Imatges de pÓgina

the greater part of the British forces were undergoing what appeared a successful siege in Trichinopoli by the French and their allies. The suggestion was made by a young writer of the Company, named Robert Clive (Orme), that the only way to save the situation lay in drawing off the besieging forces by an attack by way of diversion on Arcot, the capital of the Carnatic, a town of 100,000 inhabitants situated 64 miles south-west of Madras. The suggestion accepted resulted in a most brilliant feat of arms, which restored the prestige of the British in India, Clive holding for months at Arcot a ruined fort of great area against an overwhelming force of Indians and French, who were provided with a battering train, and used elephants protected by armoured plates in an attempt to storm the fort. The siege over, Clive's men pursued and heavily defeated the retreating enemy. Then followed marching and counter-marching, and in February, 1752, an all-night battle by moonlight at Covrepauk between the British, exhausted by long marches, and a superior force of French and natives entrenched in groves and dry watercourses. It is a story far more exciting than any modern novel.

After this, Stringer Lawrence, with Clive as his second in command, went to relieve Trichinopoli. After a desultory war, in which Lawrence and Clive showed the qualities of leadership and fearlessness which are created by the sense of responsibility, the qualities which alone count in India, enabling them to turn raw recruits into steady soldiers, Clive left for England in illhealth in November, 1752. The conditions which told against the making of great British generals in Europe, the use of the British troops as a small auxiliary force in continental wars in which we had little interest, and the deadening weight of the politician at Westminster, were entirely absent in India in those days, when there was no telegraph and no steam, when India could only be reached by a voyage of many months in a sailing ship round the stormy waters of the Cape. India produced one brilliant British general after another, Lawrence, Clive, Dalton, Caillard, Forde and Coote, each man rising to the occasion as he received command, keeping up the British reputation by a series of most brilliant actions. They did not owe their appointments to the politicians at home.

In the operations that followed Clive's retirement one of the most characteristic was the storming by a few British Grenadiers in the face of the enemy of a rocky height called the Golden Rock, which had been seized by the French, an operation which the British always love, one repeated a few years later at Quebec, and later still at Bunker's Hill against an Englishspeaking people.

In November, 1754, a suspension of arms between these auxiliaries of the Indian rulers was agreed to, but it was very badly observed. In this year Henry Pelham died, and his brother, the Duke of Newcastle, became Minister.

iii. The Seven Years' War. Meanwhile, though war was not declared between Britain and France until May, 1756, preparations went on steadily for some time before on both sides. The actions of the French led to letters of marque being issued to British cruisers; some 300 French merchant ships and 7,000 or 8,000 French sailors were captured. George II. in Hanover was making treaties with petty German princes to protect his electorate.

In 1754 the French on the Ohio had established Fort Duquesne, afterwards called Pittsburg, and were building forts and establishing themselves on territory claimed as British. George Washington, sent by Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia with a force to order their withdrawal, was defeated, owing in great degree to the objection of the colonial assemblies to find either men or money, these preferring to fight their British governors to fighting the French. Then followed, in March, 1755, the expedition under General Braddock, a nominee of the Duke of Cumberland, a guardsman trained in all the formality of Flanders warfare. He, like Washington, experienced difficulties of forage and transport owing to the opposition of colonial assemblies and officials.

There was increasing friction between the Colonials and the officials appointed from home. Walpole writes of Newcastle and the Empire in 1754, “ If he sacrificed the dignity of the Crown with one hand he thought to exalt it with the other : the prerogative was strained unwarrantably over the Assemblies: the instructions to Danvers Osborn, a new Governor of New York, seemed better calculated for the latitude of Mexico and for a Spanish tribunal than for a free rich British

But as a

settlement, and in such opulence and of such haughtiness that suspicions had long been conceived of their meditating to throw off their dependence on the mother country.”

It is difficult in fact to say when the new war actually began, if indeed it may ever be said to have ceased. It is equally difficult to state its causes or any reason for war. writer has recently noted of the action of the French in the Ruhr in 1928–4, the Seven Years' War was “due to the conflict of incompatible political conceptions : on the one hand the military conception sponsored by France (and Prussia) that peace to be lasting must rest on the permanent military domination of the vanquished by the victor, and on the other the primarily Anglo-Saxon conception that peace to be surely grounded must rest on the ultimate reconciliation of the combatants in war."

The opening is cynically told by Horace Walpole—“ It was known that the French squadron at the Isle of Rhé had sailed, and that our fleet was ordered to follow and attack them, if they went to the Bay of St. Lawrence, even though they were designed for Louisburg. It was a hardy step, and not expected by France : our tameness and connivance at their encroachments had drawn them into a false security : they could not believe us disposed to war, nor had calculated that it would arrive so soon; their debts were not paid, their fleets not established, their ministry was divided, and the spirit of their Parliaments not abashed. These were advantages on our scale : but our incumbrances were not inferior nor dissimilar to theirs. Our debts were weighty, not to be wiped out by a De-par-le-Roy: our troops, our sailors were disbanded : our ministry was weak and factious if not divided.” As an example of our preparation he cites the condition of Ireland : “the few muskets in the hands of the King's troops had been purchased, in the Duke of Devonshire's Regency, in Hanover, and were so carelessly or knavishly made, that the men dared not fire them at a common review lest they should burst in their hands.”

Boscawen followed the French to Canada, and took two ships, an act which cost us the assistance of Holland, which under treaty was only due if we did not provoke the war.

The army was starved and cheated by the agents. It was supposed to pay for itself, that is to say the officers looked after the men and made what they could out of them. The militia of the West Indies and other tropical or semi-tropical colonies was supplied by the planters as officers, and as soldiers the various cargoes of white slaves, who either for offences against the law or as political offenders against the Puritan were shipped to these colonies. Gunpowder and occasionally guns were supplied from England, but stores were provided in the most casual way.

A system had grown up in Great Britain of giving a commission to every man who raised 100 recruits, with the result that many of the officers and men were incapable. Of the officers in the armies of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick Fortescue says: there were a large number of all ranks from the general to the ensign, who, though brave enough, knew nothing of their duty.” Pitt, it would appear, took little more care of the men than those who went before him. After Louisburg no care was taken of the men left in the Canadian climate. The engineers, we being a sea power, were very backward, while the French were foremost. After 1741, when the Woolwich Academy for Artillery was established, the British Artillery became expert and famous.

A revolution was going on in the art of war under the influence of the campaigns of Frederick of Prussia, the dress parades of Flanders warfare being replaced by a more vigorous, more real system. It is usual to blame the Ministry of the Duke of Newcastle, and attribute all our want of success at the opening of the war to his incompetence, and our subsequent victories to Pitt. It may be so, but it is very unlikely. Each Ministry inherits from its predecessors, and at the opening of every war those in power are hampered by the necessity for replacing the ornamental officers of peaceful times by working soldiers who may be efficient. The insistence of Pitt on his autocracy over army appointments no doubt made it easier to put fit men in command, but he made some shocking appointments, such as Abercrombie, Bligh and Lestock, though by the time he became Minister the confusion had cleared off.

When, for instance, at the outset of the war Minorca was attacked, the Governor Blakeney was a veteran of 84 years of age; the Lieutenant Governor, the Colonels of all the regiments, and 28 other officers were absent on leave, Admiral Byng was sent with ten weak ships, ill-found, to defend the island against the French from Toulon, with orders to obtain troops from Gibraltar. But the Ministry had neglected to reinforce the garrison, and the Governor of Gibraltar refused the troops. Byng, after the manner of those days, fought the usual parade engagement, which decided nothing, and then retired to Gibraltar, from whence he could prevent the escape of the French fleet from the Mediterranean. He came home, and was judicially murdered as the result of the panic of the mob which must always have a superman and a scapegoat, the superman of yesterday being only too frequently the scapegoat of to-morrow. After a most magnificent defence Minorca was occupied by the French.

The slow movement not only of men and supplies but of news in those days and the want of truth in the news made the organization of world war by any politician in London, whether Newcastle or Pitt, impossible. The French were threatening an invasion of the islands. In the panic Hanoverian troops were brought over to defend England. It was impossible to tell or guess which was the real objective, England or Minorca. If Minorca fell it was a great loss, but if England was successfully invaded it meant the end.

“ It was the custom in the navy not to pay punctually the wages of the seamen, but to keep back some part, lest the natural profuseness of that wandering people should disperse them as often as they were masters of a little sum.”

The most potent power for good or evil in the war was for Britain the wind. Overwhelmingly powerful at sea, the British fleet could blockade the French in Brest, and prevent them leaving the Mediterranean for Canada from Gibraltar, as long as the wind blew from the west. But if the wind changed, the British admiral had to run for Torbay and the French could get out and take reinforcements of men, ships and supplies to Quebec and Louisburg. The direction of the trade winds regulated all tactics in the West India Islands, and the wind controlled the entrance to the St. Lawrence River and directed the fogs on the coasts of Newfoundland and Canada. In the East Indies the hurricanes and monsoons decided the fate of Empires.

In May, 1755, Montcalm, evading Hawke's fleet off Brest,

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