The bulk of his forces dispersed with their booty to the mountains, and Charles fell sullenly back to the north before the Duke of Cumberland. On the 16th of April the armies faced one another on Culloden Moor, a few miles eastward of Inverness. The Highlanders still numbered six thousand men, but they were starving and dispirited, while Cumberland's force was nearly double that of the Prince. Torn by the Duke's guns, the clansmen flung themselves in their old fashion on the English front; but they were received with a terrible fire of musketry, and the few that broke through the first line found themselves fronted by a second. In a few moments all was over, and the Stuart force was a mass of hunted fugitives. Charles himself after strange adventures escaped to France. In England fifty of his followers were hanged; three Scotch lords, Lovat, Balmerino, and Kilmarnock, brought to the block; and forty persons of rank attainted by Act of Parliament. More extensive measures of repression were needful in the Highlands. The feudal tenures were abolished. The hereditary jurisdictions of the chiefs were bought up and transferred to the Crown. The tartan, or garb of the Highlanders, was forbidden by law. These measures, followed by a general Act of Indemnity, proved effective for their purpose.
The dread of the clansmen passed away, and the Sheriff's writ soon ran through the Highlands with as little resistance as in the streets of Edinburgh.
Defeat abroad and danger at home only quickened the resolve of the Pelhams to bring the war with Prussia to an end. When England was threatened by a Catholic Pretender, it was no time for weakening the chief Protestant power in Germany. On the refusal of Maria Theresa to join in a general peace, England concluded the Convention of Hanover with Prussia, and withdrew so far as Germany was concerned from the war. Elsewhere however the contest lingered on. The victories of Maria Theresa in Italy were balanced by those of France in the Netherlands, where Marshal Saxe inflicted new defeats on the English and Dutch at Roucoux and Lauffeld. The danger of Holland and the financial exhaustion of France at last brought about the conclusion of a peace at Aix-la-Chapelle, by which England surrendered its gains at sea, and France its conquests on land. But the peace was a mere pause in the struggle, during which both parties hoped to gain strength for a mightier contest which they saw impend' ing. The war was in fact widening far beyond the bounds of Germany or of Europe. It was becoming a world-wide duel which was to settle the destinies of mankind.
Already France was claiming the valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi, and mooting the great question whether the fortunes of the New World were to be moulded by Frenchmen or Englishmen. Already too French adventurers were driving English merchants from Madras, and building up, as they trusted, a power which was to add India to the dominions of France.
The early intercourse of England with India gave little promise of the great fortunes which awaited it. It was not till the close of Elizabeth's reign, a century after Vasco da Gama had crept round the Cape of Good Hope and founded the Portuguese settlement on the Goa coast, that an East India Company was established in London. The trade, profitable as it was, remained small in extent; and the three early factories of the Company were only gradually acquired during the century which followed. The first, that of Madras, consisted of but six fishermen's houses beneath Fort St. George; that of Bombay was ceded by the Portuguese as part of the dowry of Catharine of Braganza; while Fort William, with the mean village which has since grown into Calcutta, owes its origin to the reign of William the Third. Each of these forts was built simply for the protection of the Company's warehouses, and guarded by a few "sepahis," sepoys, or paid native soldiers; while the clerks and traders of each establishment were under the direction of a President and a Council. One of these clerks in the middle of the eighteenth century was Robert Clive, the son of a small proprietor near Market Drayton in Shropshire, an idle dare-devil of a boy whom his friends had been glad to get rid of by packing him off in the Company's service as a writer to Madras. His early days there were days of wretchedness and despair.
He was poor and cut off from his fellows by the haughty shyness of his temper, weary of desk-work, and haunted by home-sickness. Twice he attempted suicide; and it was only on the failure of his second attempt that he flung down the pistol which baffled him with a conviction that he was reserved for higher things.
A change came at last in the shape of war and captivity. As soon as the war of the Austrian Succession broke out, the superiority of the French in power and influence tempted them to expel the English from India. Labourdonnais, the governor of the French colony of the Mauritius, besieged Madras, razed it to the ground, and carried its clerks and merchants prisoners to Pondicherry. Clive was among these captives, but he escaped in disguise, and returning to the settlement, threw aside his clerkship for an ensign's commission in the force which the Company was busily raising. For the capture of Madras had not only established the repute of the French arms, but had roused Dupleix, the governor of Pondicherry, to conceive plans for the creation of a French empire in India. When the English merchants of Elizabeth's day brought their goods to Surat, all India, save the south, had just been brought for the first time under the rule of a single great power by the Mogul Emperors of the line of Akbar. But with the death of Aurungzebe, in the reign of Anne, the Mogul Empire fell fast into decay.
A line of feudal princes raised themselves to independence in Rajpootana. The lieutenants of the Emperor founded separate sovereignties at Lucknow and Hyderabad, in the Carnatic, and in Bengal. The plain of the Upper Indus was occupied by a race of religious fanatics called the Sikhs. Persian and Affghan invaders crossed the Indus, and succeeded even in sacking Delhi, the capital of the Moguls. Clans of systematic plunderers, who were known under the name of Mahrattas, and who were in fact the natives whom conquest had long held in subjection, poured down from the highlands along the western coast, ravaged as far as Calcutta and Tanjore, and finally set up independent states at Poonah and Gwalior. Dupleix skilfully availed himself of the disorder around him. He offered his aid to the Emperor against the rebels and invaders who had reduced his power to a shadow; and it was in the Emperor's name that he meddled with the quarrels of the states of Central and Southern India, made himself virtually master of the Court of Hyderabad, and seated a creature of his own on the throne of the Carnatic. Trichinopoly, the one town which held out against this Nabob of the Carnatic, was all but brought to surrender when Clive, in 1751, came forward with a daring scheme for its relief.