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52 WARREN HASTINGS.

said, of the Governor-General’s politeness, but could not consent
to any private interview. They could meet only at the council-
board.

In a very short time it was made signally manifest to how
great a danger the Governor-General had, on this occasion, ex-
posed his country. A crisis arrived with which he, and he alone,
was competent to deal. It is not too much to say that, if he
had been taken from the head of affairs, the years 1780 and 1781
would have been as fatal to our power in Asia as to our power in
America.

The Mahrattas had been the chief objects of apprehension to
Hastings. The measures which he had adopted for the purpose
of breaking their power, had at first been frustrated by the errors
of those whom he was compelled to employ; but his perseverance
and ability seemed likely to be crowned with success, when a far
more formidable danger showed itself in a distant quarter.

About thirty years before this time, a Mahommedan soldier had
begun to distinguish himself in the wars of Southern India. His
education had been neglected; his extraction was humble. His
father had been a petty oflicer of revenue ; his grandfather a Wan-
dering dervise. But though thus meanly descended, though igno-
rant even of the alphabet, the adventurer had no sooner been
placed at the head of a body of troops than he approved himself a.
man born for conquest and command. Among the crowd of chiefs
who were struggling for a share of India, none could compare with
him in the qualities of the captain and the statesman. He became
a general; he became a sovereign. Out of the fragments of old
principalities, which had gone to pieces in the general wreck,
he formed for himself a great, compact, and vigorous empire.
That empire he ruled with the ability, severity, and vigilance
of Lewis the Eleventh. Licentious in his pleasures, implacable in
his revenge, he had yet enlargement of mind enough to perceive
how much the prosperity of subjects adds to the strength of
governments. He was an oppressor; but he had at least the
merit of protecting his people against all oppression except his
own. He was now in extreme old age; but his intellect was as
clear, and his spirit as high, as in the prime of manhood. Such
was the great Hyder Ali, the founder of the Mahommedan king-
dom of Mysore, and the most formidable enemy with whom the
English conquerors of India have ever had to contend.

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