Page images
PDF
EPUB

The captain secured the services of a brother officer and Mr. Stocqueler was attended by Mr. Buckingham. The meeting took place at Howrah. The soldier, , firing first, missed, the civilian discharged his pistol in the air, and the affair came to an end by the seconds declaring that “honour” was satisfied

Any account of the Calcutta Duel would be woefully incomplete without a reference to the two historic encounters of Clavering vs. Barwell and Francis vs. the Governor-General which took place near Kidderpore in the time of Warren Hastings. Busteed's “ Echoes from Old Calcutta” is the only work which gives a detailed account of these encounters.

Beveridge in his History of Backerganj records an instance of violation of faith and criminal malversation none too rare in the days of which we write. From this it would appear that Barwell held the lease of a couple of salt farms, which he sublet to two Armenians, on the understanding of an extra consideration to himself of one lakh and twenty-five thousand rupees. Ultimately one of these merchants complained that Barwell having taken the money, dispossessed him, and relet the farm to someone else for another lakh of rupees. When charged with it, the Member of Council is said to have naïvely confessed to the act in such a manner as to imply his conviction that he was perfectly within his rights in wishing to add thus to his fortune. According to Busteed this account is highly suggestive, in so far as it goes to show that the quarrel on General Clavering's part was not altogether without justification. At a meeting of Council at Calcutta in 1775, General Clavering rose to accuse Mr. Richard Barwell of malversation in the Salt Department.

Department. “How do you," said he, " hold this (the holding by

act

to

was

Barwell of salt farms for his own benefit) to be consistent with your oath to the Company.” Barwell replied with heat “Whoever says I have done anything inconsistent with my oath to the Company is a rascal and a scoundrel.” Clavering, incensed at the insult, put his hand to his sword and Barwell bowed and retired. Of the duel itself there are two accounts. According to Grand's narrative, the meeting came off on the following morning, each man being attended, as was customary, by his seconds. The General fired and missed, but Barwell declined to shoot. Clavering fearing that this was due an attachment the other

known to have conceived towards his daughter, called out to his opponent that he stood no chance of ever being allied to his family, and that unless he returned the fire he himself would discharge another pistol. At this point, however, the seconds interposed to declare that honour was satisfied and Barwell still declining to fire was allowed to retire. The second account is given in a letter written by Charles Grant, a Bengal Civilian, who was at that tiine Secretary to the Board of Trade, and differs in some material points from the preceding narrative Neither of the parties, according to this version, were attended by seconds and the meeting, at Barwell's request, had been postponed four days. They met on the fifth day at 5 A.m. on the new road to Budge Budge and walked on together till a convenient place was reached. “Which distance do you chose, Sir?” enquired Barwell. “The nearer the better,” replied the General. It was fixed at eight yards and the two men faced each other. “Will you fire, sir,” said Clavering. “No sir, you

. will please to fire first,” replied the other. “ Is your pistol cocked, Mr. Barwell ? ”

“Yes sir.”

“ You

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to

will give me leave to look, sir; I did not hear the drawing of the cock.” He advanced, satisfied himself, looked at the priming too, then retired to his stand, and fired. The ball passed through Barwell's thighs, grazing the inner part of one. “ Fire, sir,” said the General. “ No sir, you will give me leave to decline. I came here in obedience to your summons, and think that I may now without any imputation to my character declare that I have no enmity, and that I am sorry for what is past.

Sir," answered the General, now very much excited, “I must insist upon your firing, if you continue to refuse you will oblige me to fire again.” Mr Barwell repeated his reluctance to carry the matter further, and his desire to end it by accommodation in such a manner as should be satisfactory to the General At length the latter yielded so far as to consent, with many

conditional clauses, accept of an apology before the same persons, and in the same place where the affront had been given, stipulating particularly that if the apology should not be entirely satisfactory, it should pass for nothing. Upon this they returned, the apology was made in the most ample manner, and the affair thus terminated. Busteed is inclined to think the latter account too circumstantial to be entirely correct.

The encounter between Hastings and Phillip Francis took place shortly after. Hastings boiling with indignation at his opponent's ministerial deceits and determined to make an attempt to get rid for good and all of the malignant antagonist who opposed him at every turn, had written in one of the minutes of the Council a strenuous denunciation of Francis and his public acts. Fully aware of the insulting character of the indictment and apprehending the nature of his antagonist's reply, the Governor-General sent Mrs. Hastings up the river, and waited till Francis, who was at the time suffering from a slight fever, was sufficiently recovered to attend Council. Then he read out the paper, weighted with Insinuations and insults such as no man living would ever disregard, and on the evening of the same day received from Francis a challenge to combat, The parties met in the early morning in the vicinity of Belvedere, the seconds being Colonel Watson and Colonel Hugh Pearse. The question arising as to the selection of a suitable site for the exchange of shots, Francis suggested a clump of trees or bushes a little removed from the main road, but to this Hastings objected on the score of darkness. The next suggestion, this time probably by the Governor, was that the encounter should take place in the road itself, but to this was objected the extreme publicity of the thoroughfare and the likelihood of interruption by people out for a morning ride. At last it was decided to walk along the road, which at one time formed the western walk of the Belvedere grounds, until a suitable site should present itself. This was done and before long the party came upon a dry and retired spot, a little way back from the old road that lay between Belvedere and Alipore House. Here, as both principals were ignorant of the procedure that was to be followed, Watson measured out fourteen paces and the combatants were instructed as to how to stand and when to fire. Francis, it is said, expressed admiration at the sight of his antagonist's pistols. The powder in his own weapon being damp, Hastings permitted him come down twice to the present in order to make sure of the charge. The word was given, both men fired, and Francis fell. Hastings immediately ran to his side, saying that

to

progress of

on

if anything serious had happened to his opponent he would surrender himself to the Sheriff. Pearse ran to call assistance, and returned with a sheet, which was wrapped round the wounded man in order to stop the bleeding. He was placed in a palanquin, and since it was considered advisable to convey him to town, was carried towards Pearse's carriage. But the the bearers was stopped by a broad ditch or waterwayprobably Tolly's Nullah-and it was then decided to take Francis to Belvedere. Here he was attended by two medical men, one of them being Hastings' own physician.

Passing from these well-known encounters it is curious to find that the brilliant and great-hearted missionary, Alexander Duff, was one occasion very near to becoming the recipient of a challenge, the seeker of “ satisfaction ” being Mr. Longueville Clarke, a leading Calcutta barrister and reputed to have been one of the finest chess players in the world. Although the duel did not come off, a brief history of the difference may not be found uninteresting. A youth named Brijo Nath Ghose had been removed from the Hare School owing to the purely secular nature of instructions which his father feared might result in atheistical tendencies and had been placed in charge of the missionaries. After some time the lad sought to become a Christian and his father instituted proceedings against his instructors on the plea of the boy's minority. Clarke, who was the counsel for the plaintiff, succeeded in obtaining a decree in favour of his client, with the result that the boy, much against his will, was compelled to return to his father It is interesting to note, however, that three years later the youth was baptised. During the trial Clarke bitterly maligned

« PreviousContinue »