Routledge

Robert Clive’s letter to William Pitt (1759)

Introduction: Robert Clive (1725-1774) was in the civil and then in the military service of the East India Company. He won the Battle of Plassey (1757) against the Nawab of Bengal, replacing him with a candidate of his choice . The Great Mughal offered him the Diwani (civil administration) of Bengal which Clive wanted to accept on behalf of the Crown not on behalf of the East India Company. In this context he wrote on 7 January 1759 to William Pitt (1708-1778) who headed the British government from  1757 to 1761 at the time of the Seven Years War. Pitt feared that the revenue of Bengal would reduce the dependence of  the Crown on Parliament and wanted the East India Company to accept the Diwani, this was done in 1765 (see grant by the Great Mughal)

(see also AHOI, Ch.5, section: Robert Clive and the Diwani of Bengal)


The close attention which you bestow on the affairs of the British nation in general has induced me to trouble you with a few particulars relative to India and to lay before you an exact account of the revenues of this country....
            The great revolution that has been affected here by the success of the English arms... have ... engaged the public attention, but much more may yet in time be done, if the Company will exert themselves in the manner the importance of their present possessions and future prospects deserve. I have represented to them in the strongest terms the expediency of sending out and keeping up constantly such a force as will enable them to embrace the first opportunity of further aggrandizing themselves; and I dare pronounce from a thorough knowledge of this country government and the genius of the people, acquired by two years’ application and experience, that such an opportunity will soon offer.....
            There will be the less difficulty in bringing about such an event, as the natives themselves have no attachment whatever to particular princes; and as, under the present government, they have no security for their lives and properties, they would rejoice in so happy an exchange as that of a mild for a despotic government: and there is little room to doubt our easily obtaining the Moghul’s sunnud (or grant) in confirmation thereof, provided we agreed to pay him the stipulated allotment out of the revenue, viz. fifty lacs annually. This has of late years been very ill paid, owing to the distractions in the heart of the Moghul Empire, which have disabled that court from attending to their concerns in the distant provinces; and the Vizier has actually wrote to me, desiring I would engage the Nabob to make the payments agreeable to the former usage; nay, further: application has been made to me from the Court of Delhi, to take charge of collecting this payment.....
....That this would be agreeable to the Moghul can hardly be questioned, as it would be so much to his interest to have those countries  under the dominion of a nation famed for their good faith, rather than in the hands of people who, a long experience has convinced him, will never pay him his proportion of the revenues unless awed into it by fear of the Imperial army marching to force them thereto.
            But so large a sovereignty may possibly be an object too extensive for a mercantile Company, and it is to be feared they are not of themselves able, without the nation’s assistance, to maintain so wide a dominion. I have therefore presumed, Sir, to represent this matter to you.... Now I leave you to judge, whether an income yearly of upwards of two millions sterling with the possession of three provinces abounding in the most valuable productions of nature and of art, be an object deserving the public attention..... Add to these advantages the influence we shall thereby acquire over the several European nations engaged in the commerce here , which these could no longer carry on but through our indulgence and under such limitations as we should think fit to prescribe. It is well worthy  consideration, that this project may be brought about without draining the mother country, as has been too much the case with our possessions in America. A small force from home  will be sufficient, as we always make sure of any number we please of black troops, who being both much better paid and treated by us than by the country power, will very readily enter into our service.......

(A.B. Keith (ed.), Speeches and Documents on Indian Policy 1750-1921 (London, 1922), Vol. I, p. 13 f.)

 

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