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At Calcutta, Francis, Clavering, and Monson were deeply engaged in what appeared to them a certain plan for the ruin of Hastings. The Maharajah Nuncomar, who styled himself the head of the Brahmins, came forward and laid before them papers containing the most awful charges against Hastings. These were that Hastings had encouraged him, at the command of the Secret Committee, to produce charges against Mohammed Rheza Khan and Shitab Roy, when they were in prison, in order to extort money from them; and that Hastings had accepted a heavy bribe to allow Mohammed to escape without punishment. Hastings broke up the Council, declaring that he would not sit to be judged by his own Council. If they had charges to prefer against him, they might form themselves into a committee, and transmit such evidence as they received to the Supreme Court of Justice at Calcutta, or to the Directors at home. But the three declared themselves a majority, voted their own competence to sit and try their own chief, and preferred another huge charge introduced by Nuncomarnamely, that Hastings had appropriated to himself two-thirds of the salary of the Governor of Hooghly, a post formerly held by Nuncomar himself. They determined to introduce Nuncomar to confront Hastings at his own Council board. Hastings declared the Council not sitting; the three declared it sitting and valid, and called in Nuncomar, who proceeded to detail his charges, and ended by producing a letter from the Munny Begum, now Governor of Oude, expressing the gratitude which she felt to the Governor-General for her appointment as guardian of the Nabob, and that in token of this gratitude she had presented him with two lacs of rupees. Immediately on hearing that, Hastings declared the letter a forgery, and that he would prove it so; and he was not long in procuring an absolute denial of the letter from the Begum. Things being driven to this pass, Hastings commenced an action against Nuncomar, Mr. Fowke, one of the most active agents of the trio, and others, as guilty of a conspiracy against him. This was supported by native witnesses, and the Supreme Court of Justice, after a long and careful examination of the case, held Nuncomar and Fowke to bail, and bound the Governor-General to prosecute.A combination of circumstances invested the accession on the 20th of June, of the Princess Victoria, with peculiar interest. She was the third female Sovereign called to occupy the throne since the Reformation; and like those of Elizabeth and Anne, her reign has served to mark an era in British history. The novelty of a female Sovereign, especially one so young, had a charm for all classes in society. The superior gifts and the amiable disposition of the Princess, the care with which she had been educated by her mother, and all that had been known of her private life and her favourite pursuits, prepared the nation to hail her accession with sincere acclamations. There was something which could not fail to excite the imagination and touch the heart, in seeing one who in a private station would be regarded as a mere girl, just old enough to come out into society, called upon to assume the sceptre of the greatest empire in the world, and to sit upon one of the oldest thrones, receiving the willing homage of statesmen and warriors who had been historic characters for half a century. We are not surprised, therefore, to read that the mingled majesty and grace with which she assumed her high functions excited universal admiration, and "drew tears from many eyes which had not been wet for half a lifetime;" and that warriors trembled with emotion, who had never known fear in the presence of the enemy. When the ceremony of taking the oath of allegiance had been gone through, her Majesty addressed the Privy Council:"The severe and afflicting loss which the nation has sustained by the death of his Majesty, my beloved uncle, has devolved upon me the duty of administering the government of this empire. This awful responsibility is imposed upon me so suddenly, and at so early a period of my life, that I should feel myself utterly oppressed by the burden, were I not sustained by the hope that Divine Providence, which has called me to this work, will give me strength for the performance of it; and that I shall find in the purity of my intentions, and in my zeal for the public welfare, that support and those resources which usually belong to a more mature age and to long experience. I place my firm reliance upon the wisdom of Parliament, and upon the loyalty and affection of my people."
* Lettre de Laval envoye Rome. 21 Oct., 1661 (extract in
* There is an engraving of it in Abb Casgrains
At length, then, after all his marvellous doublings, O'Connell was hunted into the meshes of the law. He was convicted of sedition, having pleaded guilty, but was not called up for judgment. This was made a charge against the Government; with how little reason may be seen from the account of the matter given by Lord Cloncurry. The time at which he should have been called up for judgment did not arrive till within a month or two of the expiration of the statute under which he was convicted, and which he called the "Algerine Act." In these circumstances, Lord Cloncurry strongly urged upon the Viceroy the prudence of letting him escape altogether, as his incarceration for a few weeks, when he must be liberated with the expiring Act, "would only have the appearance of impotent malice, and, while it might have created dangerous popular excitement, would but have added to his exasperation, and have given him a triumph upon the event of his liberation that must so speedily follow." July following, and in his Mmoire sur le sujet de la guerre
From the misconduct of officers and soldiers, he passes to that of the coureurs de bois and licensed traders; and here he is equally severe. He dilates on the evils which result from permitting the colonists to go to the Indians instead of requiring the Indians to come to the settlements. It serves only to rob the country of all its young men, weaken families, deprive wives of their husbands, sisters of their brothers, and parents of their children; expose the voyagers to a hundred dangers of body and soul; involve them in a multitude of expenses, some necessary, some useless, and some criminal; accustom them to do no work, and at last disgust them with it for ever; make them live in constant idleness, unlit them completely for any trade, and render them useless to themselves, their families, and the public. But it is less as regards the body than as regards the soul, that this traffic of the French among the savages is infinitely hurtful. It carries them far away from churches, separates them from priests and nuns, and severs them from all instruction, all exercise of religion, and all spiritual aid. It sends them into places wild and almost inaccessible, through a thousand perils by land and water, to carry on by base, abject, and shameful means a trade which would much better be carried on at Montreal.On the 8th of February was fought the great and decisive battle of Sobraon, the name of the tte du pont, at the entrenched camp of the Sikhs, where all the forces of the enemy were now concentrated. The camps extended along both sides of the river, and were defended by 130 pieces of artillery, of which nearly half were of heavy calibre, and which were all served by excellent gunners. The British troops formed a vast semicircle, each end of which touched the river, the village of Sobraon being in the centre, where the enemy were defended by a triple line of works, one within another, flanked by the most formidable redoubts. The battle commenced by the discharge of artillery on both sides, which played with terrific force for three hours. After this the British guns went up at a gallop till they came within 300 yards of the works, where it was intended the assault should be delivered. Halting there, they poured a concentrated fire upon the position for some time. After this the assault was made by the infantry, running. The regiment which led the way was the 10th, supported by the 53rd Queen's and the 43rd and 59th Native Infantry. They were repulsed with dreadful slaughter. The post of honour and of danger was now taken by the Ghoorkas. A desperate struggle with the bayonet ensued; the Sikhs were overpowered by the brigades of Stacey and Wilkinson; but, as the fire of the enemy was now concentrated upon this point, the brave assailants were in danger of being overwhelmed and destroyed. The British Commander-in-Chief seeing this, sent forward the brigades of Ashburnham, as well as Smith's division, against the right of the enemy, while his artillery played furiously upon their whole line. The Sikhs fought with no less valour and determination than the British. Not one of their gunners flinched till he was struck down at his post. Into every gap opened by the artillery they rushed with desperate resolution, repelling the assaulting columns of the British. At length the cavalry, which has so often decided the fate of the day in great battles, were instrumental in achieving the victory. The Sappers and Miners having succeeded in opening a passage through which the horses could enter in single file, the 3rd Queen's Dragoons, under Sir Joseph Thackwell, got inside the works, quickly formed, and galloping along in the rear of the batteries, cut down the gunners as they passed. General Gough promptly followed up this advantage by ordering forward the whole three divisions of the centre and the right. It was then that the fighting may be said to have commenced in earnest. The struggle was long, bloody, and relentless. No quarter was given or asked; the Sikhs fighting like men for whom death had no terrors, and for whom death in battle was the happiest as well as the most glorious exit from life. But they encountered men with hearts as stout and stronger muscle, and they were at length gradually forced back upon the river by the irresistible British bayonet. The bridge at length gave way under the enormous weight, and thousands were precipitated into the water and drowned. But even in the midst of this catastrophe the drowning fanatics would accept no mercy from the Feringhees. Our losses amounted to 320 killed and 2,063 wounded. Of the European officers, thirteen were killed and 101 wounded. The loss of the Sikhs in the battle of Sobraon was estimated at from 10,000 to 13,000 men, the greater number being shot down or drowned in the attempt to cross the bridge. They left in the hands of the victors sixty-seven guns, 200 camel swivels, nineteen standards, and a great quantity of ammunition.
NOTE.Dumesnils principal memorial, preserved in the archives of the Marine and Colonies, is entitled Mmoire concernant les Affaires du Canada, qui montre et fait voir que sous prtexte de la Gloire de Dieu, dInstruction des Sauvages, de servir le Roy et de faire la nouvelle Colonie, il a t pris et diverti trois millions de livres ou environ. It forms in the copy before me thirty-eight pages of manuscript, and bears no address; but seems meant for Colbert, or the council of state. There is a second memorial, which is little else than an abridgment of the first. A third, bearing the address Au Roy et a nos Seigneurs du Conseil (dEtat), and signed Peronne Dumesnil, is a petition for the payment of 10,132 livres due to him by the company for his services in Canada, ou il a perdu son fils assassin par les comptables du dit pays, qui nont voulu rendre compte au dit suppliant, Intendant, et ont pill sa maison, ses meubles et papiers le 20 du mois de Septembre dernier, dont il y a acte.