The History of the Indian Revolt and of the Expeditions to Persia, China and Japan 1856-7-8
The History of the Indian Revolt and of the Expeditions to Persia, China and Japan 1856-7-8
The History of the Indian Revolt and of the Expeditions to Persia, China and Japan 1856-7-8
In the present volume is given a narrative of the chief events connected with one of the most formidable military Revolts on record. These events – from the first display of insubordination in the beginning of 1857, to the issue of the Royal Proclamation in the later weeks of 1858 – form a series full of the romance as well as the wretchedness of war: irrespective of the causes that may have led to them, or the reforms which they suggested. The sudden rising of trained native soldiers in mutiny; the slaughter of officers who to the last moment had trusted them; the sufferings of gently-nurtured women and children, while hurrying wildly over burning sands and through thick jungles; and the heroism displayed amid unspeakable miseries – all tended to give an extraordinary character to this outbreak. Nor is it less interesting to trace the operations by which the difficulties were met. The task was nothing less than that of suppressing insurgency among a native population of nearly two hundred million souls by a small number of British soldiers and civilians, most of whom were at vast distances from the chief region of disaffection, and were grievously deficient in means of transport.
A chronicle of these events reveals also the striking differences between various parts of India. While Behar, Oude, Rohilcund, the Doab, Bundelcund, Malwah, and Rajpootana were rent with anarchy and plunged in misery, the rest of India was comparatively untouched. Most important, too, is it to trace the influence of nation, caste, and creed. Why the Hindoos of the Brahmin and Rajpoot castes rebelled, while those of the lower castes remained faithful; why the Sikhs and Mussulmans of the Punjaub shewed so little sympathy with the insurgents; why the Hindoos of Bengal were so timidly quiet, and those of Hindostan so boldly violent; why the native armies of Madras and Bombay were so tranquil, when that of Bengal was so turbulent? – were questions which it behoved the government to solve, as clues to the character of the governed, and to the changes of discipline needed. It was a time that brought into strong relief the peculiarities of the five chief classes of Europeans in India – Queen’s soldiers, Company’s soldiers, Company’s ‘covenanted’ servants, ‘uncovenanted’ servants, and residents independent of the Company; and it shewed how nobly these classes forgot their differences when the honour of the British name and the safety of India were imperiled.
The history of home affairs during, and in relation to, that period of struggle, has its own points of interest – shewing in what manner, amid the stormy conflicts of party, the nation responded to the call for military aid to India, for pecuniary aid to individual sufferers, and for a great change in the government of that country.
Although the minor results of the Revolt may be visible to a much later date, it is considered that the month of November 1858 would furnish a convenient limit to the present narrative. The government of India had by that time been changed; the change had been publicly proclaimed throughout the length and breadth of that empire; the British army in the east had been so largely augmented as to render the prospects of the insurgents hopeless; the rebel leaders were gradually tendering their submission, under the terms of the Royal Proclamation; the skilled mutinous sepoys had in great proportion been stricken down by battle and privation; the military operations had become little more than a chasing of lawless marauders; and the armed men still at large were mostly dupes of designing leaders, or ruffians whose watchwords were pay and plunder rather than nationality or patriotism.
The remarkable Expeditions to Persia, China, and Japan are briefly noticed towards the close of the volume – on account of the links which connected them with the affairs of India, and of the aspect which they gave to the influence of England in the east.
Every endeavour has been made, by a careful examination of available authorities, to render the narrative a truthful one. It is hoped that the errors are few in number, and that hasty expressions of opinion on disputed points have in general been avoided. The Work is quite distinct from the History of the Russian War, issued by the same Publishers; yet may the two be regarded as companion volumes, relating to the affairs of England in the east – seeing that a few short months only elapsed between the close of the events of 1854-5-6 in Turkey, Russia, and Asia Minor, and the commencement of those of 1856-7-8 in India, Persia, and China.
INDIA IN 1856: A RETROSPECT
Scarcely had England recovered from the excitement attendant on the war with Russia; scarcely had she counted the cost, provided for the expenditure, reprobated the blunderings, mourned over the sufferings; scarcely had she struck a balance between the mortifying incapacity of some of her children, and the Christian heroism of others – when she was called upon anew to unsheath the sword, and to wage war, not against an autocrat on this side of the Caspian, but against some of the most ancient nations in the world. Within a few months, almost within a few weeks, China, Persia, and India appeared in battle-array against her – they being the injurers or the injured, according to the bias of men’s judgments on the matter. It may almost be said that five hundred millions of human beings became her enemies at once: there are at the very least this number of inhabitants in the three great Asiatic empires; and against all, proclamations were issued and armaments fitted out. Whether the people, the millions, sided more with her or with their own rulers, is a question that must be settled in relation to each of those empires separately; but true it is that the small army of England was called upon suddenly to render services in Asia, so many and varied, in regions so widely separated, and so far distant from home, that a power of mobility scarcely less than ubiquity, aided by a strength of endurance almost more than mortal – could have brought that small force up to a level with the duties required of it. Considering how small a space a month is in the life of a nation, we may indeed say that this great Oriental outbreak was nearly simultaneous in the three regions of Asia. It was in October 1856 that the long-continued bickerings between the British and the Chinese at Canton broke out into a flame, and led to the despatch of military and naval forces from England. It was while the British admiral was actually engaged in bombarding Canton that the governor-general of India, acting as viceroy of the Queen of England, declared war against the Shah of Persia for an infringement of treaty relating to the city of Herat. And lastly, it was while two British armaments were engaged in those two regions of warfare, that disobedience and disbanding began in India, the initial steps to the most formidable military Revolt, perhaps, the world has ever seen.
The theologian sees, or thinks he sees, the finger of God, the avenging rod of an All-ruling Providence, in these scenes of blood-shedding: a punishment on England for not having Christianised the natives of the East to the full extent of her power. The soldier insists that, as we gained our influence in the East mainly by the sword, by the sword we must keep it: permitting no disobedience to our military rule, but at the same time offending as little as possible against the prejudices of faith and caste among the natives. The politician smitten with Russo-phobia, deeply imbued with the notion, whether well or ill founded, that the Muscovite aims at universal dominion in Europe and Asia, seeks for evidences of the czar’s intrigues at Pekin, Teheran, and Delhi. The partisan, thinking more of the ins and outs of official life, than of Asia, points triumphantly to the dogma that if his party had been in power, no one of these three Oriental wars would have come upon England. The merchant, believing that individual interest lies at the bottom of all national welfare, tells us that railways and cotton plantations would be better for India than military stations; and that diplomatic piques at Canton and at Teheran ought not to be allowed to drive us into hostility with nations who might be advantageous customers for our wares. But while the theologian, the soldier, the politician, the partisan, and the merchant are thus rushing to a demonstration, each of his favourite theory, without waiting for the evidence which can only by degrees be collected, England, as a nation, has had to bear up against the storm as best she could. Not even one short twelvemonth of peace was vouchsafed to her. The same year, 1856, that marked the closing scenes of one war, witnessed the commencement of two others; while the materials for a fourth war were at the same time fermenting, unknown to those whose duty it was to watch symptoms.
Few things in the history of our empire are more astonishing than the social explosion in India, taken in connection with the positive declarations of official men. Historical parallels have often been pointed out, striking and instructive; but here we have a historical contradiction. At the time when the plenipotentiaries of seven European empires and kingdoms were discussing at Paris the bases for a European peace, the Marquis of Dalhousie was penning an account of India, in the state to which Britain had brought it. A statesman of high ability, and of unquestioned earnestness of purpose, he evidently felt a pride in the work he had achieved as governor-general of India; he thought he had laid the foundation for a great future; and he claimed credit for England, not only in respect to what she had done, but also for the motives that had dictated her Indian policy. It was in the early part of 1848 that this nobleman went out to the East; it was in 1856 that he yielded the reins of power to Viscount Canning; and shortly before his departure from Calcutta he wrote a minute or narrative, formally addressed to the East India Company, but intended for his fellow-countrymen at large, giving an account of his stewardship. Remembering that that minute was written in March 1856, and that the Revolt commenced in January 1857, it becomes very important to know, from the lips or the pen of the marquis himself, what he believed to be the actual condition of the Anglo-Indian Empire when he left it. The document in question is worth more, for our present purpose, than any formal history or description of India; for it shews not only the sum-total of power and prosperity in 1848, but the additions made to that sum year after year till 1856. A parliamentary paper of fifty folio pages need not and cannot be reproduced here; but its substance may be rendered intelligible in a few paragraphs. This we will attempt at once, as a peculiarly fitting introduction to the main object of the present work; for it shews how little the Revolt was expected by him who was regarded as the centre of knowledge and influence in India. The marquis said: ‘The time has nearly come when my administration of the government of India, prolonged through more than eight years, will reach its final close. It would seem that some few hours may be profitably devoted to a short review of those eventful years; not for the purpose of justifying disputed measures, or of setting forth a retrospective defence of the policy which may, on every several occasion, have been adopted; but for the purpose of recalling the political events that have occurred, the measures that have been taken, and the progress that has been made, during the career of the administration which is about to close. I enter on that review with the single hope that the Honourable Court of Directors may derive from the retrospect some degree of satisfaction with the past, and a still larger measure of encouragement for the future.’ The words we have italicised are very remarkable, read by the light so soon and so calamitously to be afforded.
The minute first passes in review the proceedings of the Indian government with the independent native states, both east and west of the Ganges. How little our public men are able to foretell the course of political events in the East, is shewn by the very first paragraph of the governor-general’s narrative: ‘When I sailed from England in the winter of 1847, to assume the government of India, there prevailed a universal conviction among public men at home that permanent peace had at length been secured in the East. Before the summer came, we were already involved in the second Sikh war.’ Be it observed that public men at home are here adverted to: of what were the opinions of public men in India, the English nation was not kept sufficiently informed. There had been British officers murdered at Moultan; there was a rebellion of the Dewan Moolraj against the recognised sovereign of Lahore; but the renewal of war is attributed mainly to the ‘spirit of the whole Sikh people, which was inflamed by the bitterest animosity against us; when chief after chief deserted our cause, until nearly their whole army, led by sirdars who had signed the treaties, and by members of the Council of Regency itself, was openly arrayed against us;’ and when the Sikhs even joined with the Afghans against us. It was not a mere hostile prince, it was a hostile nation that confronted us; and the Indian government, whether wisely or not, declared war, put forth its power, maintained a long campaign, defeated and subdued the Sikhs, drove back the insurgent Afghans, and ended by annexing the Punjaub to the British territories. Scarcely had the Anglo-Indian armies been relieved from these onerous duties, when war called them to the regions beyond the Ganges. Certain British traders in the port of Rangoon had been subjected to gross outrage by the officers of the King of Ava, in violation of a pre-existing treaty; and the Marquis of Dalhousie, acting on a high-sounding dictum of Lord Wellesley, that ‘an insult offered to the British flag at the mouth of the Ganges should be resented as promptly and as fully as an insult offered at the mouth of the Thames,’ resolved to punish the king for those insults. That monarch was ‘arrogant and over-bearing’ – qualities much disapproved, where not shewn by the Company’s servants themselves; he violated treaties, insulted our traders, worried our envoys, and drove away our commercial agent at Rangoon; and as the government of India ‘could never, consistently with its own safety, permit itself to stand for a single day in an attitude of inferiority towards a native power, and least of all towards the court of Ava, war was declared. After some sharp fighting, the kingdom of Pegu was taken and annexed, ‘in order that the government of India might hold from the Burman state both adequate compensation for past injury, and the best security against future danger… A sense of inferiority has penetrated at last to the convictions of the nation; the Burman court and the Burman people alike have shewn that they now dread our power; and in that dread is the only real security we can ever have, or ever could have had, for stable peace with the Burman state.’ These words are at once boastful and saddening; but the notions conveyed, of ‘sense of inferiority’ and ‘dread of power,’ are thoroughly Asiatic, and as such we must accept them. Another independent state, Nepaul, on the northern frontier of India, remained faithful during the eight years of the Dalhousie administration; it carried on a war of its own against Tibet, but it was friendly to England, and sent a bejewelled ambassador, Jung Bahadoor, to visit the island Queen. The mountain region of Cashmere, stolen as it were from the Himalaya, was under an independent chieftain, Maharajah Gholab Sing, who, when he visited the Marquis of Dalhousie at Wuzeerabad, caught the vice-regal robe in his hand and said; ‘Thus I grasp the skirts of the British government, and I will never let go my hold.’ The governor-general expresses a belief that Gholab Sing ‘will never depart from his submissive policy as long as he lives;’ while Gholab’s son and anticipated successor, Meean Rumbeer Sing, is spoken of as one who will never give ‘any cause of offence to a powerful neighbour, which he well knows can crush him at will.’ The Khan of Khelat, near the western frontier, was brought into close relationship, insomuch that he became ‘the friend of our friends, and the enemy of our enemies,’ and engaged to give us temporary possession of such military stations within his territory as we might at any time require for purposes of defence. At the extreme northwest of our Indian Empire, the Afghans, with whom we had fought such terrible battles during the Auckland and Ellenborough administrations of Indian affairs, had again been brought into friendly relations; the chief prince among them, Dost Mohammed Khan of Cabool, had been made to see that England was likely to be his best friend, and ‘had already shewn that he regards English friendship as a tower of strength.’
Thus the governor-general, in adverting to independent states, announced that he had conquered and annexed the Punjaub and Pegu; while he had strengthened the bonds of amity with Nepaul, Cashmere, Khelat, and Cabool – amity almost degraded to abject servility, if the protestations of some of the chieftains were to be believed.
Having disposed of the independent states, the marquis directed attention to the relations existing between the British government and the protected or semi-independent states, of which there are many more than those really independent. The kingdom of Nagpoor became British territory by simple lapse, ‘in the absence of all legal heirs.’ In bygone years the British put down one rajah and set up another; and when this latter died, without a son real or adopted, or any male descendant of the original royal stock, ‘the British government refused to bestow the territory in free gift upon a stranger, and wisely incorporated it with its own dominions’ – a mode of acquiring territory very prevalent in our Eastern Empire. The King of Oude, another protected sovereign, having broken his engagements with the Company in certain instances, his state was treated like Nagpoor, and added to British India. Satara lost its rajah in 1849, and as no male heir was then living, that small state shared the fate of the larger Oude: it was made British. Jhansi, a still smaller territory, changed owners in an exactly similar way. The Nizam of Hyderabad, owing to the Company a sum of money which he was unable or unwilling to pay, and being in other ways under the Company’s wrath, agreed in 1853 to give up Berar and other provinces to the exclusive sovereignty of the British. Early in 1848 the Rajah of Ungool, a petty chieftain in the Jungle Neehals, resisted the authority of the government; his raj was taken from him, and he died in exile. The Rajah of Sikim, a hill-chieftain on the borders of Nepaul, ‘had the audacity’ to seize a Company’s official at Darjeling; as a punishment, all the territories he possessed within the plains were confiscated and annexed. In Sinde, Meer Ali Morad of Khyrpore, having involved himself in an act of forgery concerning the ownership of territory, ‘the lands were taken from him, and his power and influence were reduced to insignificance.’ The Nawab Nazim of Bengal having committed a murder by bastinado, ‘his highness’s peculiar jurisdiction and legal exemption were taken away from him; and he was subjected to the disgrace of losing a large portion of the salute of honour which he had previously received.’ The Nawab of the Carnatic died suddenly in 1855; and as he left no male heir, and his relations lived very disreputably, the title of nawab ‘was placed in abeyance:’ that is, the Carnatic was made British territory, and the several members of the nawab’s family were pensioned off. About the same time, the Rajah of Tanjore died, in like manner without male issue bearing his name; and the same process was adopted there as in the Carnatic – sovereign power was assumed by the Company, and the ex-royal family was pensioned off.
Counting up his treasures, the governor-general was certainly enabled to announce a most extraordinary accession of territory during the years 1848 to 1855. The Punjaub, Pegu, Nagpoor, Oude, Satara, Jhansi, Berar, Ungool, Darjeling, Khyrpore, the Carnatic, and Tanjore, all became British for the first time, or else had the links which bound them to England brought closer. While, on the one hand, it must be admitted that the grounds or excuses for annexation would be deemed very slight in any country but India; so, on the other, there can be no doubt that the Marquis of Dalhousie, and the directors with whom he was acting, believed that these annexing processes were essential to the maintenance of British power in the East. He takes credit to his government for having settled certain family quarrels among the petty royalties of Gujerat, Buhawalpore, Jummoo, and Mumdote, without paying itself for its services: as if it were a virtue to abstain from annexation at such times. The mention made of Delhi must be given in the governor-general’s own words, to shew how much the descendant of the once mighty Mogul was regarded as a mere puppet – yet maintaining a certain hold on the reverence of the people, as was destined to be shewn in a series of events little anticipated by the writer of the minute. ‘Seven years ago the heir-apparent to the King of Delhi died. He was the last of the race who had been born in the purple. The Court of Directors was accordingly advised to decline to recognise any other heir-apparent, and to permit the kingly title to fall into abeyance upon the death of the present king, who even then was a very aged man. The Honourable Court accordingly conveyed to the government of India authority to terminate the dynasty of Timour, whenever the reigning king should die. But as it was found that, although the Honourable Court had consented to the measure, it had given its consent with great reluctance, I abstained from making use of the authority which had been given to me. The grandson of the king was recognised as heir-apparent; but only on condition that he should quit the palace in Delhi in order to reside in the palace at the Kootub; and that he should, as king, receive the governor-general of India at all times on terms of perfect equality.’ How strange do these words sound! A board of London merchants sitting in a room in Leadenhall Street, giving ‘authority to terminate the dynasty of Timour;’ and then, as a gracious condescension, permitting the representative of that dynasty to be on terms of ‘perfect equality’ with whomsoever may be the chief representative of the Company in India.
The Marquis of Dalhousie pointed to the revenues derivable from the newly annexed territories as among the many justifications for his line of policy. He shewed that four millions sterling were added to the annual income of the Anglo-Indian Empire by the acquisition of the Punjaub, Pegu, Nagpoor, Oude, Satara, Jhansi, and Berar – increasing the total revenue from about twenty-six millions in 1848 to above thirty millions in 1855.
The extreme importance of this official document lying in the evidence it affords how little dread was felt in 1856 of any approaching outbreak, we proceed with the governor-general’s narrative of the augmentation and stability of British power in the East, power of which he was evidently proud – presenting, of course, as a mere outline, that which his lordship fills up in more detail.
Credit is claimed in the minute for the improved administrative organisation both of the old and of the newly acquired territories. Able men were selected to administer government in the Punjaub; and so well did they fulfil their duties that internal peace was secured, violent crime repressed, the penal law duly enforced, prison-discipline maintained, civil justice administered, taxation fixed, collection of revenue rendered just, commerce set free, agriculture fostered, national resources developed, and future improvements planned. Not only did the marquis assert this; but there is a general concurrence of opinion that the Punjaub fell into fortunate hands when its administration came to be provided for. In Pegu the administration, less brilliant than in the Punjaub, is nevertheless represented as being sound in principle; tranquillity was restored; effective police had secured the safety of all; trade was increased and increasing; a fair revenue was derived from light taxation; ‘the people, lightly taxed and prosperous, are highly contented with our rule;’ and, when population has increased, ‘Pegu will equal Bengal in fertility of production, and surpass it in every other respect.’ At Nagpoor the assumption of supreme authority by Britain was ‘hailed with lively satisfaction by the whole population of the province;’ no additional soldier had been introduced thither; the civil administration was introduced everywhere; the native army was partly embodied and disciplined in British pay, and partly discharged either with pensions or gratuities. In short, ‘perfect contentment and quiet prevail; beyond the palace walls not a murmur has been heard; and in no single instance throughout the districts has the public peace been disturbed.’ In Berar, we are told, the same phenomena were observed; as soon as the cession was made, our numerous disputes with the nizam ended; the civil administration was brought into working order; crime, especially the violent crime of dacoitee (gang-robbery without murder) was diminished; the ‘admirable little army,’ formerly called the Nizam’s Contingent, was made available as part of the British force; the revenue rapidly increased; and the public tranquillity had ‘not been disturbed by a single popular tumult.’ The kingdom of Oude had only been annexed a few weeks before the Marquis of Dalhousie wrote his minute; but he states that a complete civil administration, and a resident military force, had been fully organised before the annexation took place; that the troops of the deposed native king were contentedly taking service in British pay; that no zemindar or chief had refused submission to our authority; that the best men who could be found available were selected from the civil and military services for the new offices in Oude; and that no popular resistance or disturbance had occurred.
Nothing could be more clear and positive than these assertions. Not only did the governor-general announce that the Punjaub, Pegu, Nagpoor, Berar, and Oude had been completely annexed, bringing a large accession to the British revenues; but that in every case a scheme of administration had been framed and established, conducive to the lasting benefit of the natives, the honour of the British name, and the development of the natural resources of the several districts. Not a whisper of discontent, of spirits chafed by change of rulers, did the marquis recognise: if they occurred, they reached not him; or if they did reach him, he passed them by as trifles.
Nor was it alone in the newly acquired territories that credit for these advantageous changes was claimed. Improvements in the government of India were pointed out in every direction. The governor-general had been relieved from an overwhelming press of duties by the appointment of a lieutenant-governor for Bengal. A Legislative Council had been organised, distinct from the Supreme Council: the public having access to its deliberations, and its debates and papers being printed and issued to the world. The Indian civil service, by an act passed in 1853, had been thrown open to all who, being natural-born subjects of the British sovereign, should offer themselves as candidates for examination and admission. Young cadets, who previously had been allowed nearly two years to ‘idle and loiter’ at the presidencies while studying for examination as civilians, were by a new regulation required to complete their studies in a much shorter period, thereby lessening their idleness and rendering them sooner useful. Periodical examinations of the civil servants had been established, to insure efficiency before promotion was given. A board of examiners had been founded, to conduct examinations and superintend studies. All officers of the Indian government had been formally prohibited from engaging in banking or trading companies; and any bankruptcy among them entailed suspension from office. In many of the civil offices, promotion, before dependent on seniority alone, had been made dependent on merit alone. A pension or superannuation list had been established in many departments, to insure steady and faithful service. Three boards of administration for salt, opium, and customs had been replaced by one board of revenue, simpler in its constitution. The annual financial reports, transmitted to the home government, had gradually been made more clear, full, and instructive. All the salaries throughout India had been placed under the consideration of a special commissioner, for equitable revision; and the authorities had determined that, in future, no salaries, with a few special exceptions, shall exceed fifty thousand rupees (about five thousand pounds) per annum.
Nor had legislative reform been wholly forgotten. During the eight years under review, laws had been passed or rules laid down for the punishment of officials guilty of corruption, or accountants guilty of default; for allowing counsel to prisoners on their trial; for abolishing the semi-savage custom of branding convicts; for rendering public officers more amenable to public justice; for vesting a right of pardon in the supreme government; for improving the procedure in all the civil and criminal courts; for rendering the reception of evidence more fair and impartial; and, among many less important things, for ‘securing liberty of conscience, and for the protection of converts, and especially of Christian converts, against injury in respect of property or inheritance by reason of a change in their religious belief.’ For the amelioration of prison-discipline, inspectors of prisons had been appointed in all the three presidencies, as well as in Oude, the Punjaub, and the northwest provinces.
Equally in moral as in administrative matters did the Marquis of Dalhousie insist on the manifold improvement of India during the eight years preceding 1856. Schools for the education of natives had been established; the Hindoo College at Calcutta had been revived and improved; a Presidency College had been founded in the same city, to give a higher scale of education to the youth of Bengal; similar colleges had been sanctioned at Madras and Bombay; grants-in-aid to all educational establishments had been authorised, subject to government inspection of the schools aided; a committee had been appointed to consider the plans for establishing regular universities at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras; a distinct educational department had been formed at the seat of government, with director-generals of public instruction in all the presidencies and governments; and the East India Company had, by a dispatch framed in 1854, sanctioned a most extensive educational scheme for the whole of India, to be rendered available to all the natives who might be willing and able to claim its advantages. The delicate subject of female education had not been forgotten. Instructions had been given to the officers of the educational department to afford all possible encouragement to the establishment of female schools, whenever any disposition was shewn by the natives in that direction. There is a peculiar difficulty in all that concerns female education in India, arising from the reluctance which has always been shewn by the higher classes of natives to permit the attendance of their daughters at schools. Mr Bethune commenced, and the Marquis of Dalhousie continued, a delicate and cautious attempt to overcome this unwillingness by establishing a Hindoo ladies’ school at Calcutta; and the minute gives expression to an earnest hope and belief that the female character in India will gradually be brought under the elevating influence of moral and intellectual education. As the native mind was thus sought to be ameliorated and strengthened by education; so had the prevention or cure of bodily maladies been made an object of attention. Additional advantages had been granted to natives who applied themselves to the study of the medical sciences; the number of dispensaries had been greatly increased, to the immense benefit of the poorer classes of Hindoos and Mohammedans; plans had been commenced for introducing a check to the dreadful ravages of the small-pox; admission to the medical service of the Company had been thrown open to natives; and, as a first-fruit of this change, one Dr Chuckerbutty, a Hindoo educated in England, had won for himself a commission as assistant-surgeon in the Company’s service.
In so far as concerns superstition and religion, the minute narrates a course of proceeding of which the following is the substance. Among the extraordinary social customs – atrocities they are unquestionably considered in Europe – of India, those of Suttee, Thuggee, Infanticide, and the Meriah Sacrifice, are mentioned as having undergone much amelioration during the eight years to which the minute relates. The suttee, or burning of widows, had been almost suppressed by previous governor-generals, and the marquis had carried out the plans of his predecessors: remonstrating where any suttees occurred in independent states; and punishing where they occurred in the British and protected territories. Thuggee, or systematic murder of travellers for the sake of booty, had been quite suppressed east of the Sutlej; but having unexpectedly made its appearance in the Punjaub in 1851, it was thoroughly put down there as elsewhere; those who turned approvers or king’s evidence against their brother Thugs now form – or rather did form in 1856 – a peaceful industrious colony at Jubbulpoor, where they spun and wove muslins of exquisite fineness, instead of cutting the throats of unsuspecting travellers. Female infanticide, the result of pride of birth and pride of purse – parents murdering their infant daughters either because they cannot afford the marriage expenditure which must one day be incurred on their account, or because they see difficulties in marrying them suitably – had been greatly checked and discouraged. In the Punjaub a most signal and singular conquest had been achieved; for the British representative, calling together the chiefs of tribes in 1854, unfolded to them a plan, ‘the observance of which would effectually secure that no man should feel any real difficulty in providing for his daughter in marriage;’ whereupon the chiefs, as well as those of the Cashmere tribes, promised that, as the motive for infanticide would thus in great measure be removed, they would cheerfully aid in suppressing the practice. Lastly, the Meriah sacrifice– a horrible rite, in which young human victims are sacrificed for the propitiation of the special divinity which presides over the fertility of the earth – had been nearly rooted out from the only district where it was practised, among the hill and jungle tribes of Orissa. In religious matters, the ecclesiastical strength of the established church had been largely increased; clergymen had been occasionally sanctioned, besides those acting as chaplains to the Company; places of worship had been provided for the servants and soldiers of the Company; Protestant churches had been built in places where the worshippers were willing to contribute something towards the expenditure; Roman Catholics serving the Company had been provided with places of worship; salaries had been granted to three Roman Catholic bishops, one in each presidency; the salaries of the priests had been revised and augmented; and a wish was manifested to observe justice towards the Catholic as well as the Protestant who served his country well in the East.
Thus – in the acquisition of territory, in the augmentation of revenue consequent on that acquisition, in the administrative organisation, in the spread of education, in the provision for religious services, and in the plans for improving the moral conduct of the natives – the Marquis of Dalhousie claimed to have done much that would redound to the honour of the British name and to the advancement of the millions under British rule in India. The problem still remains unsolved – Why should India, or the native military of that country, have revolted from British service? Let us see, therefore, whether the governor-general says aught that throws light upon the matter in connection with trade and commerce; and in order to understand this subject clearly, let us treat separately of Productive Industry and Means of Communication.
Cotton is destined, according to the ideas of some thinkers, to mark a great future for India; but meanwhile we are told in the minute that, by the acquisition of Nagpoor and Berar, many fertile cotton districts were brought under British rule; and that since the acquisition of Pegu, an examination of the cotton-growing capabilities of the northern part of that kingdom had been commenced. The tea-culture in Assam had prospered greatly during the eight years from 1848 to 1856; the plant had been largely introduced into the upper districts of the northwest provinces; plantations had been established at Deyrah Dhoon, Kumaon, and Gurhwal; Mr Fortune had brought large supplies of Chinese seeds and Chinese workmen to India; many of the native zemindars had begun the cultivation on their own account in districts at the foot of the Himalaya; and every year witnessed a large increase in the production of Indian tea, which was excellent in quality, and sold readily at a high price. In agriculture generally, improvements of all kinds had been made; an Agricultural and Horticultural Society had been established in the Punjaub; carefully selected seeds had been procured from Europe; the growth of flax had been encouraged; the growth of the mulberry and the rearing of silkworms had been fostered by the government; and a grant had been made in aid of periodical agricultural shows in the Madras presidency. In relation to live-stock, plans had been formed for improving the breed of horses; merino and Australian rams had been introduced to improve the breed of sheep; and sheep had been introduced into Pegu, to the great delight of the natives and the advantage of all; ‘for the absence of sheep leads to a privation in respect of food, which is severely felt, not only by European soldiers in the province, but also by all of every class who are employed therein.’ The forests had been brought under due regulation by the appointment of conservators of forests at Pegu, Tenasserim, and Martaban; by the careful examination of the whole of the forests in the Punjaub; by the planting of new districts, hitherto bare; and by the laying down of rules for the future preservation and thrifty management of these important sources of timber and fuel. The inestimable value of coal being duly appreciated, careful researches had been made, by order of the government, in the Punjaub, Pegu, Tenasserim, Bengal, Silhet, and the Nerbudda Valley, to lay the groundwork for careful mining whenever and wherever good coal may be found. Practical chemists and geological surveyors had been set to work in the Simla Hills, Kumaon, Gurhwal, the Nerbudda Valley, Beerboom, and Jubbulpoor, either to discover beds of ironstone, or to organise ironworks where such beds had already been discovered; and an experimental mining and smelting establishment had been founded by the government among the Kumaon Hills, to apply tests likely to be valuable in future.
Next, in connection with means of communication, the channels by and through which commerce permeates the empire, the governor-general had a very formidable list of works to notice. Surveys, irrigation and canals, rivers and harbours, roads, railways, electric telegraphs, and postal communications – had all been made the subjects of great engineering activity during the eight years of the Dalhousie administration. A few words must be said here on each of these topics; for it becomes absolutely necessary, in order to a due appreciation of the narrative of Revolt about to follow, that we should, as a preliminary, know whether India really had or had not been neglected in these elements of prosperity in the years immediately preceding the outbreak.
Measures, we learn from the minute, had been taken for executing exact surveys of all the newly annexed territory in the Punjaub, Pegu, Sinde, Nagpoor, and Berar in the same careful manner as the survey of the older territories had been before carried out; and in Central India ‘the consent of all the native states has been obtained to the making of a topographical survey, and to a demarcation of all the boundaries between the several native states, and between the British territories and those of native states:’ a proceeding expected to lessen the frequency of feuds concerning disputed boundaries.
The activity in irrigation-works and canal-cutting had unquestionably been very great. In 1854 the Ganges Canal was opened in its main line, for the double purpose of irrigation and navigation. A mighty work this, which no mutiny, no angry feelings, should induce the English public to forget. It is 525 miles in length, and in some parts 170 feet in width; and considered as a canal for irrigation, ‘it stands unequalled in its class and character among the efforts of civilised nations. Its length is fivefold greater than that of all the main lines of Lombardy united, and more than twice the length of the aggregate irrigation lines of Lombardy and Egypt together – the only countries in the world whose works of irrigation rise above insignificance.’ Nor is this all. ‘As a single work of navigation for purposes of commerce, the Ganges Canal has no competitor throughout the world. No single canal in Europe has attained to half the magnitude of this Indian work. It nearly equals the aggregate length of the four greatest canals in France. It greatly exceeds all the first-class canals of Holland put together; and it is greater, by nearly one-third, than the greatest navigation canal in the United States of America.’ Pausing for one moment just to observe that the writer of the words here quoted seems to have temporarily forgotten the great canal of China, we proceed to state, on the authority of the minute, that when all the branches are finished, this noble Ganges Canal will be 900 miles in length. It will then, by its periodical overflowings, irrigate a million and a half of acres, thus lessening the terrible apprehensions of famine or dearth among millions of human beings. We may doubt or not on other subjects, but it is impossible to doubt the sincerity of the Marquis of Dalhousie when he says: ‘I trust I shall not be thought vain-glorious if I say that the successful execution and completion of such a work as the Ganges Canal would, even if it stood alone, suffice to signalise an Indian administration.’ But this work did not absorb all the energies of the canal engineers; much of a similar though smaller kind had been effected elsewhere. An irrigation canal had been begun in the Punjaub, which, when finished, would be 465 miles in length, fed from the river Ravee. All the old canals formed in the Moultan district of the Punjaub, 600 miles in length, had been cleansed, enlarged, and improved, and the distribution of the waters for the purpose of irrigation placed under judicious regulation. Irrigation canals had been made or improved in the Derajat, in the provinces east of the Sutlej, in Behar, and in Sinde. A magnificent work had been executed for carrying an irrigation canal over the river Godavery; and canals of much importance had been commenced in the Madras and Bombay presidencies.
Rivers and harbours had shared in the attention bestowed on irrigation and canal navigation. The Ganges had been opened to river steamers before 1848, and it only remained to advance in the same line of improvement. The Indus, by the conquest of the Punjaub, had been made a British river almost from the Himalaya down to the ocean; steamers had been placed upon it; and it had become a direct route for troops and travellers to many parts of Northern India, before attainable only by the Calcutta route. All the rivers in the upper part of the Punjaub had been surveyed, with a view to the determination of their capabilities for steam-navigation. No sooner was Pegu acquired, than steamers were placed upon the Irrawaddy, the great river of that country; and short canals of junction between various rivers had been so planned as to give promise of a complete line of river-steaming from Bassein to Moulmein. Arrangements had been made for placing steamers upon the river Burhampooter or Brahmaputra, to connect Assam with the Bay of Bengal. Extensive works had been commenced to improve the navigation of the Godavery. The channels that lead from Calcutta through the Sundurbunds to the sea had been enlarged; and a great bridge over the Hoogly near the city had been planned. The port of Bombay had been greatly improved, and large works for water-supply commenced. At Kurachee, at Madras, at Singapore, at Rangoon, and at other places, engineering improvements had been made to increase the accommodation for shipping.
We follow the Marquis of Dalhousie from the river to the land, and trace with him the astonishing length of new road constructed or planned during his administration. A great trunk-road from Calcutta to Delhi had been extended nearly to the Sutlej; and when the Punjaub became a British possession, plans were immediately marked out for prolonging the same road to Loodianah, Umritsir, Lahore, Jelum, Attock, and Peshawur – thus forming, if all be completed, a magnificent road 1500 miles in length from Calcutta to the Afghan frontier, available both for commercial and military operations. The difficulties of crossing so many broad rivers in Northern India is immense, and the cost great; but the road, as the minute tells us, ‘will repay a thousandfold the labour and the treasure it has cost.’ Then, fine roads had been formed from Patna to Gya, from Cuttack to Ungool and Sumbhulpore, from Dacca to Akyab, and thence towards Aracan and Pegu; while vast systems of roads had been brought under consideration for Pegu, the Punjaub, Sinde, and other newly acquired regions. Engineers had been employed to plan a road from Simla up to the very Himalaya itself, to connect India with Tibet; as it would greatly improve the social position of all the native tribes near it. When Pegu was attacked, and when a military force was sent thither overland from Calcutta, hundreds of elephants were employed to force a way through the forests and roadless tracts between Aracan and Pegu; but by the spring of 1855 a road had been formed, along which a battalion could march briskly on foot.
The Marquis of Dalhousie was not in a position to say so much concerning railways in India as ordinary roads. Although railways were brought under the consideration of the Company in 1843, nothing was done regarding them till 1849, when a contract was entered into with a separate company to construct a certain length of railway which, if continued, would connect Calcutta with the north and northwest of India. In the spring of 1853 the marquis recommended a bold line of policy in these matters: the sanction and support, in every available way, of great lines of railway to connect Calcutta with Lahore, Bombay with Agra, Bombay with Madras, and Madras with the Malabar coast. A qualified approval of these schemes had been accorded by the East India Company, and engagements to the extent of ten millions sterling had been made for a railway from Delhi to Burdwan: a line from Burdwan to Calcutta having been opened in 1855. The governor-general, not dreaming of mutinies and rebellions, named the year 1859 as the probable time of finishing the iron route from Calcutta to Delhi. Besides these engagements with the East India Railway Company in the Bengal presidency, contracts had been made with the Great India Peninsula Company for a railway from Bombay to the Ghaut Mountains; and another with the Bombay and Central India Company for a railway from Bombay to Khandeish and Nagpoor, and for another from Surat to Ahmedabad. On the eastern coast, the government had arranged with the Madras Railway Company for lines from Madras to the Malabar coast, viâ Coimbatore, and from Variembaddy to Bangalore. The English nation has long blamed the East India Company for a dilatory policy in regard to railways; but all we have to do in this place is, on the authority of the governor-general, to specify in few words what had been done in the years immediately preceding the outbreak.
The electric telegraph – perhaps the grandest invention of our age – found in India a congenial place for its reception. Where the officials had no more rapid means of sending a message to a distance of a thousand miles than the fleetness of a corps of foot-runners, it is no marvel that the achievements of the lightning-messenger were regarded with an eager eye. An experimental line of electric telegraph was determined on, to be carried out by Dr (now Sir William) O’Shaughnessy; and when that energetic man made his report on the result in 1852, it was at once determined to commence arrangements for lines of immense length, to connect the widely separated cities of Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, and Peshawur, and the great towns between them. It was a grand idea, and was worthily realised; for by the month of March 1854 an electric wire of 800 miles was established between Calcutta and Agra; by the month of February 1855, the towns of Calcutta, Agra, Attock, Bombay, and Madras were placed in telegraphic communication by 3000 miles of wire, serving nearly forty towns on the way; and by the beginning of 1856 another length of 1000 miles was added, from Attock to Peshawur, from Bangalore to Ootacamund, and from Rangoon to the Burmese frontier. Many works of great magnitude were required; there were few good roads for the workmen to avail themselves of; there were few bridges; there were deadly jungles to be passed; there was every variety of foundation, from loose black soil to hard rocky wastes; there were seventy large rivers to be crossed, either by cables in the water, or by wires extended on the tops of masts; there was a cable of two miles required to cross the Toongabudra, and one of three miles to cross the Sone – and yet the entire work was comprised within a cost of 500 rupees or £50 per mile: perhaps the wisest expenditure ever incurred in India. Repeatedly has a message, relating to news from England, been transmitted 1000 miles, from Bombay to Calcutta, in less than three-quarters of an hour; and it has become a regular routine that the government at Calcutta shall be in possession of a considerable body of telegraphic news from England within twelve hours after the anchoring of the mail-steamer at Bombay. Who can conceive the bewilderment of the Hindoo mind at such achievements! It is certainly permissible to the governor-general to refer with pride to two or three among many instances of the remarkable service rendered by these telegraphs. ‘When her Majesty’s 10th Hussars were ordered with all speed from Poonah to the Crimea, a message requesting instructions regarding their despatch was one day received by me at Calcutta from the government of Bombay, about nine o’clock in the morning. Instructions were forthwith sent off by the telegraph in reply; and an answer to that reply was again received at Calcutta from Bombay in the evening of the same day. A year before, the same communications for the despatch of speedy reinforcements to the seat of war, which occupied by the telegraph no more than twelve hours, could not have been made in less than thirty days.’ Again: ‘When it was resolved to send her Majesty’s 12th Lancers from Bangalore to the Crimea, instead of her Majesty’s 14th Dragoons from Meerut, orders were forthwith despatched by telegraph direct to the regiment at Bangalore. The corps was immediately got ready for service; it marched two hundred miles, and was there before the transports were ready to receive it.’ Again: ‘On the 7th of February 1856, as soon as the administration of Oude was assuredly under British government, a branch-electric telegraph from Cawnpore to Lucknow was forthwith commenced; in eighteen working-days it was completed, including the laying of a cable, six thousand feet in length, across the river Ganges. On the morning on which I resigned the government in India, General Outram was asked by telegraph: “Is all well in Oude?” The answer: “All is well in Oude,” was received soon after noon, and greeted Lord Canning on his first arrival.’ Little did the new governor-general then foresee in how few months he would receive painful proof that all was not well in Oude. However, the Marquis of Dalhousie was justified in adverting with satisfaction to the establishment of telegraphic communication during his reign of power; and he insists on full credit being due to the East India Company for what was done in that direction. ‘I make bold to say, that whether regard be had to promptitude of executive action, to speed and solidity of construction, to rapidity of organisation, to liberality of charge, or to the early realisation and vast magnitude of increased political influence in the East, the achievement of the Honourable Company in the establishment of the electric telegraph in India may challenge comparison with any public enterprise which has been carried into execution in recent times, among the nations of Europe, or in America itself.’
The postal system had not been allowed to stagnate during the eight years under consideration. A commission had been appointed in 1850, to inquire into the best means of increasing the efficiency of the system; and under the recommendations of this commission, great improvements had been made. A director-general of the post-office for the whole of India had been appointed; a uniformity of rate irrespective of distance had been established (three farthings for a letter, and three half-pence for a newspaper); prepayment by postage-stamps had been substituted for cash payment; the privileges of official franking had been almost abolished; and a uniform sixpenny rate was fixed for letters between India and England. Here again the governor-general insists, not only that the Indian government had worked zealously, but that England herself had been outstripped in liberal policy. ‘In England, a single letter is conveyed to any part of the British isles for one penny; in India, a single letter is conveyed over distances immeasurably greater – from Peshawur, on the borders of Afghanistan, to the southernmost village of Cape Comorin, or from Dehooghur, in Upper Assam, to Kurachee at the mouth of the Indus – for no more than three farthings. The postage chargeable on the same letter three years ago in India would not have been less than one shilling, or sixteen times the present charge. Again, since uniform rates of postage between England and India have been established, the Scotch recruit who joins his regiment on our furthest frontier at Peshawur, may write to his mother at John o’ Groat’s House, and may send his letter to her free for sixpence: three years ago, the same sum would not have carried his letter beyond Lahore.’
So great had been the activity of the Company and the governor-general, in the course of eight years, in developing the productive resources of our Oriental empire, that a department of Public Works had become essentially necessary. The Company expended from two to three millions sterling annually in this direction, and a new organisation had been made to conduct the various works on which this amount of expenditure was to be bestowed. When the great roads and canals were being planned and executed, numerous civil engineers were of course needed; and the minute tells us that ‘it was the far-seeing sagacity of Mr Thomason which first anticipated the necessity of training engineers in the country itself in which they were to be employed, and which first suggested an effectual method of doing so. On his recommendation, the civil engineering college at Roorkee, which now rightly bears his honoured name, was founded with the consent of the Honourable Court. It has already been enlarged and extended greatly beyond its original limits. Instruction in it is given to soldiers preparing for subordinate employment in the Public Works department, to young gentlemen not in the service of government, and to natives upon certain conditions. A higher class for commissioned officers of the army was created some years ago, at the suggestion of the late Sir Charles Napier; and the government has been most ready to consent to officers obtaining leave to study there, as in the senior department at Sandhurst. Excellent fruit has already been borne by this institution; many good servants have already been sent forth into [from?] the department; and applications for the services of students of the Thomason College were, before long, received from other local governments.’ But this was not all: civil engineering colleges and classes were formed at Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Lahore, and Poonah.
So greatly had the various public works on rivers and harbours, roads and canals, telegraphic and postal communications, increased the trade of India, that the shipping entries increased regularly year by year. There were about six hundred vessels, exclusive of trading craft, that ascended the Hoogly to Calcutta in 1847; by 1856, the number had augmented to twelve hundred; and the tonnage had risen in a still greater ratio.
What is the English nation to think of all this, and how reconcile it with the tragedies destined so soon to afflict that magnificent country? Here we find the highest representative of the British crown narrating and describing, in words too clear to be misunderstood, political and commercial advancements of a really stupendous kind, effected within the short period of eight years. We read of vast territories conquered, tributary states annexed, amicable relations with other states strengthened, territorial revenues increased, improved administration organised, the civil service purified, legislative reforms effected, prison-discipline improved, native colleges and schools established, medical aid disseminated, thuggee and dacoitee put down, suttee and infanticide discouraged, churches and chapels built, ministers of religion salaried. We are told of the cultivation of raw produce being fostered, the improvement of live-stock insured, the availability of mineral treasures tested, exact territorial surveys completed, stupendous irrigation and navigation canals constructed, flotillas of river-steamers established, ports and harbours enlarged and deepened, magnificent roads formed, long lines of railway commenced, thousands of miles of electric telegraph set to work, vast postal improvements insured. We read all this, and we cannot marvel if the ruler of India felt some pride in his share of the work. But still the problem remains unsolved – was the great Revolt foreshadowed in any of these achievements? As the mutiny began among the military, it may be well to see what information is afforded by the minute concerning military reforms between the years 1848 and 1856.
It is truly remarkable, knowing what the English nation now so painfully knows, that the Marquis of Dalhousie, in narrating the various improvements introduced by him in the military system, passes at once to the British soldiers: distinctly asserting that ‘the position of the native soldier in India has long been such as to leave hardly any circumstance of his condition in need of improvement.’ The British troops, we are told, had been benefited in many ways. The terms of service in India had been limited to twelve years as a maximum; the rations had been greatly improved; malt liquor had been substituted for destructive ardent spirits; the barracks had been mostly rebuilt, with modifications depending on the climate of each station; separate barracks had been set apart for the married men of each regiment; lavatories and reading-rooms had become recognised portions of every barrack; punkhas or cooling fans had been adopted for barracks in hot stations, and additional bed-coverings in cold; swimming-baths had been formed at most of the stations; soldiers’ gardens had been formed at many of the cantonments; workshops and tools for handicraftsmen had been attached to the barracks; sanitaria had been built among the hills for sick soldiers; and arrangements had been framed for acclimatising all recruits from England before sending them into hot districts on service. Then, as to the officers. Encouragement had been offered for the officers to make themselves proficient in the native languages. A principle had been declared and established, that promotion by seniority should no longer govern the service; but that the test should be ‘the selection of no man, whatever his standing, unless he was confessedly capable and efficient.’ With the consent of the Queen, the Company’s officers had had granted to them the recognition, until then rather humiliatingly withheld, of their military rank, not only in India but throughout the world. A military orphan school had been established in the hill districts. All the military departments had been revised and amended, the commissariat placed on a wholly new basis, and the military clothing supplied on a more efficient system than before.
Again is the search baffled. We find in the minute proofs only that India had become great and grand; if the seeds of rebellion existed, they were buried under the language which described material and social advancement. Is it that England, in 1856, had yet to learn to understand the native character? Such may be; for thuggee came to the knowledge of our government with astounding suddenness; and there may be some other kind of thuggee, religious or social, still to be learned by us. Let us bear in mind what this thuggee or thugism was, and who were the Thugs. Many years ago, uneasy whispers passed among the British residents in India. Rumours went abroad of the fate of unsuspecting travellers ensnared while walking or riding upon the road, lassoed or strangled by means of a silken cord, and robbed of their personal property; the rumours were believed to be true; but it was long ere the Indian government succeeded in bringing to light the stupendous conspiracy or system on which these atrocities were based. It was then found that there exists a kind of religious body in India, called Thugs, among whom murder and robbery are portions of a religious rite, established more than a thousand years ago. They worship Kali, one of the deities of the Hindoo faith. In gangs varying from ten to two hundred, they distribute themselves – or rather did distribute themselves, before the energetic measures of the government had nearly suppressed their system – about various parts of India, sacrificing to their tutelary goddess every victim they can seize, and sharing the plunder among themselves. They shed no blood, except under special circumstances; murder being their religion, the performance of its duties requires secrecy, better observed by a noose or a cord than by a knife or firearm. Every gang has its leader, teacher, entrappers, stranglers, and gravediggers; each with his prescribed duties. When a traveller, supposed or known to have treasure about him, has been inveigled to a selected spot by the Sothas or entrappers, he is speedily put to death quietly by the Bhuttotes or stranglers, and then so dexterously placed underground by the Lughahees or gravediggers that no vestige of disturbed earth is visible.[1 - The visitor to the British Museum, in one of the saloons of the Ethnological department, will find a very remarkable series of figures, modelled by a native Hindoo, of the individuals forming a gang of Thugs; all in their proper costumes, and all as they are (or were) usually engaged in the successive processes of entrapping, strangling, and burying a traveller, and then dividing the booty.] This done, they offer a sacrifice to their goddess Kali, and finally share the booty taken from the murdered man. Although the ceremonial is wholly Hindoo, the Thugs themselves comprise Mohammedans as well as Hindoos; and it is supposed by some inquirers that the Mohammedans have ingrafted a system of robbery on that which was originally a religious murder – murder as part of a sacrifice to a deity.
We repeat: there may be some moral or social thuggee yet to be discovered in India; but all we have now to assert is, that the condition of India in 1856 did not suggest to the retiring governor-general the slightest suspicion that the British in that country were on the edge of a volcano. He said, in closing his remarkable minute: ‘My parting hope and prayer for India is, that, in all time to come, these reports from the presidencies and provinces under our rule may form, in each successive year, a happy record of peace, prosperity, and progress.’ No forebodings here, it is evident. Nevertheless, there are isolated passages which, read as England can now read them, are worthy of notice. One runs thus: ‘No prudent man, who has any knowledge of Eastern affairs, would ever venture to predict the maintenance of continued peace within our Eastern possessions. Experience, frequent hard and recent experience, has taught us that war from without, or rebellion from within, may at any time be raised against us, in quarters where they were the least to be expected, and by the most feeble and unlikely instruments. No man, therefore, can ever prudently hold forth assurance of continued peace in India.’ Again: ‘In territories and among a population so vast, occasional disturbance must needs prevail. Raids and forays are, and will still be, reported from the western frontier. From time to time marauding expeditions will descend into the plains; and again expeditions to punish the marauders will penetrate the hills. Nor can it be expected but that, among tribes so various and multitudes so innumerable, local outbreaks will from time to time occur.’ But in another place he seeks to lessen the force and value of any such disturbances as these. ‘With respect to the frontier raids, they are and must for the present be viewed as events inseparable from the state of society which for centuries past has existed among the mountain tribes. They are no more to be regarded as interruptions of the general peace in India, than the street-brawls which appear among the everyday proceedings of a police-court in London are regarded as indications of the existence of civil war in England. I trust, therefore, that I am guilty of no presumption in saying, that I shall leave the Indian Empire in peace, without and within.’
Such, then, is a governor-general’s picture of the condition of the British Empire in India in the spring of 1856: a picture in which there are scarcely any dark colours, or such as the painter believed to be dark. We may learn many things from it: among others, a consciousness how little we even now know of the millions of Hindostan – their motives, their secrets, their animosities, their aspirations. The bright picture of 1856, the revolting tragedies of 1857 – how little relation does there appear between them! That there is a relation all must admit, who are accustomed to study the links of the chain that connect one event with another; but at what point the relation occurs, is precisely the question on which men’s opinions will differ until long and dispassionate attention has been bestowed on the whole subject.
[This may be a convenient place in which to introduce a few observations on three subjects likely to come with much frequency under the notice of the reader in the following chapters; namely, the distances between the chief towns in India and the three great presidential cities – the discrepancies in the current modes of spelling the names of Indian persons and places – and the meanings of some of the native words frequently used in connection with Indian affairs.]
Distances.– For convenience of occasional reference, a table of some of the distances in India is here given. It has been compiled from the larger tables of Taylor, Garden, Hamilton, and Parbury. Many of the distances are estimated in some publications at smaller amount, owing, it may be, to the opening of new and shorter routes:
There are two Hyderabads – one in the Nizam’s dominions in the Deccan, and the other in Sinde (spelt Hydrabad): it is the former here intended.