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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

And Lally found himself in Tanjore


The

brilliant courage and heroic ardor of M. de Lally had triumphed over the first obstacles; his recklessness, his severity, his passionateness were about to lose him the fruits of his victories. "The commission I hold," he wrote to the directors of the Company at Paris, "imports that I shall be held in horror by all the people of the country." By his personal defaults he aggravated his already critical position. The supineness of the French government had made fatal progress amongst its servants; Count d'Ache, who commanded the fleet, had refused to second the attempt upon Madras; twice, whilst cruising in Indian waters, the French admiral had been beaten by the English; he took the course back to Ile de France, where he reckoned upon wintering. Pondicherry was threatened, and Lally found himself in Tanjore, where he had hoped to recover a considerable sum due to the Company; on his road he had attacked a pagoda, thinking he would find there a great deal of treasure, but the idols were hollow and of worthless material. The pagoda was in flames, the disconsolate Brahmins were still wandering round about their temple; the general took them for spies, and had them tied to the cannons' mouths. The danger of Pondicherry forced M. de Lally to raise the siege of Tanjore; the English fell back on Madras.

Disorder was at its height in the Company's affairs; the vast enterprises commenced by Dupleix required success and conquests, but they had been

abandoned since his recall, not without having ingulfed, together with his private fortune, a portion of the Company's resources. Lally was angered at being every moment shackled for want of money; he attributed it not only to the ill will, but also to the dishonesty, of the local authorities. He wrote, in 1758, to M. de Leyrit, Governor of Pondicherry, "Sir, this letter shall be an eternal secret between you and me, if you furnish me with the means of terminating my enterprise. I left you a hundred thousand livres of my own money to help you to meet the expenditure it requires. I have not found so much as a hundred sous in your purse and in that of all your council; you have both of you refused to let me employ your credit. I, however, consider you to be all of you under more obligation to the Company than I am, who have unfortunately the honor of no further acquaintance with it than to the extent of having lost half my property by it in 1720. If you continue to leave me in want of everything and exposed to the necessity of presenting a front to the general discontent, not only shall I inform the king and the Company of the fine zeal testified for their service by their employees here, but I shall take effectual measures for not being at the mercy, during the short stay I desire to make in this country, of the party spirit and personal motives by which I see that every member appears to be actuated to the risk of the Company in general."

In the midst of this distress, and in spite of this ebullition, M. de Lally led his troops up in front of Madras; he made himself master of the Black Town. "The immense plunder taken by the troops," says the journal of an officer who held a command under Count Lally, "had introduced abundance amongst them. Huge stores of strong liquors led to drunkenness and all the evils it generates. The situation must have been seen to be believed. The works, the guards in the trenches were all performed by drunken men. The regiment of Lorraine alone was exempt from this plague, but the other corps surpassed one another. Hence scenes of the most shameful kind and most destructive of subordination and discipline, the details of which confined within the limits of the most scrupulous truthfulness would appear a monstrous exaggeration." Lally in despair wrote to his friends in France, "Hell vomited me into this land of iniquities, and I am waiting, like Jonah, for the whale that shall receive me in its belly."


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