« PreviousContinue »
THE CAUSES OF THE INDIAN MUTINY.
A GERMAN officer, and former aide-de-camp to Sir Charles Napier, Leopold von Orlich, has recently published a short—too short-pamphlet on the Indian crisis, under the title of “Sendschreiben an Lord W.," in which he gives us the result of his own experience with such admirable lucidity and modesty, that we cannot refrain from imparting the most salient portions to our readers, as a further contribution to the Indian literature of the hour. At first, Herr von Orlich felt a diffidence in writing on the subject, naturally assuming that England must contain a number of persons better instructed on the subject than himself; but when he saw the utter ignorance evinced not merely by continental writers (the only exceptions being the Augsburger Allgemeine and the Journal des Débats), but also views and opinions expressed by the English press, which evidenced a most perfect ignorance of the condition and government of India, he thought it his duty to impart to the public the result of his own experience.
Nearly universal, in the press as among educated persons, is the desire to utter the bitterest accusations against the British government. Much of this is the result of malice, more of ignorance. The British government is charged with being barbarous and defective, because such a fearful feeling of revenge against the English has burst forth. At one moment all the evil is attributed to the East India Company or the Board of Control; then to one or the other, governor-general or high official; then again to worn-out officers or useless civil servants. It would display a gross ignorance of the real condition of India to try and thrust the blame of this terrible catastrophe upon one portion exclu. sively. But I am not surprised at even the most senseless views and opinions, for when I returned from India I was startled at the ignorance Englishmen of all ranks displayed as to the history and administration of India. I was positively beshamed when a member of Parliament visited me one day to obtain some information respecting questions of the day relating to India, as the honourable member designed to bring them before the House.
According to our writer, the events in India emanated from the same sources as those from which the bitter experiences of the Crimea were produced. No one could make up his mind, or felt himself strong enough, to bring forward those reforms in the system of government which
were absolutely necessary for the removal of the evils complained of. Even the Duke of Wellington was indisposed to such reforms, for he could not forget that with this army he had performed prodigies. Unfortunately, this great general and statesman forgot that the continental armies had introduced such reforms as had been proved advisable by the experience of the latest campaigns, and, again, that a great character and talent like that the Duke of Wellington possessed can lead even a defective army to victories. But such a military machine soon gets out of gear when the great leader is wanting, and must lead to such results as were seen in the Crimea, or have displayed themselves in India so recently. It would be premature, bowever, to ascribe such a military insurrection, which is unique in the history of standing armies, solely to neglect of this nature, for many other influences have also been at work, which we will proceed to analyse.
There can be little doubt that the first warning was given by the unfortunate events in Cabul. The news that a British army had been cut off and its officers were prisoners in the hands of the Affghans, produced a great effect on the armies of the three presidencies. The thoughtful Indian, as well as many Sepoys, recognised that the Briton, so long fancied indomitable, had a vulnerable spot; and, although many glorious instances of devotion to their officers were displayed by the Sepoys, the nimbus with which England's power was invested in the minds of the Sepoys had received its first blow :
At the period of these events, Lord Ellenborough was sent as governor-general to India, and a happier choice could hardly have been made in those days. His firmness of character and impartiality, and his love for the soldiers, removed in great measure the gloomy feeling by which the troops were depressed. The officer, who believed himself placed under the civil servant, found in Lord Ellenborough a protector and a promoter of his interests, which was absolutely necessary at that period. The corps returning, crowned with victory, from Affghanistan, restored to the army its feeling of strength and victory.
Our author, on being appointed adjutant to Sir Charles Napier, proceeded to join him at Kurrachee, and arrived just before that rocket accident with which the hero's Memoirs have rendered us familiar. As the general was forced to keep his tent some days, the new adjutant had an excellent opportunity for conversation with him on many interesting topics connected with the army. Sir Charles complained bitterly of the luxury of the officers, and Von Orlich could well understand this when he heard from excellent authority that the political agent who accompanied Lord Keane to Affghanistan travelled with a train of eight hundred camels for his own exclusive baggage, among which was a pianoforte. Von Orlich himself saw a captain going up to join the reserve army at Ferozepore with two large waggons drawn by oxen and loaded with comforts, not to mention kids and sheep, and the camels to carry his tent.
After the war was over, the government sought to cut down expenses in every possible way, and thus the extra batta given the Bengal army was put down. The Sepoy loves money, is fond of saving and sending the money home; so, therefore, such a stoppage of his pay must create dissatisfaction. Difficulties were thrown in the way of invalids who wished to retire on their pensions, because the expenses on this account had risen to an extraordinary height. Through this, many an old soldier, quite unfit for service, was kept with the regiment, and ended his days there; and this, too, caused very general dissatisfaction.
Ancient Rome began her political power with the destruction of Veii and ended with the conquest of the Old World. England established a colony on the Hooghly, and was forced, through self-preservation, to conquer the whole of India. From the foundation of the East Indian power up to the latest period, every extension of territory has been effected against the will of the Company. The shameful government of most of the Indian princes, as well as the utter want of nationality, facilitated the occupation of each new kingdom. The policy of every state has something of self about it; the larger the state the more evident this egotism becomes, which has often been proved in the history of England's supremacy. After the destruction of the Mahratta Empire and the power of Tippoo Sahib, it became the policy of the East India
Company to watch over the independent kingdoms, and procure all possible influence over the princes and their ministers. Hence, great acts of injustice have been too often tolerated at the expense of the subjects of those countries. Thus, at the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad, there was not that counterpoise attempted against the villany and intrigues of the prince and his ministers which a healthy policy required. In Oude, the king and court, which had degraded into a sink of iniquity, were protected from their own subjects, who had a right to claim British protection. The most powerful of these independent states were governed by Muhammadan princes.
In two sanguinary actions Sir Charles Napier destroyed the power of the Emirs. Soon afterwards, a misunderstanding broke out between the general and the Directors, and, taking a just view of the matter, the latter, probably, had reason to be dissatisfied with this conquest. But regarding the state of the case, Sir C. Napier could not have acted otherwise; for what would have become of the English army with a Punjab war, if the power of the Beloochee chiefs had not been previously broken? Nearly all the inhabitants of Scinde are Muhammadans, their Emirs, though not loved, maintained a patriarchal power over the people, and the last of these Emirs kindled the liveliest feelings of interest among the noblest English
Scarce had Scinde been subjugated and incorporated with the Indian Empire ere
of Gwalior had to be overthrown. Almost simultaneously, however, a palace revolution at Lahore placed the Sikhs in a state of hostility. At this time, too, Lord Ellenborough quitted India, as he could not agree with the Court of Directors. Even at that period this celebrated statesman had perceived the necessity of removing the king and court of Delhi to Calcutta. The moment could not be more favourable, in January, 1843, for all the appliances were at hand; but the council feared an insurrection, and opposed the design.
In the mean while, precautions urged by his health had forced Sir Charles Napier to return to England. He had administered the government of Scinde with rare caution, and the new government had begun to be liked, cultivation was extending, and the inhabitants felt satisfied. I had the fortune to see the general repeatedly, after his return to London; his remarks about the army and a system of administration, in which young civil servants commanded old experienced generals, left a gloomy impression upon me. “Events may happen which can overthrow everything; let us hope that the reforms will not be too late.” Hardly a year had elapsed before Sir Charles was obliged to return to India against his will, to assume the duties of general-in-chief. Just after the battle of Meanee, Sir Charles Napier wrote me that he was sixty-eight years old, much too old for his responsible position, and that it would be better to send him home, when he would go crawling and coughing to church every day. In this
interesting letter the general expresses his views about the government of the English and of our army, and it is full of the most noble and patriotic feelings for his queen and country. Sir Charles Napier was, next to the Duke of Wellington, the greatest general of England. In his small body there was a rare mind, which recognised with a sharp glance the age and its faults, and peered into the future almost with a prophetic spirit. His firmness of character reminded me of the greatest heroes, and his compassionate heart was penetrated by the most beautiful Christian feelings. During the short period of his second stay he had effected miracles in raising the esprit de corps in the officers of the Bengal army ; but his health failed him, and he was compelled to return home. It may be expected that Sir Charles brought to the knowledge of the Directors,
or the Board of Control, the defects of the army and how they could be removed ; but, unfortunately, the Directors
could not forgive the general the conquest of Scinde, and they never agreed. Thus, party spirit is often the cause in England that the most necessary reforms are neglected, and incompetent men summoned to the most important duties.
After five years' rule, Lord Hardinge handed over the reins of government to Lord Dalhousie. We can all remember what an immortal name Lord Hardinge left behind him. After nearly ten years' war came the fructifying blessings of peace. Lord Dalhousie's administration has been recently repeatedly attacked; but no one can deny that many valuable improvements were effected by him, which will render his memory immortal. It was during his administration that Sir John Laurence converted the desert of the Punjab into a fruitful and flourishing country. It has, however, been asserted, that the law to resume those estates to which their owners could not prove a title has ruined many families, and caused great dissatisfaction.
It must not be forgotten that during these ten years the AngloBritish Empire had been marvellously increased by Scinde, the Punjab, and Moultan, and the kingdom of Oude. The army had been augmented by native troops, and the disbanded Sikh regiments had been taken into pay, with British officers at their head; but the European troops had remained in their original weakness. Even so far back as 1843, Von Orlich, being summoned before a council of war to give his opinion, had stated his regret that the English army was so small, and that double the number would scarce be sufficient. At the same time, he advised that the native regular cavalry should be gradually abolished, their place taken by irregular troops, and no natives be allowed to enter the artillery. Years of peace are always injurious to a great army, and have a most dangerous effect on discipline, in a climate like that of India. Of the then Indian armies, however, that of Bengal was most exposed to deleterious influences, because it contained a large number of highcaste soldiers, who had to be treated with a degree of indulgence incompatible with the necessary discipline. In the Bengal army the handsomest race of men might be found, and the Bengal Sepoy was truly a spoiled child.
After repeated attempts on the part of the East India Company to maintain the King of Oude in his position, the government found itself compelled, in the autumn of 1855, to remove the king from his capital, and take possession of his territories. In civilised Europe a man cannot form an idea of the tyranny, barbarity, and immorality of this king and his court. It was high time to put a stop to this conduct, for the intrigues and villanies of this abominable court might become extremely dangerous to the adjoining territories. The king, his family, ministers, and friends (for even bad kings have such), were detested in the country. Sir James Outram managed the deposition and occupation with all the caution and power peculiar to this distinguished diplomatist and statesman, and sent the king—whose forefathers had once been vassals of the Great Mogul, and had emancipated themselves—to Calcutta. According to old custom, the enormous sum of 150,0001. was given him as annual appanage. When Sir James Outram was called away to the Persian war, Sir Henry Lawrence took his place. This was the last act of Lord
Dalhousie as governor-general: worn out and exhausted by the fatigue and labour of his great and responsible position, that highly gifted statesman quitted India. His corporeal strength had almost yielded to anxiety and exertion.
The civil administration of India is the most suitable under existing circumstances. Any one who has had an opportunity to observe its working on the spot, must be filled with respect and admiration. I must confess, to my shame, that I gained the conviction that no nation has so peculiar a gift for colonisation as the British. In a country where intrigues, corruption, and untruth are the general rule among high and low, it must do the heart good to see how justice, and every possible regard for the religion, customs, and manners of the Indians, characterise the conduct of the civil servants. I am far from wishing to remark that this can be said of each civil servant in the fullest extent of the word; but it would be contrary to our imperfect human nature that, in a country larger than Europe, injustice, violence, and weakness, should not occur. But whenever such accounts reached my ears, they were mostly acts of native civil servants. India is the country in which England has formed her greatest statesmen and generals; it is the school in which her youth form that character which, in the hour of danger, finds itself competent for the greatest deeds. The principal mistake committed in the last years, in the administrative system, was the desire for centralisation. Each centralisation bears in itself the germ of overthrow and destruction. The centralisation of a kingdom like India must take place only in the exterior policy-all the rest must be left to the various districts; and the more self-government is allowed, the more firmly will men be attached to the chain. England shows the blessings of such a system most satisfactorily, just as her neighbour does the consequences of an unfortunate system of centrali. sation,
In India, religion represents nationality. It has ever been the principle of the government not to attack this, or draw too near it in any way. But, on the establishment of this principle, it was forgotten that an indirect interference in the religion and religious customs of a pagan nation which is governed by another Christian and civilised, is inevitable. This has been proved by experience. Self-sacrifices, suttees, &c., must be put down. The Indian government has effected wonders during the last twenty years for education, but always with the precaution to leave the Christian doctrines and its truths, as offered to us by the Bible, unmentioned, and only to teach its morality. Hence it has come about that the youth have become either atheists, or fall back, a few years later, into the pagan system. Even the missionaries, who are allowed to propagate the Bible, have made but very slight progress. Very few Hindoos have been converted : even the highly gifted Dwarkanauth Tagor, who passed the greater portion of his life among Christians, and only felt comfortable among Europeans, never became converted. On a visit to Rome, a priest tried to convert him to Catholicism, but the cunning Hindoo gave him the reply, “I see no advantage in changing my idol for yours," and turned his back on the priest.
From the moment when the Indian government determined on the idea of making the Indians susceptible of civilisation by means of education, Christianity should publicly have been laid as the basis. Too much indulgence and protection have been granted to the filthy idolatry of the Hindoos, and many dirty vagabonds who traversed the country, as Fakirs were allowed to commit crimes unpunished. Without wishing to imperil their religion by any act of violence, it would have been the duty of the ruling power simply to tolerate it.