second to none in the history of the world.
It is the object of this brief memoir to show how this came about, to describe the salient points in Clive's career, and to explain how entirely it was owing to Clive that the place
now filled by the British Ráj in India was not occupied in the middle of the last century by the French.
Landing in India in September 1744, Clive in little more than five years, by his remarkable defence of Arcot, had proved himself an able soldier, and in less than a year and a half later was able to return to England recognised by his immediate masters, the Directors of the East India Company, as the one man in their service most fitted to be entrusted with high military command. In a very few years more it was felt, not only in India and by persons interested in and acquainted with Indian affairs, but by English statesmen as well, by such men as the elder Pitt, by George Grenville and others, that the talents of the young soldier were by no means confined to the camp, but that he was as able in council as he was skilful in strategy and daring in fight.
And when we reflect upon his death at the early age of forty-nine, after a persecution which, whatever may have been his errors, it is difficult to read of without shame, we can hardly avoid the conclusion that of the many sad and discreditable incidents which, in this
and other countries, disfigured the latter part of the eighteenth century, one of the not least deplorable was the attack made by his countrymen upon the founder of our Indian Empire.
Regarding Clive's career, opinions of the most diverse kinds have been and still are entertained. According to James Mill, the leading historian of British India, Clive was artful, tricky and exceedingly quarrelsomean opinion which is not, however, shared by Mill's annotator, Horace Hayman Wilson. And strange to say, when dealing with the Parliamentary proceedings against Clive, Mill denounces them in language which might have been used by Clive's warmest supporters.
Marshman, an essentially fair writer, bears a high tribute' to Clive's lofty genius, and denounces the ingratitude which embittered the closing years of his life.
Clive's first biographer, Caraccioli, appears to have written for the sole purpose of attacking him both in his public and in his private life.
Sir John Malcolm, on the other hand, defends almost every incident of his career, including the fictitious treaty with Omichand.
Of the two more recent memoirs, that by the