Battle of Plassey
TheBattle of Plassey was a battle that took place on June 23, 1757, on the banks of the Bhagirathi River, about 150 km north of Calcutta. It is near Murshidabad, then the capital of the Nawab of Bengal in India. Pâlāshir, an extravagant red flowering tree known as “Flame of the forest,” gives its name to a small village near the battlefield. A phonetically accurate romanizing of the Bengali name would be Battle of Palashi, but the spelling “Plassey” is now conventional.
The battle was between Siraj Ud Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, and the forces of the British East India Company. Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army commander had defected to the British, causing his army to collapse. After this defeat, the entire province of Bengal passed to the Company, and this battle is today seen as one of the pivotal battles leading to the British Empire in India.
The enormous wealth gained from the Bengal treasury after its victory in the battle allowed the Company to significantly strengthen its military might.
The battle was waged during the period when the British and French governments were fighting the Seven Years’ War in Europe (1756–1763). The French East India Company (La Compagnie des Indes Orientales) sent a small contingent to fight against the British East India Company. The British victory both eliminated French competition in India and resulted in a treaty arrangement with the Moghul Empire that left the East India Company de facto ruler of the province of Bengal. From this base, the Company set about extending effective rule over the whole of the Indian Sub-Continent.
The Battle of Plassey was one of the major steps that brought England to dominate and conquer India. It was not only a battle with local authorities but part of the rivalry with France over available markets. However, European colonial expansion was a part of an even bigger phenomenon that would bind the peoples and cultures of the world together through dissemination of technology and sharing among cultures. In years to come it would bring the Western colonialists to some awareness of their spiritual responsibility for other nations—for example, no matter how wide was the gap between the rich and poor in the West, in the East it was even wider. In this respect, the Battle of Plassey can be seen as one step in a sad but necessary process. However, the method of colonial conquest cannot be accepted in this age, when the peoples of the world recognize their interdependence and the need to establish a world of mutual prosperity and shared values, by peaceful means.
The ostensible reason for the battle was Siraj-ud-Daulah’s earlier attack and capture of Fort William, Calcutta (which he renamed to Alinagar) during June 1756, but the battle is today seen as part of the geopolitical ambition of the East India Company and the larger dynamics of colonial conquest.
This conflict was precipitated by a number of disputes::
- The illegal use of Mughal Imperial export trade permits (dastaks) granted to the British in 1717, for engaging in internal trade within India. The British cited this permit as their excuse for not paying taxes to the Bengal Nawab.
- British interference in the Nawab’s court, and particularly their support for one of his aunts, Ghaseti Begum. The son of Ghaseti’s treasurer had sought refuge in Fort William and Siraj demanded his return.
- Additional fortifications with mounted guns had been placed on Fort William without the consent of the Nawab
- Their policy of favoring Hindu Marwari merchants such as Jagat Sheth
During this capture of Fort William, of June 1756, an event occurred that came to be known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. A narrative by one John Zephaniah Holwell, plus the testimony of another survivor, Cooke, to a select committee of the House of Commons, coupled with subsequent verification by Robert Orme, placed 146 British prisoners into a room measuring 18 by 15 feet with only 23 surviving the night. The story was amplified in colonial literature, but the facts are widely disputed. In any event, the Black Hole incident, which is often cited as a reason for the Battle at Plassey, was not widely known until James Mill’s History of India (1858), after which it became the grist of student texts on India.
As the forces for the battle were building up, the British settlement at Fort William sought assistance from Presidency of Fort St. George at Madras, which sent Colonel Robert Clive and Admiral Charles Watson. They recaptured Calcutta on January 2, 1757, but the Nawab marched again on Calcutta on February 5, 1757, and were surprised by a dawn attack by the British, resulting in the Treaty of Alinagar.
Growing French influence
Growing on the sidelines was the French influence, at the urging of the enterprising French Governor-General Joseph François Dupleix, at the court of the Nawab. This was resulting in increasing French trade in Bengal. They lent the Nawab some French soldiers to operate heavy artillery pieces.
Ahmad Shah Abdali
At the same time, Siraj Ud Daulah was facing conflicts on two fronts. On his Western border was the advancing army of the Afghan, Ahmad Shah Abdali who had captured and looted Delhi in 1756.
So although he was humiliated by the Treaty, Siraj Ud Daulah sent the better part of his troops west under the command of his general, Raja Ram Narain.
In the midst of all of this, there was an ongoing court intrigue at Siraj Ud Daulah’s court at Murshidabad. Siraj was not a particularly well-loved ruler. Young (he succeeded his father in April, 1756 at age 27) and impetuous, he was prone to quickly make enemies. The most dangerous of these was his wealthy and influential aunt, Ghaseti Begum (Meherun-Nisa), who wanted another nephew, Shawkat Jang, installed as Nawab.
Mir Jafar, commander-in-chief of the army, was also uneasy with Siraj, and was courted assiduously by Ghaseti. Eventually, through the connivance of traders such as Amichand (who had suffered as a result of the siege of Calcutta), and William Watts, Mir Jafar was brought into the British fold.
The Company had long decided that a change of regime would be conducive to their interests in Bengal. In 1752, Robert Orme, in a letter to Clive, noted that the company would have to remove Siraj’s grandfather, Alivardi Khan, in order to prosper
After the premature death of Alivardi Khan in April 1756, his nominated successor was Siraj-ud-Daulah, a grandson whom Alivardi had adopted. The circumstances of this transition gave rise to considerable controversy and the British began supporting the intrigues of Alivardi’s eldest daughter, Ghaseti Begum against that of his grandson, Siraj.
Instructions dated October 13, 1756, from Fort St. George instructed Robert Clive, “to effect a junction with any powers in the province of Bengal that might be dissatisfied with the violence of the Nawab’s government or that might have pretensions to the Nawabship.” Accordingly, Robert was negotiating with two potential contenders, one of Siraj’s generals, Yar Latif Khan, and Siraj’s grand-uncle and army chief, Mir Jafar Ali Khan, through William Watts, chief of the Kasimbazar factory of the Company, who was proficient in Bengali, and Persian languages.
On April 23, 1757, the Select Committee of the Board of Directors of the British East India Company approved Coup d’état as its policy in Bengal.
Mir Jafar, negotiating through an Armenian merchant, Khwaja Petruse, was the Company’s final choice. Finally, on June 5, 1757, a written agreement was signed between the Company, represented by Clive, and Mir Jafar, ensuring that Mir Jafar would be appointed Nawab of Bengal, once Siraj Ud Daulah was deposed.
The British army was vastly outnumbered, consisting of 2,200 Europeans and 800 native Indians and a small number of guns. The Nawab had an army of about 50,000 with some heavy artillery operated by about 40 French soldiers sent by the French East India Company.
- Major Killpatrick
- Major Grant
- Then Major Eyre Coote, later Lieutenant-General, and then Sir Eyre Coote
- Captain Gaupp
- Captain Richard Knox, 1st CO of the 1st Bengal Native Infantry
- Mir Jafar Ali Khan—commanding 16,000 cavalry
- Mir Madan
- Manik Chand
- Rai Durlabh
- Monsieur Sinfray—French artillery officer
British East India Company Regiments
- 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot]], 1st Battalion
- 1st Bombay European Fusiliers, also known as 103rd Regiment of Foot
- Royal Madras Fusiliers, also known as 102nd Regiment of Foot
- Royal Bengal Fusiliers, also known as 101st Regiment of Foot
- 1st. Bengal Native Infantry (BNI), also known as the Lal Paltan (Hindi for Red Platoon)
- 9th Battery, 12th Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 50 naval ratings from HMS Tyger
On 12th June 1757 the remaining troops at Calcutta with 150 sailors from Admiral Watson’s squadron marched to join Clive’s force at Chandranagar. Clive now had 950 European Troops (including 250 men from His Majesty’s 39th Foot), 2,100 sepoys, 100 artillerymen, 60 sailors and eight 6 pounder guns and 2 howitzers.
Clive marched out of Chandranagar on 13th June 1757, leaving a garrison of 100 men. Arriving on 16th June at Palti, Clive sent Major Eyre Coote of the 39th Foot with a small force to take the post of Katwa, containing a native garrison and a considerable quantity of supplies. The garrison surrendered to Coote after a token resistance.
As Clive and his army approached Siraj-ud-Daulah’s camp, the correspondence with Mir Jafar Khan became less than satisfactory, leaving Clive to wonder whether Mir Jafar Khan would in fact comply with the obligations set out in the secret treaty and betray Siraj-ud-Daulah. If he did not, the likelihood was that Clive’s army would be overwhelmed in a battle.
Clive halted the advance at Katwa and wrote to the Committee in Calcutta asking for their advice as to whether to proceed with the advance. This was an unusual show of hesitation in Clive, normally impetuous to the point of rashness. That evening, after writing to the Rajah of Burdwan asking him to join his army with a thousand horsemen, Clive held a Council of War with all his officers. The question discussed and put to the council for a vote was whether the army should continue to advance or stay at Katwah, until the intentions of the traitors in Siraj-ud-Daulah ‘s camp became clearer.
The majority of the officers were for staying put. Major Eyre Coote, the hotheaded Queen’s officer of the 39th Foot, and a minority of the younger officers were for pressing ahead with the attack. Clive voted with those advocating caution. Coote urged that a delay would enable Monsieur Law to join Siraj-ud-Daulah from Bhagalpur with his French troops, known to have been urgently summoned by Siraj-ud-Daulah. The presence of Monsieur Law’s force in the opposing army, in addition to strengthening it significantly, was likely to cause the many Frenchmen serving in the East India Company army to desert to their own side.
On hearing that Clive was halted at Katwah, Siraj-ud-Daulah rushed his force forward to occupy the camp at Plassey, an established post for his army.
After the Council of War, a further letter reached Clive from Mir Jafar Khan, confirming that in the event of battle he would join the English against Siraj-ud-Daulah. Clive immediately changed his mind and the army marched.
At 6 am on 22nd June 1757, the army crossed the Bhagirathi River to the east bank, using the accompanying flotilla of boats which carried the supplies. The crossing took most of the day and brought the army within 15 miles of Plassey.
Clive’s army marched again at sunset on 22nd June 1757. It was now raining heavily, the earliest onset of the annual monsoon weather, and in places the river overflowed its banks, forcing the soldiers to march in water that reached up to their waists.
At 1 am on 23rd June 1757, the army reached Plassey, a small village with a hunting lodge owned by the Nawab, Siraj-ud-Daulah. The army bivouacked in a mango grove beyond the village, placing vedettes around the grove.
The Company’s troops could hear distant military music. The camp of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s large army was within earshot, about a mile up the river. Clive sent a party to occupy the hunting lodge.
The mango grove, in which the English army encamped, was 800 yards long and 300 yards wide, and comprised regular rows of mango trees. Around the grove was a ditch and an embankment.
Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army comprised 35,000 foot soldiers, most poorly armed and lacking formal discipline. His cavalry was around 15,000 horsemen, mostly Pathans from the North-West, well mounted, armed with swords and spears. All skilled and experienced riders.
Siraj-ud-Daulah’s artillery comprised 53 cannon, all of heavy calibre; 32, 24 and 18 pounders. Guns of this size, more usually deployed in fixed position siege work, were not ideal for use on the battlefield, being cumbrous, slow to load and difficult to move. The heavy ammunition could not be easily carried with the guns in sufficient quantity for a battle. Siraj-ud-Daulah’s gunners attempted to deal with these various problems by carrying the guns on enormous wooden trucks towed by oxen and pushed by elephants. The guns were apparently fired from these platforms. It is likely that the rate of fire will have been even slower than on the ground, with each discharge and heavy recoil damaging the wooden structures and terrifying the animals, particularly the elephants, animals notoriously unreliable in battle and dangerous to their own side.
On the battlefield, a ball from a 32 pounder gun would do little more damage than one from a 6 pounder. Indian gunners were not well drilled and produced a slow rate of fire, taking, according to Malleson, around fifteen minutes to fire each round, as against 2 or 3 rounds a minute for European gunners (this is partly explained by the disparity in the size of the guns that each side deployed).
Locally manufactured, the Indian guns lacked modern refinements such as elevating screws, making it near impossible to aim the guns with any accuracy from the wooden trucks.
In spite of the large number of guns, it seems likely that Siraj-ud-Daulah’s artillery was of little assistance to his army. They seem to have inflicted few casualties on Clive’s army.
The illustration by Richard Caton Woodville, at the head of the site, while giving an idea of how the arrangements for Siraj-ud-Daulah’s cannon may have been made, is incorrect in that the guns shown are of the 6 pounder size.
Supervising the Indian gunners and working a few smaller calibre field guns themselves (see the illustration of a captured French gun) were 40 or 50 Frenchmen, retained from Monsieur Law’s force, all deeply resentful at the destruction of the French settlement at Chandranagar, and commanded by Monsieur St Frais.
Siraj-ud-Daulah’s Plassey camp was covered by entrenched works, stretching for 200 yards away from the river and then for about 3 miles towards the north. At the corner stood a redoubt.
800 yards to the east of the redoubt stood a hillock covered with jungle. Between the two armies, and nearer to the mango grove occupied by Clive’s force, was a tank or pond and beyond it a larger tank, both surrounded by high mounds of earth.
At daybreak on 23rd June 1757, Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army marched out of the Plassey encampment and took up battle positions in a rough quarter circle around the English army.
The French troops with 4 cannon occupied the mound around the larger tank, about half a mile from the English army. Between the larger tank and the river were 2 heavy guns manned by Indian gunners. Behind these guns stood Mir Madan Khan, described as Siraj-ud-Daulah’s sole faithful commander, with 5,000 cavalry and 7,000 foot soldiers, all described as the pick of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army.
The rest of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army formed in a crescent facing the river, from the jungle covered hillock round to a point behind the mango grove. The commanders were, from the hillock, Raja Durlabh Ram, Yar Lutf Khan, and, on the left, Mir Jafar Khan, the principal traitor. The numbers in this crescent line were 45,000 infantry and cavalry with numerous guns. Clive’s force was effectively surrounded and pinned against the river. His survival and success depended upon the treachery of Mir Jafar Khan and the other Indian commanders.
Clive watched the deployment of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s troops from the roof of the Plassey hunting lodge. As Mir Jafar Khan’s troops extended around the mango grove, outflanking his troops and finally threatening their rear, he must have wondered what would happen if the traitors betrayed him instead of their Nawab.
Contrary to the usual Indian practice of placing artillery together, Siraj-ud-Daulah’s guns were dispersed along his line in twos and threes.
In accordance with his usual tactic of showing a bold front Clive ordered his troops out of the grove to form a line, the left resting on the hunting lodge. The European troops were placed in the centre in 4 divisions, commanded by Major Kilpatrick, Major Grant, Major Coote and Captain Gaupp, with 3 of the 6 pounders on each side, and a division of the native troops on each flank.
Clive sent forward a party with 2 of the 6 pounders and 2 howitzers to occupy a group of brick kilns, 200 yards in front of the left flank.
Both armies were in place by 8am. The French, under St Frais, fired the first gun, which acted as a signal for the opening of a heavy bombardment all along the line of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army. The Indian line was enveloped in a cloud of powder smoke. The English guns returned the fire and inflicted considerable damage on Siraj-ud-Daulah’s troops.
Clive could not afford even the few casualties caused by the French and Indian gunfire. At the end of half an hour and with 30 casualties Clive pulled his line back behind the mound along the perimeter of the mango grove. The troops and guns posted in the brick kiln and the men in the hunting lodge remained in position.
Encouraged by the English withdrawal, Siraj-ud-Daulah’s guns moved nearer and continued their fire.
Clive’s men were now in cover. They dug embrasures in the mango grove mound for their guns to fire through, while Siraj-ud-Daulah’s cannon caused havoc only among the mango trees, firing over the heads of the English soldiers concealed behind the mound.
Clive’s guns resumed their fire with considerable effect, killing Indian gunners and causing supplies of their ammunition to explode, generating panic among the draft animals and clouds of powder smoke.
This cannonade continued for three hours, but without any decisive effect. Siraj-ud-Daulah’s guns maintained their fire and there was no sign of any of his commanders deserting him.
At 11am Clive called his senior commanders to a council to decide what to do. It was resolved to continue the battle until nightfall and then attack Siraj-ud-Daulah’s camp.
Soon after the council ended a heavy rainstorm came on, continuing for an hour. The English troops were used to campaigning in a country where the monsoon had such an impact. They produced tarpaulins and covered the artillery ammunition to keep it dry. Siraj-ud-Daulah’s artillery did not have tarpaulins and much of their powder was ruined by the rain and rendered unusable. Their fire fell away.
Mir Madan Khan, Siraj-ud-Daulah’s one reliable commander, commanding on the right wing by the river, assumed that the English artillery must have suffered the same catastrophe as his own and launched an attack with his cavalry. They were met with a devastating discharge of grape at short range, which decimated and repelled the charging cavalry and mortally wounded Mir Madan Khan. The dying commander was brought to Siraj-ud-Daulah.
This was the crisis of the battle. While Mir Madan Khan lived and commanded in the key part of the battlefield, it was possible for Siraj-ud-Daulah to win the battle. Without that capable and faithful commander he was at the mercy of the other three commanders, all disloyal.
Siraj-ud-Daulah sent for Mir Jafar Khan, threw his turban on the ground and begged Mir Jafar to protect him. Mir Jafar promised to defend him to the utmost, then rode back to his wing of the army and sent a letter to Clive informing him of the death of Mir Madan Khan and urging him to attack without delay. This letter did not reach Clive during the battle.
Siraj-ud-Daulah then spoke to his other two commanders. Raja Durlabh Ram urged Siraj-ud-Daulah to order his army to return to the camp and leave the camp himself. Siraj-ud-Daulah adopted this advice and left on a camel for his capital, Murshidabad, with an escort of 2,000 horsemen.
The three treacherous generals began the withdrawal to the camp, the artillery leading the column. They were constrained in their treachery in that theirs was a personal contract with the English, while the rest of the army was generally still faithful to their Nawab, Siraj-ud-Daulah.
In any case, the French commander, St Frais, refused to retreat and continued to fight from the large tank, although the soldiers of the now deceased Mir Madan Khan joined the withdrawal to the camp.
On the English side, once the down pour of rain finished, Clive withdrew into the Plassey Hunting Lodge to put on dry clothes. He left instructions to be told if anything changed in the form of the battle.
On the left of the line, Major Kilpatrick saw the beginning of the withdrawal of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s troops and that the French were being left isolated at the large tank. Kilpatrick took it on himself to order forward his contingent of 250 European troops and 2 of the 6 pounders. He sent an officer to inform Clive of his actions.
Clive’s reaction to the news that Kilpatrick was advancing was fury. He rushed out of the lodge, intending to put Kilpatrick in arrest, but, seeing the general withdrawal of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army, confirmed Kilpatrick’s decision and ordered the rest of the English line to join the advance.
When Mir Jafar Khan reached the point opposite the western end of the mango grove, his troops left the column and wheeled towards the English positions. Mir Jafar Khan’s intentions were still unclear and Clive was uncertain whether the troops approaching his line were Mir Jafar’s. A small English detachment with a field gun was given the task of halting this approach, which it did.
St Frais, to avoid being overwhelmed, withdrew to the redoubt on the corner of the entrenchments, as the long column of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army made its way into the camp.
Clive moved his force forward to the tank abandoned by St Frais and began a bombardment of the Plassey camp. The reaction from Siraj-ud-Daulah’s thousands of soldiers who were not part of the conspiracy against him was to turn back, march out of the camp and resume the battle, which now became intense.
Clive moved his force nearer to the camp in three detachments. one, comprising nearly half his force, moved to the mound by the smaller of the two tanks, while the other half advanced to the higher ground between the tank and the river. A further party of some 160 men from the grenadier company of the 39th Foot and a sepoy grenadier company moved even closer, occupying another tank. All the English troops and guns opened a general fire on Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army.
Siraj-ud-Daulah’s soldiers fought hard, but were leaderless and without direction, other than St Frais’ Frenchmen. The cannon and musket fire from Clive’s positions inflicted great loss on Siraj-ud-Daulah’s troops and the oxen towing the platforms for the heavy guns.
It became clear to Clive that the substantial Indian force, motionless but in a position that appeared to threaten his right flank, must be the troops of Mir Jafar Khan. Free from anxiety of an assault by this force, Clive launched attacks on the hill to the left of the French redoubt and, once that was successful, on St Frais’ men in the redoubt itself. Isolated and outnumbered, St Frais retired from the redoubt.
From then on, resistance by Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army ebbed away and, by 5pm the English were in possession of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s camp and the battle was over.
The pursuit of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s fleeing army was pressed for 6 miles to Dudpore, where it was abandoned with the fall of night.
Casualties at the Battle of Plassey:
Clive’s army suffered casualties of 23 dead and 49 wounded. The casualties of Siraj-ud-Daulah’s army were around 500 dead and many wounded. The English captured horses, elephants, and all of the 53 guns brought against them.
Battle Honour and Campaign Medal for the Battle of Plassey:
The Battle Honour ‘Plassey’ was awarded to the 39th Foot (later the Dorsetshire Regiment), the 1st Madras Europeans (later the Royal Dublin Fusiliers), and the 1st Bengal Europeans (later the Royal Munster Fusiliers).
No campaign medal was issued.
Follow-up to the Battle of Plassey:
Following the Battle of Plassey, in accordance with the treaty he had signed with Clive and the East India Company Committee in Calcutta, Mir Jafa Khan entered Murshidabad with Clive and became Nawab of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. It was however largely an empty honour as the real power in Eastern India was now the English East India Company. Under the treaty, Mir Jafa Khan was compelled to pay substantial sums of money to the East India Company and also to Clive and the Company and Royal officers of his army and the Royal Navy squadron of Vice Admiral Watson that supported the land operations. All these men were enriched by these payments. Those who survived to return to England, Watson and Kilpatrick, and the several others who died soon after Plassey from infectious disease brought on by the oppressive climate became known as ‘Nabobs’ from their India derived wealth.
Malleson asserts that the Battle of Plassey set the course for the establishment of the British Empire in India and the Far East.
Siraj-ud-Daulah fell into the hands of the new Nawab, Mir Jafar Khan and was murdered.
As per their agreement, Clive collected £2.5 million for the company, and £234,000 for himself from the Nawab’s treasury. In addition, Watts collected £114,000 for his efforts. The annual rent of £30,000 payable by the Company for use of the land around Fort William was also transferred to Clive for life. To put this wealth in context, an average British nobleman could live a life of luxury on an annual income of £800.
Robert Clive was appointed Governor of Bengal in 1765, for his efforts. William Watts was appointed Governor of Fort William on June 22, 1758. But he later resigned in favour of Robert Clive, who was also later appointed Baron of Plassey in 1762. Clive later committed suicide in 1774, after being addicted to opium.
Terms of agreement
These were the terms agreed between the new Nawab and the Company:
- Confirmation of the mint, and all other grants and privileges in the Alinagar treaty with the late Nawab.
- An alliance, offensive and defensive, against all enemies whatever.
- The French factories and effects to be delivered up, and they never permitted to resettle in any of the three provinces.
- 100 lacs of rupees to be paid to the Company, in consideration of their losses at Calcutta and the expenses of the campaign.
- 50 lacs to be given to the British sufferers at the loss of Calcutta
- 20 lacs to Gentoos, Moors, & black sufferers at the loss of Calcutta.
- 7 lacs to the Armenian sufferers. These three last donations to be distributed at the pleasure of the Admiral and gentlemen of Council.
- The entire property of all lands within the Mahratta ditch, which runs round Calcutta, to be vested in the Company: Also, six hundred yards, all round, without, the said ditch.
- The Company to have the zemindary of the country to the south of Calcutta, lying between the lake and river, and reaching as far as Culpee, they paying the customary rents paid by the former zemindars to the government.
- Whenever the assistance of the British troops shall be wanted, their extraordinary charges to be paid by the Nawab.
- No forts to be erected by the Nawab’s government on the river side, from Hooghley downwards.
- “He (Robert Clive) won it by promoting treason and forgery”—First Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India
- “British rule in India had an unsavory beginning and something of that bitter taste has clung to it ever since.”—First Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India
- “A great prince was dependent on my pleasure, an opulent city lay at my mercy; its richest bankers bid against each other for my smiles; I walked through vaults which were thrown open to me alone, piled on either hand with gold and jewels! Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation”—Baron Robert Clive commenting on accusations of looting the Bengal treasury after Plassey, at his impeachment trial in 1773
- “Heaven-born general”—British Prime Minister William Pitt “The Elder,” Earl of Chatham referring to Robert Clive
- “It is possible to mention men who have owed great worldly prosperity to breaches of private faith; but we doubt whether it is possible to mention a state which has on the whole been a gainer by a breach of public faith.”—Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay, later British Secretary at War, who condemned Clive’s actions
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