Robert Clive

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Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation!

Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, KB, FRS (29 September 1725 – 22 November 1774), also known as Clive of India was the first British Governor of the Bengal Presidency. He began as a British military officer and East India Company (EIC) official who established the military and political supremacy of the EIC by seizing control of Bengal and eventually the whole of the Indian subcontinent and Myanmar. Together with Warren Hastings he was one of the key early figures setting in motion what would later become British India.


  • Am I not rather deserving of praise for the moderation which marked my proceedings? Consider the situation in which the victory at Plassey had placed me. A great prince was dependent on my pleasure; an opulent city lay at my mercy, its richest bankers bid against each other for my smiles; I walked through vaults which were thrown open to me alone, piled on either hand with gold and jewels! Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation!
    • Speech to the Select Committee on the East India Company (c. April 1772), quoted in Alexander John Arbuthnot, Lord Clive: The Foundation of British Rule in India (1899), p. 207
  • Leave me my honour, take away my fortune.
    • Speech in the House of Commons defending his rule in India (21 May 1773), quoted in Mark Bence-Jones, Clive of India (1977), p. 287

Quotes about Clive[edit]

That heaven-born general! — William Pitt
  • The King, a good judge of a fighter, agreed with Pitt in his estimate of Clive. When asked to allow a young lord to go and learn the art of war in Germany, he growled out, “Pshaw! What can he learn there? If he wants to learn the art of war, let him go to Clive.”
    • George II, quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham: Volume II (1914), p. 24, n. 2
  • Violent and bad, thou art Jehovah's servant still, And e'en to thee a dream may be an angel of his will.
    • Henry George Keene, ‘Clive's Dream before the Battle of Plassey’, Under the Rose: Poems Written Chiefly in India (1868), p. 141
  • Clive, like most men who are born with strong passions and tried by strong temptations, committed great faults. But every person who takes a fair and enlightened view of his whole career must admit that our island, so fertile in heroes and statesmen, has scarcely ever produced a man more truly great either in arms or in council.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, ‘Lord Clive’, Edinburgh Review (January 1840), quoted in Critical, Historical, and Miscellaneous Essays: Volume IV (1860), p. 196
  • The fort was more than a mile in circumference; the walls in many places ruinous, the towers inconvenient and decayed, and everything unfavourable to defence. Yet Clive found the means of making an effectual resistance. When the enemy attempted to storm at two breaches, one of fifty and one of ninety feet, he repulsed them with but eighty Europeans and a hundred and fifty sepoys fit for duty; so effectually did he avail himself of his resources, and to such a pitch of fortitude had he exalted the spirit of those under his command.
  • We have lost our glory, honour, and reputation everywhere but in India. ... Clive—that man not born for a desk—that heaven-born general! He it is true had never learned the arts of war or that skill in doing nothing, which only forty years of service can bring! Yet was he not afraid to attack a numerous army with a handful of men with a magnanimity, a resolution, a determination and an execution that would charm a King of Prussia and with a presence of mind that astonished the Indies.
    • William Pitt, speech in the House of Commons (14 December 1757), quoted in Basil Williams, The Life of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham: Volume II (1914), p. 24

External links[edit]

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