Clive, Robert

, son of Richard Clive, esq. was born on the 29th of September 1725, at Styche, the seat of his ancestors, in the parish of Moreton-Say, near Market Drayton. His father, who possessed but a small estate by inheritance, had, to increase his income, engaged in the profession of the law. At an early period of his youth, Robert was sent for his education to a private school at | Lostock in Cheshire. The master, Dr. Eaton, soon discovered in his scholar a superior courage and sagacity which prognosticated the future hero. “If this lad,” he would say, “should live to be a man, and an opportunity be given for the exertion of his talents, few names wdi be greater than his.” At the age of eleven he was removed from Lostock to a school at Market Drayton, of which the reverend Mr. Burslem was the master. On the side of a high hill in that town is an ancient church, with a lofty steeple, from nearly the top of which is an old stone spout, projecting in the form of a dragon’s head. Young Clive ascended this steeple, and, to the astonishment of the spectators below, seated himself on the spout. Having remained a short time at Mr. Burslem’s school, he was placed in that of Merchant Taylors’ at London, which, however, did not long retain him as a scholar. His father having reverted to what seems to have been a predilection for private schools, committed him to the care of Mr. Sterling, at Hemel Hempstead, in Hertfordshire, with whom he continued till, in 1743, he received an appointment as a writer to the East India company. From the frequency of his removals, to which perhaps was added an intractable disposition, he obtained no applause, but rather the reverse, from the several masters to whom the care of his education had been entrusted.

To fulfil his engagement in the service to which he had been appointed, he embarked in one of the ships belonging to the East India company, and arrived at Madras in 1744. In his new employment he however discovered the same dislike to application, and the same aversion to controul, by which his character had hitherto been distinguished. This intractable disposition proved as disagreeable to his superiors as it must have been the occasion of much inconvenience to himself. One instance is related. Having acted or neglected something inconsistently with the discipline of office, his misconduct was reported to the governor, who commanded him to ask pardon of the secretary whom he had offended. He made his submission in terms of contempt, which the secretary mistaking for a compliment, invited him to dinner. “No, sir,” replied Clive, “the governor did not command me to dine with you.

When in 1746 Madras was surrendered to the French, under. the command of their admiral M. de la Bourdonnais, | the officers both civil and military, who had served under the East India company, became prisoners on parole. M. Dupleix, however, who was chief commander of the military forces in India, not having been present at the surrender, refused to ratify the treaty, unless they would take another parole under the new governor. The English, in consequence of this new stipulation, thought themselves released from their engagements with Bourdonnais, and at liberty not only to make their escape, but to take up arms, if they should find an opportunity. Mr. Clive, accordingly, disguised as a Moor, in the dress of the country, escaped with a few others to St. David’s, a fortress which is situated to the south of Madras, at about the distance of 21 miles.

He had not been long arrived at St. David’s before he lost some money in a party at cards with two ensigns, who were detected in the act of cheating. They had won considerable sums; but as the fraud was evident, the losers at first refused payment, but at length were intimidated by the threats of the successful gamesters. Clive alone persisted in his refusal, and accepted a challenge from the boldest of his antagonists. They met, each with a single pistol. Clive fired without success. His antagonist, quitting the ground, presented a pistol to his head, and commanded him to ask his life, with which demand, after some hesitation, he complied; but, being required to recant his expressions, he peremptorily refused. The officer told him, if he persisted in his refusal, he would fire. “Fire, and be d——d!” replied Clive. “I said you cheated; I say so still; nor will I ever pay you.” The ensign, finding every expedient to obtain the money ineffectual, threw away the pistol, and declared that his adversary was a madman. Clive replied to the compliments of some of his friends on his conduct in this affair; “The man has given me my life, and I have no right in future to mention his behaviour at the card table; although I will never pay him, nor ever keep him company.” In 1747 Mr. Clive was promoted to the commission of an ensign in the military service; but had no opportunity of displaying his talents till the following year, when the siege of Pondicherry afforded an ample scope for their exertion. At this memorable attack the young ensign distinguished himself by his courage in defence of the advanced trench. He received a shot in his hat, and another in his coat; some officers in the same | detachment having been killed. The early rains, however, and admiral Boscawen’s want of experience in military operations, compelled the English to raise the siege, and to return to Fort St. David’s.

On the attack, when the powder was almost exhausted, Clive, instead of sending a serjeant to procure a fresh supply, ran to the trench, and brought it. In consequence of this action, an officer ventured to insinuate, in his absence, that he had relinquished his post through fear. A friend, having informed him of this aspersion, was accordingly requested to go with him to the person who had thus malignantly defamed him. The charge, though true, was at first denied: Clive, however, insisting upon immediate satisfaction, they withdrew; but while they were retiring, he received a blow from his antagonist, who was following him. Instantly he drew his sword, as did the other, relying on the interposition of the company. Both having been put under an arrest, were obliged to submit to a court of inquiry, which decided that the officer should ask pardon at the head of the battalion, for a causeless aspersion, without notice of the blow, for which offence he might otherwise have been disbanded. Unwilling to injure the service, Mr. Clive declined speaking of this quarrel till the return of the army to St. David’s, when, calling upon the officer, he reminded him of the late transaction. Admitting that he was satisfied with the decision of the court, and the consequent compliance of the officer, he still insisted that he must call him to account for the blow, of which no notice had been taken. The officer, on the contrary, alledged that his compliance with the opinion of the court ought to be admitted as satisfactory, and refused to make any other concession. Mr. Clive accordingly waved his cane over his head, saying, that as he thought him too contemptible a coward for beating, he should content himself with inflicting on him that mark of infamy. On the following day the officer resigned his commission.

When the season for military operations was over, the troops remained at St. David’s, and before the return of spring they received news of a cessation of hostilities between Great Britain and France. Still, however, the sense of ancient rivalship. the reciprocal aggravation of recent injuries, an opposition of interests, a mutual confidence in strength, seemed to animate both nations to a renewal of the war. The dominions of the rajah of Tanjore had at | that time been claimed by his brother, with a declaration that he, though deposed by his subjects, was their rightful sovereign; and that the reigning rajah was an usurper. The English of St. David’s, convinced by these allegations, determined to espouse the cause of the deposed rajah. They resolved to begin their attack upon a fort of the rajah’s, called Devi Cdtah. On their advance, rinding the approaches difficult, and the ramparts covered with innumerable forces, they were at first deterred from their enterprize. Clive, however, insisted that the attempt, though dangerous, was not hazardous. He thought the town might easily b$ taken by storm; recommending only to advance the cannons in the night, as by them the gates might be effectually destroyed. Captain Cope, the commander, refused to listen to the advice, as too desperate;* till, after having exhausted his ammunition by a fruitless cannonade, he was compelled to retreat to Fort St. David’s. The disgrace of this discomfiture; its pernicious influence upon their trade 5 and the exultation of their common enemy the French, induced the English once more to attempt the reduction of Devi Cotah. The command of this expedition was entrusted to major Lawrence, an officer at that time but little known, but who was afterwards distinguished for his abilities in the service. As a breach was made in the walls, Clive, who then possessed only the rank of a lieutenant, solicited the command of the forlorn hope. Lawrence, willing to preserve him from so dangerous a station, told him the service did not then fall in his turn. Clive replied, that knowing it did not, he came rather to ask it as a favour, than to demand it as a right; but that on such an occasion he hoped the request of a volunteer would not be rejected. Major Lawrence consented; and Clive, in consequence of his appointment to the command of thirty-four British soldiers and seven hundred Sepoys, was ordered to storm the breach. Accord, ingly they led the way; but in passing a rivulet between the camp and the fort, four of the English fell by the fire of the enemy. The Sepoys were alarmed, and halted as soon as they had passed the stream but the English persevered, and, advancing closely upon the breach, presented their musquets, when a party of horse, which had been concealed in the tower, rushed upon their rear, and killed twenty-six. Clive, by stepping aside, escaped a stroke which had been aimed at him by oqe of the horse | as they passed him. He ran towards the rivulet, and, having passed, had the good fortune to join the Sepoys. Of the whole fouj>and- thirty, himself and three others were all that were left alive. Major Lawrence, seeing the disaster, commanded all the Europeans to advance. Clive still marched in the first division. The horse renewed their attack, but were repulsed with such slaughter that the garrison, dismayed at the sight, gave way as the English approached the breach, and, flying through the opposite gate, abandoned the town to the victors. Alarmed at the success of the English, the rajah sent them overtures of peace; to which, on condition that a settlement should be made on his rival, and the fort of Devi Cutah, with the adjoining district, be ceded to the company, the English readily agreed.

The war being thus concluded, lietenant Clive, to whose active mind the idleness which in time of peace attends a soldier’s life was intolerably irksome, returned to the civil establishment, and was admitted to the same rank as that he would have held had he never quitted the civil for the military line. His income was now considerably increased by his appointment to the office of commissary to the British troops; an appointment which the friendship of major Lawrence had procured him. He had not long been settled at Madras, when a fever of the nervous kind destroyed his constitution, and operated so banefully on his spirits that the constant presence of an attendant became absolutely requisite. As the disease however abated, his former strength was in some degree renewed; but his frame had received so rude a shock, that, during the remainder of his life, excepting when his mind was ardently engaged, the oppression on his spirits frequently returned.

The cessation of hostilities between the English and the French had given to the latter an opportunity of executing the important projects they had formed; which brought the affairs of the company into such a state as to induce Clive to resume the military character; in which he performed most signal acts of prowess, and encountered a variety of uncommon difficulties and dangers, too numerous to be particularised in our limited work, but which the reader will find amply detailed in the history of the times, and in his lite in the Biographia Britannica.

Whoever contemplates the forlorn situation of the company when lord Clive firstarrived at Calcutta in 1756, and | then considers the degree of opulence and power they possessed when he finally left that place in 1767, will be convinced that the history of the world has seldom afforded an instance of so rapid and improbable a change. At the first period they were merely an association of merchants struggling for existence. One of their factories was in ruins; their agents were murdered; and an army of 50,000 men, to which they had nothing to oppose, threatened the immediate destruction of their principal settlement. At the last period, distant from the first but ten years, they were become powerful princes, possessed of vast revenues, and ruling over fifteen millions of people. When the merits of those who contributed to this great revolution shall be weighed in the impartial judgment of future times, it will be found that Watson, Pocock, Adams, and Monro, deserved well of the company; but that Clive was its preserver, and the principal author of its greatness.

After lord Clive’s last return from India, he was made, in 1769, one of the knights companions of the noble order of the bath.

Though his exploits will excite the admiration, and receive the plaudits of posterity, yet in his lifetime the same ingratitude was shewn him, which the greatest men, in all ages and countries, have experienced; for, on the pretence “that all acquisitions made under the influence of a military force, or by treaty with foreign powers, do of right belong to the state,” a party in the house of commons, countenanced by the minister, attempted to ruin both his fortune and his fame. A motion was made in this assembly, on the 21st of February, 1773, to resolve, that, “in the acquisition of his wealth, lord Clive had abused the powers with which he was entrusted.” The speech he made on the occasion concluded with the following words “If the resolution proposed should receive the assent of the house, I shall have nothing left that I can call my own, except my paternal fortune of 500l. a year; and which has been in the family for ages past. But upon this I am content to live; and perhaps I shall find more real content of mind and happiness, than in the trembling affluence of an unsettled fortune. But to be called, after sixteen years have elapsed, to account for my conduct in this manner; and after an uninterrupted enjoyment of my property, to be questioned, and considered as obtaining it unwarrantably, is hard indeed! and a treatment of which I | should not think the British senate capable. Yet if this should be the case, I have a conscious innocence within me, which tells me that my conduct is irreproachable. Frangas non fades. They may take from me what I have*, they may, as they think, make me poor, but I will be happy. Before I sit down, I have one request to make to the house, that when they come to decide upon my honour, they will not forget their own.” The house of commons rejected the motion, and resolved, “that lord Clive had rendered great and meritorious services to his country.

When the disputes between Great Britain and her colonies had arisen to such a height that they were not likely to be terminated any other way than by open hostilities, overtures were made to lord Ciive to accept of the chief command in America; but he declined the proposal, on account of the ill state of his health, and from a consciousness that the vigour of his mind was not equal to what it had before been.

Lord Clive was one of the few men whose conduct was always directed by the dictates of his own mind, and whose decisions were therefore secret. Like the first of the Caesars, the talents of other men could add nothing to the reach of his genius, or the correctness of his judgment. Lord Chatham emphatically called him a heaven-born general; as, without experience, or being versed in military affairs, he surpassed all the officers of his time. In parliament, he represented, from the year 1760, to his decease, the ancient borough of Shrewsbury, the chief town of the county wherein he was born. The interest which he took in the disputations of this assembly, was seldom sufficient to induce him to speak; but when the attack upon his conduct had called into action the powers of his mind, his eloquence was such as has not been often surpassed.

The severe illness with which lord Clive was attacked, during his first residence in the East Indies, gave an injury to his constitution which was never fully repaired; and his health was farther weakened by his successive visits to the unwholesome climates of that country. Hence it was that he became subject at times to a depression of spirits. His ardent and active mind, when not called into exertion by some great occasion, frequently preyed upon itself. In the latter part of his life, having nothing peculiarly important and interesting to engage his attention, and his body growing more and more infirm, the depression increased; and | to this was owing his decease, by his own hand, on the 22d of November, 1774, not long after he had entered into the 50th year of his age. He was interred at Moreton-Say, the parish in which he was born. In the various relations of private life, lord Clive was highly beloved and esteemed; for he was a man of the kindest affections, and of every social virtue. His secret charities- were numerous and extensive but the present he made of seventy thousand pounds, as a provision for the invalids of the company’s service, was the noblest donation of its kind that ever came fron a private individual. His person was of the largest of the middle size; his countenance inclined to sadness; and the heaviness of his brow imparted an unpleasing expression to his features. It was a heaviness that arose not from the prevalence of the unsocial passions (for of these lew men had a smaller share), but from a natural fullness in the flesh above the eye-lid. His words were few; and his manner, among strangers, was reserved; yet it won the confidence of men, and gained admission to the heart. Among his intimate friends he had great pleasantness and jocularity, and on some occasions was too open. In February 1753, immediately before he embarked for England, Jie married Margaret, daughter of Edmund Maskelyne, esq. of Purton in Wiltshire, and sister to the rev. Dr. Nevil Maskelyne, the late astronomer royal. By this lady he had Edward, the present lord Clive, born March 7, 1754; Rebecca, born September 15, 1760; Charlotte, born January 15, 1762; Margaret, born August 15, 1763; and Robert, 'horn August 31, 1769. 1


Biog. Brit.