« ПредишнаНапред »
and the useful arts to flourish; contending with the ignorance, the prejudices, Chap. and the inveterate habits of idleness, of those with whom he had to deal, and ^""T^ who opposed him at every step. To introduce any degree of order and vigilance even into the management of the hospital which he constructed for the sick, it was necessary for him to perform the office of superintendant himself, and for a whole twelvemonth he visited it regularly every morning. Justice had been administered by the Councils, to whom that function regularly belonged, in a manner which produced great dissatisfaction. During eleven years that Labourdonnais was Governor, there was but one law-suit in the isle of France, he himself having terminated all differences by way of arbitration. The vast improvements which he effected in the islands did not secure him from the disapprobation of his employers. The captains of ships, and other visitants of the islands, whom he checked in their unreasonable demands, and from whom he exacted the discharge of their duties, filled the ears of the Company's Directors with complaints; and the Directors, with too little knowledge for accurate judgment, and too little interest for careful inquiry, inferred culpability, because there was accusation. He returned to France in 1740, disgusted with his treatment; and fully determined to resign the government: But the minister refused his consent. It is said that he was asked by one of the Directors of the Company, how it was that he had conducted his own affairs so prosperously, those of the Company so much the reverse. The reason, he said, was plain: He had conducted his own affairs according to his own judgment: Those of the Company he had been obliged to conduct according to the judgment of the Directors.* Perceiving, by the state of affairs in Europe, that a rupture was approaching between France and the maritime powers, his fertile mind conceived a project, for striking a fatal blow at the English trade in the East. Imparting the design to some of his friends, he perceived that he should be aided with funds sufficient to equip, as ships of war, six vessels and two frigates; with which he proposed to sail to India, and, being on the spot when war should be declared, he could sweep the seas of the English commerce, before a fleet could arrive for its protection. He communicated the scheme to the ministry, by whom it was embraced, but moulded into a different form. They proposed to send out a fleet, composed partly of the King's, and partly of the Company's ships, with Labourdonnais in the command: And though he foresaw opposition from the * Raynal, liv. iv. sect. 20.
Book IV. Company, to whom neither he nor the scheme was agreeable, he refused not to lend himself to the ministerial design. He sailed from L'Orient on the 5th of 1746. . .April, 1741, with five ships of the Company: one carrying fifty-six; two carrying fifty; one, twenty-eight; and one, sixteen guns; having on board about 1,200 sailors, and 500 soldiers. Two King's ships had been intended to make part of his squadron; but they, to his great disappointment, received another destination. He also found that, of the ship's crews, three-fourths had never before been at sea; and that of either soldiers or sailors hardly one had ever fired a cannon or a musket. His mind was formed to contend with difficulties, rather than to yield to them: and he began immediately to exercise his men with all his industry; or rather with as much industry as their love of ease, and the opposition it engendered, rendered practicable. He arrived at the Isle of France on the 14th of August, 1741; where he learned, that Pondicherry was menaced by the Mahrattas, and that the islands of France and Bourbon had sent their garrisons to its assistance. After a few necessary operations to put the islands in security, he sailed for Pondicherry on the 22d of August, where he arrived on the 30th of September. The danger there was blown over; but the settlement at Mahe" had been eight months blockaded by the natives. He repaired to the place of danger; chastised the enemy; re-established the factory; and then returned to the islands to wait for the declaration of war between France and England. There he soon received the mortifying orders of the Company to send home all the vessels under his command. Upon this he again requested leave to resign, and again the minister refused his consent. His views were now confined to his islands, and he betook himself with his pristine ardor to their improvement. On the 14th of September, 1744, in the midst of these occupations, the intelligence arrived of the declaration of war between France and England; and filled his mind with the mortifying conception of the important things he now might have achieved, but for the mistaken policy or perversity of his employers.
Unable to do what he wished, he still resolved to do what he could. He retained whatever ships had arrived at the islands, namely, one of forty-four guns, one of forty, one of thirty, one of twenty-six, one of eighteen, and another of twenty-six, which was sent to him from Pondicherry, with the most pressing solicitations to hasten to its protection. The islands, at which unusual scarcity prevailed, were deprived of almost every requisite for the equipment of the ships; and their captains, chagrined at the interruption of their voyages, seconded the efforts of the Governor with all the ill-will it was safe for them to show. He was obliged to make even a requisition of negroes to man the fleet. In want of hands Chap. trained to the different operations of the building and equipping of ships, he employed the various handicrafts whom he was able to muster; and by skilfully assigning to them such parts of the business as were most analogous to the operations of their respective trades, by furnishing them with models which he prepared himself, by giving the most precise directions, and with infinite diligence superintending every operation in person, he overcame in some measure the difficulties with which he was surrounded. In the mean time intelligence was brought by a frigate, that five of the Company's ships, which he was required to protect, and which he was authorized by the King to command, would arrive at the islands in October. They did not arrive till January, 1746. The delay had consumed a great part of the provisions of the former ships: those which arrived had remaining for themselves a supply of only four months: they were in bad order: and there was no time, nor materials, nor hands, to repair them. Only one was armed. It was necessary they should all be armed; and the means for that purpose were totally wanting. The ships' crews, incorporated with the negroes and the handicrafts, Labourdonnais formed into companies; taught them the manual exercise, and military movements; showed them how to scale a wall, and apply petards; exercised them in firing at a mark; and employed the most dexterous among them in preparing themselves to use a machine which he had invented for throwing with mortars grappling-hooks for boarding to the distance of thirty toises.*
He forwarded the ships, as fast as they were prepared, to Madagascar, where they might add to their stock of provisions, or at any rate save the stock which was already on board; and he followed with the last on the 24th of March. Before sailing from Madagascar, a storm arose by which the ships were driven from their anchorage. One was lost; and the rest, greatly damaged, collected themselves in the bay of a desert island on the coast of Madagascar. Here the operations of repairing were to be renewed; and in still more unfavour
* This seems to be the same invention exactly with that of Captain Manby, for throwing a rope on board a vessel threatened with shipwreck. See an Essay on the Preservation of Shipwrecked Persons by G. W. Manby, Esq. and Memoire pour Labourdonnais, i. 80. The obvious expedient of training the sailors for land operations is of high importance; and it argues little for the heads of those who have conducted enterprises in which the mariners might have been, or were to be, employed for land operations, that such training has so rarely been resorted to. How much more instructive than that of the vulgar details of war, is the contemplation of the ingenuity, the industry, and the perseverance of such a man as Labourdonnais, in the various critical situations in which he was placed!
Book IV. able circumstances. To get the wood they required, a road was made across a
^ 'marsh, a league in circumference; the rains were incessant; disease broke out
among the people; many of the officers showed a bad disposition; yet the work was prosecuted with so much efficiency, that in forty-eight days the fleet was ready for sea. It now consisted of nine sail, containing 3,342 men, among whom were 720 blacks, and from three to four hundred sick. In passing the island of Ceylon, they received intelligence that the English fleet was at hand. Labourdonnais summoned his captains on board, many of whom had shown themselves ill-disposed in the operations of industry; but all of whom manifested the greatest eagerness to fight. As Labourdonnais understood that he was superior to the English in number of men, but greatly inferior in point of metal, he declared his intention to gain, if possible, the wind, and to board. On the 6th of July, on the coast of Coromandel, the English fleet appeared to windward, advancing with full sail toward the French.* Naval force of Immediately after the declaration of war between France and England, a fleet, e English, g^sj^jg nf two shipS 0f sixty guns each, one of fifty, and a frigate of twenty, commanded by Commodore Barnet, had been forwarded to India. It cruized, at first, in two divisions, one in the straits of Sunda, the other in the straits of Malacca, the places best fitted for intercepting the French traders, of which it captured four. After rendezvousing at Batavia, the united fleet appeared on the coast of Coromandel in the month of July, 1745. The Governor of Pondicherry, the garrison of which at that time consisted of only 436 Europeans, prevailed on the Mogul Governor of the province, to declare Pondicherry under his protection, and to threaten Madras if the English fleet should commit hostilities on any part of his dominions. This intimidated the government of Madras, and they requested Commodore Barnet to confine his operations to the sea; who accordingly left the coast of Coromandel, to avoid the stormy season, which he passed at Mergui, a port on the opposite coast; and returned in the beginning of 1746. His fleet was now reinforced by two fifty gun ships, and a frigate of twenty guns from England; but one of the sixty gun ships had become unfit for service, and, together with the twenty gun frigate, went back to England. Commodore Barnet died at Fort St. David in the month of April; and was succeeded by Mr. Peyton, the second in command; who was cruizing to the southward of Fort St. David, near Negapatnam, when he descried the enemy just arriving on the coast.f
* For the above details respecting Labtfurdonnais, see Memoire, ut supra, pp. 10—92. f Orme, i. 60—63.
Labourdoimais formed his line, and waited for the English, who kept the Chap. I. advantage of the wind, and frustrated his design of boarding. A distant fight began about four in the afternoon, and the fleets separated for want of light Engagement about seven. Next morning Mr. Peyton called a council of war, and it was French!" resolved, because the sixty gun ship was leaky, to make sail for Trincomalee. The enemy lay to the whole day, expecting the English, who had the wind, to return to the engagement. The French, however, were in no condition to pursue, and sailed for Pondicherry, at which they arrived on the eighth of the month.*
Joseph Francis Dupleix was at that time Governor of Pondicherry; having Dupleix. succeeded to the supreme command of the French settlements in 1742. To this man are to be traced some of the most important of the modern revolutions in India. His father was a farmer-general of the revenues, and a Director of the East India Company. He had set his heart upon rearing his son to a life of commerce; and his education, which was liberal, was carefully directed to that object. As the study of mathematics, of fortification, and engineering seemed to engross his attention too exclusively,! his father in 1715 sent him on board a ship, and he made several voyages to the Indies and America. He soon imbibed the taste of his occupation, and, desiring to pursue the line of maritime commerce, his father recommended him to the East India Company; and had sufficient interest to send him out in 1720 as first Member of the Council at Pondicherry. Impatient for distinction, the young man devoted himself with unwearied application to the business of his office; and became in time minutely acquainted with the commerce of the country. He embarked in it, on his own account; a species of adventure from which the poverty of the servants of the French Company had in general debarred them. In this station he continued for
* Orme, i. pp. 62, 63. Memoire, ut supra, pp. 88—90. Mr. Orme says, the challenge of Labourdonnais was only a feint, and that he was in no condition to renew the engagement; he himself in the Memoire, says, that it was not a feint, and that ceJut avec un extreme regret qu'il vit les Anglois lui echapper.
f The character he manifested at school bears a striking analogy to what is reported of Bonaparte: "La passion avec laquelle il se livra a l'etude des mathematiques, le degout qu'elle lui inspira pour tous les arts aimables qui ne lui paroissoient que frivoles, le caractere taciturne, distrait, et meditatif, qu'elle parut lui donner, et la retraite qu'elle lui faisoit toujours preferer aux amusemens ordinaires de la societe." Memoire pour Dupleix, p. 9. The coincidence with these two of the character, while a boy, of another remarkable character, Frederic the Great of Prussia, is perhaps worth the remarking. His sister says, " II avoit de l'esprit; son humeur etoit sombre et taciturne; il pensoit long temps, avant que de repondre, mais, en recompense, il repondoit juste." Memoires de Frederique Sophie Wilhelmine de Prusse, Margrave de Bareith, i. 8—22.