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Losses and Disgraces entailed on us by the Tories.
months what Lord Palmerston, by an extraordinary display of judgment and firmness had in the course of many years accomplished. Nor was Lord Ellenborough a cool perpetrator of mischief. He executed his task with enthusiasm, insomuch that he had scarcely landed on the shores of India before he concocted and issued a proclamation, ostentatiously insulting his predecessor, characterising his measures as unjust and impolitic, and professing his resolution to relinquish, as speedily as possible, all the great advantages, all the influence, all the territory, all the commercial outlets and facilities, all the military renown which had, within the few preceding years, been acquired. With the ignominious and humiliating scenes which followed the public are already but too well acquainted. Under the Liberals we had won empires, under the Tories we have lost them. Under the Liberals good fortune accompanied us everywhere, crowning our designs, political and military, with success; under the Tories all we have acquired beyond the Indus is infamy, since all we have achieved has been to run away. Many of the results of this new policy are already apparent, but let no man persuade himself that he beholds them all. They lie thick, layer below layer, throughout the political depths of Central Asia, and will only become visible one by one as misfortune succeeds misfortune, and disgrace, disgrace.
One striking illustration of this truth has recently occurred at Bokhara. It will be remembered that, in the year 1838, Colonel Stoddart was despatched, by our minister at Teheran, to the petty state above named on special service. He did not, as seems to be generally believed, receive his appointment immediately from Lord Palmerston. His lordship directed our ambassador at the court of Persia to select from among the officers under his control a person to be sent to Bokhara to perform a particular duty, the nature of which we shall explain. Russia, it is well known, has long been carrying on a vast and intricate system of intrigue in that part of the world for the purpose of approximating gradually its frontier to India, the conquest of which it has always looked forward to as the keystone of its political grandeur. The fact, we say, that such is the case must be obvious to everybody. Few, however, are acquainted with the interior working of that extraordinary system. Few are familiar with the strange host of emissaries, Affghans, Armenians, Greeks, French, Germans, Poles, ay, and even Mohammedans from India, which the gold of the czar disperses through Turkestân to collect information and pave the way for conquest. About the beginning of the year mentioned above, a rich and numerous kafila, having traversed the province of Mazanderân and the desert steppes west of the Oxus, appeared on the frontier of the Bokhara territory.
In this kafila there were three hundred Russians, the masters of much goods, designed, it was said, for the markets of Khokan, Kundooz, and Yarkand. It somehow or another transpired that these worthy traders, who exhibited, externally, few signs of wealth, were possessed, in reality, of immense treasures in gold. The news travelled like lightning through Turkestân. All the hordes of the desert were instantly in commotion, feeding their horses, furbishing their arms, and making all the necessary preparations for a dangerous chupao. Uzbeks, Kirghiz, Khivans, Toorks, even the mild and industrious Tajiks were, on this occasion, inspired by the lust of plunder. The very women and maidens of the tribes craved permission to accompany their lords. When this host of marauders had made themselves ready, they took post on either side of a defile through which the kafila had to pass, and, in the narrowest part of the gorge, at night, when defence was difficult or impossible, burst upon the unsuspecting wayfarers and made them prisoners to a man. No blood, on this occasion, we believe, was shed. The riches of the kafila, gold and all, were equally divided among the captors, and the merchants-all, by some extraordinary chance, in the flower of their age-supplied for some time with slaves the principal markets of Central Asia.
A very extraordinary fact was now accidentally discovered. The supposed merchants, for the most part, were not merchants, but Russian officers, who simultaneously conceived the idea of travelling through those parts of the world in disguise, and simultaneously obtained his imperial majesty's permission so to do. To speak plainly, they were commissioned by the czar with the aid of gold to ingratiate themselves with the various Khans and Amirs of Turkestan, whose forces they were, if possible, to drill and exercise, with a view, no doubt, to render them more peaceable neighbours of the British in India. When these circumstances came to the knowledge of the British government, the statesman best able to turn them to account was fortunately in the foreign office. With his accustomed sagacity he quickly comprehended the affair in all its bearings. Russia, he could not doubt, had foreseen the possibility of what had actually happened, and if sufficient time were permitted, would not fail to profit by it. Her honour, she would say, was at stake. She would maintain the inexpediency of any great state's deserting its citizens; nor, at that time, had it been for her interest to act otherwise, could she have pleaded the example of England, for Lord Ellenborough had not yet expounded his new theory of abandoning prisoners of war to their fate, nor had Lord Aberdeen pushed the principle to its utmost consequences by abstaining from demanding satisfaction for the murder of ambassadors. Lord Palmerston, in short, per
Fluctuations in the Khan of Bokhara's Policy.
ceived that Russia grievously wanted a pretext for moving a strong force upon the Oxus. He determined, therefore, to out-manœuvre the czar, and Colonel Stoddart was commissioned to ransom the Russian officers, or to prevail on the Amír to liberate them without ransom. The complete success of this undertaking deprived his imperial majesty, for the time, of all pretext for advancing upon Bokhara. This done, Colonel Stoddart had other duties to fulfil, the nature and extent of which it would be beside our purpose to explain. Very different, and in some cases conflicting, accounts have been given of his proceedings during the early part of his residence at Bokhara. Certain, however, it is, that he was alternately in the highest favour and in the utmost disgrace with the Amír; now his principal adviser, almost his oracle, and now thrust into a damp dungeon, supplied scantily with food, exposed to insult, and threatened perpetually with loss of life. But what, it may be asked, occasioned these extraordinary vicissitudes? Was the Amir of Bokhara a lunatic? Or did Colonel Stoddart's character and behaviour vary so wonderfully as to justify the striking changes in the prince's conduct towards him. The causes of these seemingly unintelligible fluctuations lay far beyond the frontiers of Bokhara. When the army of the Indus, forcing its way through those difficult passes in which it was predicted it would be cut off, established British supremacy in Affghanistan, the politic Amir Nasr-Ullah turned a friendly eye upon his prisoner, discovered his complete innocence, and sought by rewards and honours not only to efface the memory of past harshness, but if possible to attach him firmly to his interests. Affairs wore this aspect so long as our arms continued triumphant in Affghanistân. The Amir was a shrewd man. He felt that the torrent of war which had already swept over the Durani empire might next pourd own the Hindu Koosh and devastate the plains of Turkestân. He was therefore a zealous English partisan, deaf as an adder to the charming of Russia and Persia and the Barukzai chiefs. His utmost ambition was to be the ally of England, and perhaps, like the actual minister of the Punjâb, he would have applied himself to the study of our language, had suitable teachers been found at Bokhara.
These things we mention not by way of illustrating the character of Nasr-Ullah, nor simply for the purpose of throwing light on the position of Colonel Stoddart, who had by this time been joined by his friend, Conolly. Our intention is to point out to the public the powerful influence which we exercised throughout Central Asia while we remained masters of Kabul; and that influence, far from decreasing, would have been greatly augmented by every year's occupation of
VOL. XXXIV. NO. LXVII.
that commanding post. Nor should we insist at all upon this were it simply an honour barren of results. It was the very reverse. By modifying the opinions, thoughts, feelings, and tastes of those vast hordes and nations who have in every age been the fabricators of empire in Asia, we should in all human probability have surrounded ourselves with friends and allies ready to carry out our political designs, to be supplied with innumerable necessaries by our commerce, and to constitute the impregnable outposts of our Asiatic dominions. It is impossible to contemplate without mingled pride and shame the revolution we might have brought about in that part of the world, a revolution peaceable and progressive, effected rather by the force of our example than by the terror of our arms. It began to be felt that to be the enemy of England was synonymous with obscurity, poverty, exile. Dost Mohammed and his sons, driven from the thrones they had usurped, first wanderers in Turkestân, then prisoners, then captives in India, subsisting on our bounty, afforded living examples of this truth. Our friendship on the other hand carried every earthly blessing along with it. As we pulled down so we could build up thrones and kingdoms. The belief of invincibility attached to us. Up to that moment nothing in the East had ever been able to withstand our power. Then came the disasters of Kabul. All Asia seemed darkened by the news. The greatest state known to living men, or recorded in the annals of authentic history, was smitten and appeared to stagger under the blow. But even in the acmé of the calamity, even when to ignorant observers we might have appeared prostrate, did the hordes of Central Asia accept the interpretation which many sought to give to the events that had occurred? Far from it. The Amir of Bokhara may be regarded as their representative. The Barukzai chiefs, in the intoxication of unlooked-for success, despatched couriers to Nasr-Ullah, announcing the massacre which they denominated a victory, and conjuring him to join with them in utterly extirpating the English from Central Asia. They had many prisoners, they said, whom they designed immediately to put to death, and they exhorted him to follow the same policy and sacrifice the English officers then in his service. Nasr-Ullah followed their example and not their advice. Instead of killing he imprisoned the English officers, thinking it more than probable that other British armies would traverse the Indus, before which the Affghans would again be compelled to bend, and a detachment of which might peradventure call him to account for his proceedings, and reduce Bokhara and its dependent towns to ashes. What language he held on these occasions to Stoddart and Conolly we do not exactly know; probably he represented to them that it would be im
Brief revival of the Lustre of the British Name.
prudent in a prince situated as he was to incur the resentment of the Barukzais, who, sanguinary and revengeful as they were, might resolve, even at the hazard of ruin to themselves, to punish what they would regard as a lack on his part of religious zeal. Be this as it may, such was the conduct of the Amir.
Then succeeded the operations in the Khyber pass, the recapture of Kabul and Ghuzni, and all that brilliant succession of victories which have imparted an historical character to the names of Nott and Pollock and Sale. Our star it seemed plain was once more in the ascendant, and the Tartars, sullen, rapacious, and calculating, were ready once more to crouch at our feet, and to become, for good or for evil, the instruments of our power. The emissaries of Russia, who, during the temporary cloud under which we moved, had come forth from their hiding places and resumed their habitual occupations of traducing our national character, misrepresenting our motives, depreciating our power, and infinitely exaggerating the calamity that had befallen us, now once more shrunk back into obscurity. No comparison, it was clear, could justly be instituted between the armies of Great Britain, which, composed partly of Englishmen, partly of the gallant natives of Hindustân, had made good their entrance into the most difficult country in the world, and the forces of the Muscovite czar, which even at the distance of a few hundred miles from their own frontier, supported by a squadron of ships of war, supplied with an abundant commissariat, and led on by one of the most experienced generals in the empire, had failed, and fallen miserably before a handful of the irregular cavalry of Khiva. In the eyes of the Asiatics our name was once more invested with all its original glory. There was nothing which they would thenceforward think impossible to an Englishman. The days of Jenghis and Timour seemed to be come again; but with this difference, that the new conquerors sought not to destroy but to build up and beautify, not to desolate but to people, not to barbarise but to refine, not to scatter around them distress and famine and appalling and infinite misery, but, on the contrary, to secure to the subjugated people the possession of their property, and calm and quiet days in which to enjoy and be happy. Throughout Affghanistan the peasant cultivated his field, and blessed the Englishman who enabled him to enjoy the produce of it. There in those rude mountains, as here at home, every man's house under the English flag was his castle, so that in a short time, had the wisdom of the British cabinet equalled the valour of the British armies and the prudence and humanity of British officers, Affghanistan and the surrounding countries would have been covered with a loyal and attached population.