Online Encyclopedia

OMICHUND (d. 1767)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V20, Page 104 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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OMICHUND (d. 1767), an Indian whose name is indelibly associated with the treaty negotiated by Clive before the battle of Plassey in 1757. His real name was Amir Chand; and he was not a Bengali, as stated by Macaulay, but a Sikh from the Punjab. It is impossible now to unravel the intrigues in which he may have engaged, but some facts about his career can be stated. He had long been resident at Calcutta, where he had acquired a large fortune by providing the " investment " for the Company, and also by acting as intermediary between the English and the native court at Murshidabad. In a letter of Mr Watts of later date he is represented as saying to the nawab (Suraj-ud-daula) : " He had lived under the English protection these forty years; that he never knew them once to break their agreement, to the truth of which he took his oath by touching a Brahman's foot; and that if a lie could be proved in England upon any one, they were spit upon and never trusted." Several houses owned by him in Calcutta are mentioned in connexion with the fighting that preceded the tragedy of the Black Hole in 1756, and it is on record that he suffered heavy losses at that time. He had been arrested by the English on suspicion of treachery, but afterwards he was forward in giving help to the fugitives and also valuable advice. On the recapture of Calcutta he was sent by Clive to accompany Mr Watts as agent at Murshidabad. It seems to have been through his influence that the nawab gave reluctant consent to Clive's attack on Chandernagore. Later, when the treaty with Mir Jafar was being negotiated, he put in a claim for 5% on all the treasure to be recovered, under threat of disclosing the plot. To defeat him, two copies of the treaty were drawn up: the one, the true treaty, omitting his claim; the other containing it, to be shown to him, which Admiral Watson refused to sign, but Clive directed the admiral's signature to be appended. When the truth was revealed to Omichund after Plassey, Macaulay states (following Orme) that he sank gradually into idiocy, languished a few months, and then died. As a matter of fact, he survived for ten years, till 1767; and by his will he bequeathed £2000 to the Foundling Hospital (where his name may be seen in the list of benefactors as " a black merchant of Calcutta ") and also to the Magdalen Hospital in London. (J. S. Co.)
End of Article: OMICHUND (d. 1767)
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