« IndietroContinua »
conquer Antwerp in northern, and thus got quit of the shadow even Lisbon in southern Europe, for the of British influence throughout the advantage of revolutionary France, we whole of Persia, the Russians were had not a guinea nor a gun to spare to not long in following out the now preserve the interests, or uphold the smoothed highway towards Hindostan: honour of England in the Dardanelles, the siege of Herat, the head of the and we threw Turkey, as the price of defile which leads to the Indus, was existence, into the arms of Russia. undertaken by the Persian troops, The rest is well known. The Mus- under Russian guidance; and Ruscovite battalions gave the requisite sian emissaries and diplomacy, ever aid ; the domes of Constantinople re- preceding their arms, had already flected the lights of their bivouacs on crossed the Himalaya snows, and the mountain of the giant ; the arms were stirring up the seeds of subdued of Ibrahim recoiled before this new but unextinguished hostility in the and unexpected antagonist, and the Birman empire, among the Nepaulese treaty of Unkiar Skelessi delivered mountaineers, and the discontented Turkey, bound hand and foot, into rajahs of Hindostan. the hands of Russia, rendered the There is but one road by which Euxine a Muscovite lake, and for ever any hostile army ever has, or ever shut out the British flag from the na- can, approach India from the northvigation of its waters, or the defence ward. Alexander the Great, Timour, of the Turkish metropolis.
Gengis Khan, Nadir-Shah, have all The natural results of this timorous penetrated Hindostan by the same and vacillating policy, coupled with route. That road has, for three thouthe well-known and fearful reduction sand years, been the beaten and wellof our naval and military force in known tract by which the mercantile India, were not slow in developing communication has been kept up bethemselves. It soon appeared that tween the plains of the Ganges and the British name had ceased to be the steppes of Upper Asia. Herat regarded with any respect in the East; stands at the head of this defile. Its and that all the influence derived from population, which amounts to one our victories and diplomacy in Cen- hundred thousand souls, and wealth tral Asia had been lost. It is needless which renders it by far the most imto go into details, results of which portant city in the heart of Asia, have are well known to the public, though been entirely formed by the caravan the diplomatic secrets connected with trade, which, from time immemorial, them have not yet been revealed. has passed through its walls, going Suffice it to say, that Persia, which and returning from Persia to Hindofor a quarter of a century had been stan. When Napoleon, in conjuncthe firm ally, and in fact the advanced tion with the Emperor Paul, projected post of the British power in India, the invasion of our Indian possessions deserted by us, and subdued by Rus- by a joint army of French infantry sia, was constrained to throw herself and Russian Cossacks, the route markinto the arms of the latter. The Per- ed out was Astrakan, Astrabad, Hesian army was speedily organized on rat, Candahar, the Bolan pass, and the a better and more effective footing, Indus, to Delhi. There never can be under direction of Russian officers; any other road overland to India ; for and several thousand Russian troops, to the eastward of it inaccessible disguised under the name of deserters, snowy ranges of mountains preclude were incorporated with, and gave the possibility of an army getting consistency to, the Persian army. through; while to the west parched The British officers, who had hitherto and impassable deserts afford obstahad the direction of that force, were cles still more formidable, which the obliged to retire ; insult, the invari. returning soldiers of Alexander overable precursor in the East of injury, came only with the loss of half their was heaped upon the British subjects; numbers. It is quite clear, therefore, redress was demanded in vain by the that Herat is the vital point of comBritish ambassador; and Sir John munication between Russia and HinM`Neill himself was at length obliged dostan ; and that whoever is in possesto leave the court of Tehran, from sion of it, either actually or by the the numerous crosses and vexations intervention of a subsidiary or allied to which he was exposed. Having force, need never disquiet himself about apprehensions that an enemy til they were subdued ; and consewill penetrate through the long and quently their adhesion to our cause, if difficult defile which leads in its rear we would only give them effectual to Hindostan.
support, might be relied upon as cerSince our empire in India had wax- tain. It is well known that Dost ed so powerful as to attract the envy of Mahommed might have been firmly the Asiatic tramontane nations, it be- attached to the British alliance within came, therefore, a matter of necessity these few years by the expenditure of to maintain our influence among the a hundred thousand pounds, and the nations who held the keys of this pass. aid of a few British officers to organize Affghanistan was to India what Pied- his forces. And when it is recollected mont has long been to Italy; even a that the Sultan of Herat, alone and second Hannibal or Napoleon might unaided by us, held out against the be stopped in its long mountain passes whole power of Persia, directed by and interminable barren hills. If, in- Russian officers, for one year and nine deed, the politics of India could be months, it is evident both with what a confined only to its native powers, it strong spirit of resistance to northern might be wise to consider the Indus aggression the Affghanistan states are and the Himalaya as our frontier, and animated, and what elements of resistto disregard entirely the distant hosti- ance they possess among themselves, lity or complicated diplomacy of the even when unaided, against northern northern Asiatic states. But as long ambition. as India, like Italy, possesses the fatal The immense advantage of gaining gift of beauty; as long as its harvests the support of the tribes inhabiting the are coveted by northern sterility, and valley of Affghan, thus holding in its riches by barbarian poverty ; so
their hands the keys of Hindostan, was long must the ruler of the land pre- forgone by the British power in Inserve with jealous care the entrance dia, partly from the dilapidated state into its bosom, and sit with frowning to which the army had been reduced majesty at the entrance of the pass by by the miserable retrenchment forced which “the blue-eyed myriads of the upon the Government by the demo. Baltic coast” may find a way into its cratic cry for economy at home, and fabled plains.
partly from the dread of involving There was a time when British in- ourselves in hostility with Runjeet fluence might with ease, and at little Sing, the formidable chief of Lahore, cost, have been established in the Aff- whose hostility to the Affghanistans ghanistan passes.
Dost Mahommed was hereditary and inveterate ; and was a usurper, and his legal claims to there can be little doubt that the conthe throne would not bear a compari- clusion of a treaty, offensive and deson with those of Shah Shoojah. "But fensive, with the powers of Cabool, he was a usurper who had conciliated would have excited great discontent, and won the affections of the people, if not provoked open hostility, at the and his vigour and success had given court of Lahore. In relinquishing a degree of prosperity to Affghanistan their hold of the Affghanistan states, which it had not for centuries experi- from the dread of compromising their enced.
Kamram, the sultan of He- relations with the wily potentate of rat, was connected with him by blood the Indus, the British Government in and allied by inclination, and both India were only acting upon that system were animated by hereditary and in- of temporizing, conceding, and shun. veterate hatred of the Persian power. ning present danger, which has characThey would willingly, therefore, have terised all their public acts ever since united themselves with Great Britain the influence of the urban masses beto secure a barrier against northern came predominant in the British couninvasion ; and such an alliance would cils. But it is now apparent, that in have been founded on the only dura- breaking with the Affghans to concili. ble bond of connexion among nations ate the rajah, the British incurred the --mutual advantage, and the sense of greater ultimate, to avoid the present a formidable impending
common dan- lesser danger. Runjeet Sing, indeed, ger. The states of Candahar and was a formidable power, with seventy Cabool were in the front of the danger; thousand men, and one hundred and the Russian and Persian arms could fifty pieces of cannon under his comnever have approached the Indus un- mand. But his situation, between the
British territory on the one side, and when its Government, in an evil hour, the Affghans on the other, rendered yields to the insidious cry for demohim incapable of making any effectual cratic retrenchment. resistance. His military force was by Already the beneficial effects of this no means equal to what had been bold policy have become apparent. wielded by Tippoo or the Mahrattas, The crossing of the Indus by a power. and his rear was exposed to the incur- ful British army; the surmounting of sions of his hereditary and inveterate the hills of Cashmere ; the passage of enemies in the Affghanistan moun- the Bolan defile; the storming of tains. Still, more than all, his terri- Ghuznee; the fall of Candahar and tories were pierced by the great and Cabool, and the restoration of Shah navigable river of the Indus—the best Shoojah to the throne of his ancestors; possible base for British operations, have resounded through the whole of capable of conveying both the muni. Asia, and restored, after its eclipse of ments of war and the provisions for fifteen years, the honour of the British an army into the heart of his domin- name. The doubtful fidelity of the ions. In these circumstances, it is Rajah of Lahore has been overawed evident that the submission of Runjeet into submission ; the undisguised hosSing must soon have become a matter tility of the court of Persia has termiof necessity ; or, at all events, even if nated, and friendly relations are on we had been driven into hostilities the eve of being re-established ; and with him, it would have been a far less the indecision of the Sultan of He. formidable contest than that into rat and his brave followers has been which we have been driven, by abans decided by the terror of the British doning the Affghans in the late ex- arms, and the arrival of a train of arpedition to Cabool. The one would tillery within its ruined bastions. As have been what the subjugation and Britons, we rejoice from the bottom conquest of Prussia was to Napoleon, of our hearts at these glorious sucthe other was an expedition fraught cesses; and we care not who were the with all the cost and perils of the ad. Ministry at the head of affairs when vance to Moscow.
they were achieved. They were unNotwithstanding these perils and dertaken in a truly British spirit-exthis cost, however, we have no doubt ecuted by whom they may, they emathat, at the time it was undertaken, nated from Conservative principles. the expedition to Affghanistan had As much as the ruinous reductions and become a matter of necessity. We parsimonious spirit of Lord William had been reduced to such a pass by Bentinck's administration bespoke the the economy, concession, and pusil poisonous influence of democratic relanimity of former Governments, that trenchment in the great council of the we had no alternative but either to empire, so much does the expedition see the whole of Central Asia and to Affghanistan bespeak the felicitous Northern Hindostan arrayed in one revival of the true English spirit in the formidable league, under Russian guid. same assembly. At both periods it ance, against us, or to make a despe- is easy to see, that, though not nomirate and hazardous attempt to regain nally possessed of the reins of power, our lost character. We have prefer- her Majesty's Opposition really ruled red the latter alternative ; and the the state. In the Affghanistan exexpedition of Lord Auckland, boldly pedition there was very little of the conceived and vigorously executed, economy which cut in twain the Indihas hitherto, at least, been crowned an army, but very much of the spirit with the most signal success. That which animated the British troops at it was also attended with great and Assaye and Laswarree;-there was very imminent hazard is equally certain ; little of the truckling which brought but the existence of that peril, imposed the Russians to Constantinople, but a upon us by the shortsighted parsimo. great deal of the energy which carried nious spirit of the mercantile democra- the English to Paris. tic communities which for fifteen years In a military point of view, the expast have swayed the British empire, pedition to Affghanistan is one of the is no impeachment whatever, either of most memorable events of modern the wisdom or necessity of the adven- times. For the first time since the days turous step which was at last resolved of Alexander the Great, a civilized on. It only shows the straits to which a army has penetrated the mighty bargreat nation must speedily be reduced rier of deserts and mountains which
separates Persia from Hindostan; jeet Sing had proved openly treacherand the prodigy has been exhibited ous, and assailed our rear and cut off to an astonished world, of a remote our supplies when the bulk of our island in the European seas push- force was far advanced in the Affghaning forward its mighty arms into istan defiles; if the Bolan pass had the heart of Asia, and carrying its been defended with a courage equal to victorious standards into the strong- its physical strength; if the powderholds of Mahometan faith and the bags which blew open the gates of cradle of the Mogul empire. Neither Ghuznee had missed fire, or the courage the intricate streams of the Punjab, of those who bore them had quailed nor the rapid flow of the Indus, nor under the extraordinary perils of their the waterless mountains of Affghanis- mission; the fate of the expedition would tan, nor the far-famed bastions of in all probability have been changed, Ghuznee, have been able to arrest our and a disaster as great as the cutting
For the first time in the his- off of Crassus and his legions in Mesotory of the world, the tide of conquest potamia, would have resounded like a has flowed up from Hindostan into clap of thunder through the whole of Central Asia ; the European race has Asia. Few if any of the brave men asserted its wonted superiority over who had penetrated into Affghanistan the Asiatic; reversing the march of would ever have returned ; the BurTimour and Alexander, the sable bat- mese, the Nepaulese would immetalions of the Ganges have appeared diately have appeared in arms; the as conquerors on the frontiers of Per. Mahratta and Pindaree horse would sia, and on the confines of the steppes have re-assembled round their predaof Samarcand. So marvellous and tory standards ; and, while the British unprecedented an event is indeed fitted empire in Hindostan rocked to its to awaken the contemplation of every foundation, an Affghanistan army, dithoughtful mind. It speaks volumes rected by Russian officers, and swelled as to the mighty step made by the hu- by the predatory tribes of Central man race in the last five hundred years, Asia, would have poured down, thirstand indicates the vast agency and un- ing for plunder and panting for blood, bounded effects of that free spirit, of on the devoted plains of Hindostan. which Britain is the centre, which has Subsequent events have already rethus, for a season at least, inverted the vealed, in the clearest manner, the heretofore order of nature, made the imminent danger in which the English natives of Hindostan appear as victors empire in the East was placed at the in the country of Gengis Khan, and period of the Affghanistan expedition. brought the standards of civilized So low had the reputation of the BriEurope, though in the inverse order, tish name sunk in the East, that even into the footsteps of the phalanx of the Chinese, the most unwarlike and Alexander.
least precipitate of the Asiatic emThough such, however, have been pires, had ventured to offer a signal the marvels of the British expedition injury to the British interests, and to Central Asia, yet it is not to be dis- insult to the British name; and so guised that it was attended by at least miserably deficient were Government equal perils; and never, perhaps, since in any previous preparation for the the British standard appeared on the danger, thatit was only twelve months plains of Hindostan, was their empire after the insult was offered, that ships in such danger as during the depend- of war could be fitted out in the Brience of this glorious but hazardous tish harbours to attempt to seek for expedition. It was, literally speaking, redress. It is now ascertained that a to our Indian empire what the expe- vast conspiracy had been long on foot dition to Moscow was to the European in the Indian peninsula to overturn dominion of Napoleon. Hitherto, in- our power; in the strongholds of some deed, the result has been different, and of the lesser rajahs in the southern part We devoutly hope that, in that respect, of the peninsula, enormous military the dissimilarity will continue. But stores have been found accumulated ; in both cases the danger was the same. and not a doubt can remain, that, if It was the moving forward a large any serious disaster had happened to force so far from its resources and the our army in Central Asia, not only base of its operations, which in both would the Burmese and Nepaulese cases constituted the danger. If any have instantly commenced hostilities, serious check had been sustained by our
but a formidable insurrection would troopsin that distant enterprise; if Run- have broken out among the semi-inde
pendent rajahs, in the very vitals of So vast is the importance of our our power. And yet it was while Indian possessions to the British emresting on the smouldering fires of pire, and so boundless the market for such a volcano, that Lord William her manufactures which might be Bentinck and the Liberal Administra- opened if a truly wise and liberal potion of India thought fit to reduce licy were pursued towards our Indian our military force to onehalf, and possessions, that there is nothing more shake the fidelity of the native troops to be regretted than that there has not by the reduction of their pay and al- hitherto issued from the press a populowances.
lar and readable history of our Indian But this proved hostility of so large possessions. Auber has, indeed, with a portion of the native powers, sug- great industry, narrated the leading gests matter for further and most facts, and supported them by a variety serious consideration. It is clear, of interesting official documents. But that although the British Government it is in vain to conceal, that his book has, to an immense degree, benefited possesses no attractions to the general India, yet it has done so chiefly by the reader; and accordingly, although it preservation of peace, and the sup- will always be a standard book of repression of robbery, throughout its ference to persons studying Indian vast dominions; and it is painfully affairs, it has not and will not proevident, that hardly any steps have duce any impression upon public yet been taken to reconcile the natives thought. It was, therefore, with peto our dominion, by the extended culiar pleasure that we recently opened market which we have opened to their the Chapters on Indian History, just industry. The startling fact which published by Mr Thornton, already Mr Montgomery Martin* has clearly so favourably known to the eastern established, that notwithstanding all world by his work on India, and that was prophesied of, the trade to its State and Prospects. From the India has been, including exports and cursory examination we have been imports, less for the last twenty years able to give to this very interesting than for the twenty years preceding, work, we have only reason to regret clearly demonstrates some vital defect that the author has not been more in our colonial policy. Nor is it difficult comprehensive in his plan, and that, to see where that error is to be found. instead of chapters on British India We have loaded the produce of India— since the administration of Marquis sugar, indigo, &c.-- with duties of near Wellesley, in one volume, he has not ly a hundred percent, while we have de- given to the world a full history of luged them with our own manufactures the period in three. The work is dis. at an import duty of two or three per tinguished by judgment, candour, and cent. In our anxiety to find a vent research, and is, beyond all doubt, the for our own manufactures on the most valuable that has yet appeared on continent of Hindostan, we seem to the recent history of India. We would have entirely forgotten that there was beg leave only to suggest to the able another requisite indispensably neces. author, that his next edition should exsary towards the success of our pro- tend to two volumes, and should emjects even for our own interests,-to brace the whole events of the period give them the means of paying for of which he treats ; in particular, that them. Our conduct towards our colo- Lord Hastings' war in 1817 should be nies, equally with that to foreign more fully enlarged upon; and that states, has exhibited reciprocity all on greater exertions should be made, by one side-with this material difference, the introduction of picturesque incithat we have, in our blind anxiety to dents and vivid descriptions, to interest conciliate foreign states, allowed the the mass of the nation in a subject whole benefits of the reciprocity trea- daily rising in importance, and on ties to rest with them; while, in our which they must soon be called upon selfish legislation towards our colonial to exercise the functions of direct lesubjects, we have taken the whole to gislation. ourselves.
To have engaged in and successfully
* See Colonial Magazine, No. I., article_" Foreign Trade to India,'-a newlyestablished miscellany, full of valuable information, and which, if conducted on right principles, will prove of the very highest importance.