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Lahore Government inimical to the British.
prove an injury; their want of discipline, their insubordination, in one word, their demoralised and bandit-like character, rendering it impossible that they should co-operate with our forces without corrupting them. This was shown on all occasions in Affghanistan. Afraid to meet the Affghans themselves they incessantly laboured to extend their own terrors to our Hindustani soldiers, and, generally, succeeded so well that it was found necessary to compel them to encamp at a considerable distance from us and to expel them from our lines as though they had been so many enemies. And now, recently, in time of peace, they have been exhibiting a disposition to carry on the same game. They have passed the Sutledge under various pretences, insinuated themselves into our cantonments, and by a variety of arts, familiar to all officers who have commanded in India, have diffused the spirit of insolence, disaffection and mutiny through several regiments of the Bengal army. Hence repeated desertions of men in shoals, and hence that refusal to proceed to Sinde, made about the beginning of the present year, by more than one regiment, which excited at the time no small uneasiness in the public mind. Ample proofs of these facts are in the hands of government, and constitute, if any thing can, a ground of quarrel with Lahore. It is known that agents of Heera Singh, residing at Ferozepore, were supplied with immense sums of money for the purpose of corrupting our Sipahis, and either inducing them to desert into the Punjab, which many of them in consequence did, or of urging them by whole regiments into mutiny, in which also the acts of these agents were successful. The emissaries engaged in these transactions were completely detected. It was proved that they acted under the direction of the Sikh authorities. The surplus of the funds placed at their disposal, amounting to seventeen lakhs of rupees, was seized. Would any state save Great Britain hesitate for a moment to punish an ally that had been guilty of such perfidy? Nor is this the only occasion on which the Sikh rulers have suffered their hostile feelings to manifest themselves. They have been lavish in supplying proofs of their bad faith. When the British forces were advancing upon Gwalior, the Lahore government, ignorant of our vast resources, and still more ignorant of our character, obviously flattered itself with the hope that we were about to encounter fresh reverses of fortune. It came, therefore, secretly to an understanding with the Mahratta state that in case of need it would cooperate with it; but false equally to its clandestine and to its open ally, it dishonourably held back in order to take advantage of events. Had our army suffered the slightest check the Sikhs would, unquestionably, have assailed us in our moment of difficulty. Infantry, cavalry and artillery were pushed towards the frontier;
and thus our force, sent against the Gwalior rajah, was, without knowing it, placed between two fires, the one blazing openly above ground in the van, the other kindled treacherously by professing friends in concealed hollows on our rear.
One of the evils arising from the separate existence of the Sikh state was experienced during the expedition to Affghanistan. Had our territories then extended to the banks of the Indus, the prudence of the enterprise would have been more obvious, since the basis of our operations would have rested on our own frontier, and not on a shifting and uncertain ally, who might at any time refuse to support it, or even, in certain extremities of fortune, have assailed us as an enemy. Half the nervous excitement experienced by the Indian government had its source and origin in this peculiarity of our position. We felt that we were never sure of the Sikhs, and never could be, and that a single act of treachery, on their part, might have embarrassed, or rendered nugatory, the most judicious calculations and arrangements. We depended much on the influence of our reputation, on the magic of our name in Asia, and the event proved that our dependence was not altogether vain. But it was, nevertheless, an anomalous policy, a policy which could only have been conceived by extremely bold statesmen, who did not rest their reasonings on general principles, but on an exception to those principles which their own personal acuteness enabled them to discover. In one word, they relied on the character of Ranjit Singh, and so long as that extraordinary man lived, or, at least, retained the energy of his mind, the reliance reposed in him might not have been wholly misplaced. Nevertheless, in the course of 1839, circumstances occurred which strikingly illustrated the danger of confiding implicitly in his friendship. By treaty he had undertaken to grant our forces a free passage through his dominions, to supply us at the ghâts of the several rivers with boats, and to provide that no obstacle whatever should be opposed to our speedy passage. On the arrival, however, on the banks of the Sutledge, of a body of troops, destined to act against the Affghans in the Khyber Pass, not only was the use of the boats on the ferry refused at the outset, but the detachment was detained there several days, until messengers could bring from Lahore an order for their passage from the maharajah. Again, throughout the whole march across the Punjâb, numerous obstacles were thrown in their way as much as possible to obstruct their movements, so that double the necessary time was consumed in reaching the point of destination. At Attock, they were positively refused admission into the city, while the most galling insults were offered them by Peshora Singh, an illegitimate or adopted son of the maharajah. Now this might have happened at a
Russian Invasion of India.
critical moment, when the fate of all the British beyond the Indus hung suspended on a single thread, when the loss of a single day might have proved fatal. Of this Ranjit Singh was by no means ignorant. His policy, therefore, notwithstanding any profession he may have made, was obviously at bottom hostile to us. He must have rejoiced in any calamity that should have befallen our arms, and would have been among the foremost to take advantage of it, could he have persuaded himself that our sway in India was drawing to a close. He co-operated with us through fear, and it is quite obvious, that had an invading army from the west made its appearance on the banks of the Indus, the least prospect of gain to himself would have purchased his co-operation against us. When discussing with the officers of our mission, in 1838, the probability of a Russian invasion, Ranjit professed the utmost readiness to lend us the aid of his troops to cut up the enemy, because his mind was running upon the immense amount of plunder which, as he supposed, must fall into the hands of the victors. When informed, however, that the Muscovites were poor, and would consequently have very little to lose, his ardour appeared at once to evaporate.
But though the justice of extending our sway over the Punjab should be unreservedly granted, some, perhaps, will still argue against the expediency of the measure. They perceive no advantage in the spread of our power. Our Asiatic empire would not, they think, be consolidated by it, nor would our influence in Europe be augmented. And then look, say they, at the expense! What an increase would be required in our Indian army! What a vast prolongation of our frontiers! What a multiplication of new and untried relations! In the human body, any attempt to check the growth of an individual before he has reached the limits prescribed by nature to the development of his system, would be universally acknowledged to be attended with much danger. It is the same with the body politic. No artificial check to the increment of states can ever be put in operation without immi
ent peril, because more violence is required to obstruct the natural progress of things than to urge it forward to its legitimate goal. Now, up to this moment, our dominions in India lie far within the circle of their natural dimensions. They are scattered about in patches, discontinuous, with a boundary line deformed by unseemly indentations. And the political system resting on this geographical basis is necessarily imperfect also. In other directions our eyes need not at present turn, but the Punjâb, lying between us and the Indus, is felt on all hands, and acknowledged where men are free to divulge their sentiments, to be a thorn in our side occasioning a fretting sore,
which under certain circumstances may, as we have seen, prove dangerous. Besides, many positive advantages would arise from the possession of the Punjab. Fewer troops than now occupy, and that too necessarily, the left bank of the Sutledge, would suffice to guard the line of the Indus, and keep the whole region of the Five Rivers in tranquillity. But if a more imposing force were required, the revenues of the Punjâb, nearly four millions sterling, would amply suffice to maintain it. With regard to the principal Hill Chiefs, including those whose territories project far into Central Asia, it is a well known fact that for the last twenty-five years they have felt and expressed their desire to live under British protection. Our sole enemies in the kingdom of Lahore and its dependencies would be the Sikh army, and those few civil functionaries who cluster about the minister. The people themselves have experienced quite enough of the evils of anarchy and military rule to sigh for our mild and equitable sway. They have no interest in the quarterly revolutions that desolate their country, no partiality for the confusion that fills up the intervals. What they want is exemption from civil war, with protection for life and property, and permission peacefully to pursue their avocations, whether manufacturing or agricultural. In traversing the Sutledge, therefore, we should not, as appears to be commonly supposed, have to do with a hostile population. The Mohammedans, now liable to be hanged for dining on beef, would hail us as their deliverers; the Hindùs, now scarcely less fiercely persecuted, would recognise our supremacy with equal joy. No overwhelming force would, therefore, be necessary to reduce or occupy the Punjab, the annexation of which would carry us once more to the mouth of the Khyber Pass, and enable us to exercise. a powerful influence over Affghanistân, and in the very heart of Central Asia. We should then once more be in possession of a point whercon to place our lever for moving all those wild and turbulent populations which occupy the interspace between the Chinese and Russian empires, and are obviously destined, at no distant day, to receive law from some civilised power. Other occasions, however, will occur for prosecuting these inquiries: we now return to the subject more immediately before us.
We have above alluded to the condition of the Punjâb under Ranjit Singh. At present the whole circumstances of the case are greatly changed. For who now rules in the country, and what is the nature of the policy pursued there? To understand this it is necessary to look back over the series of events which, crowding tumultuously upon each other, have precipitated the kingdom of Lahore from an extraordinary height of grandeur to a state of disorganisation and poverty hard to be conceived or credited.
Murder of Nao Nehal Singh.
When Ranjit Singh died, in the month of July, 1839, the Sikh army was seventy thousand strong, and there were, it is said, forty millions sterling in the public treasury. Of the forces a large proportion was organised and disciplined after the European fashion, though it be exceedingly erroneous to suppose that it ever approached to an equality with the Company's infantry. The irregular horse was numerous, well-appointed, and possessed by a spirit of audacious self-confidence. The park of artillery was large and formidable. For the creation of much of this force Ranjit was indebted to certain French officers, who, having quitted Europe on the death of Napoleon and from time to time afterwards, wandered eastward through Persia and Turkestân until they at length found themselves in the Punjab. Two of these at least are said to have travelled at the Emperor of Russia's expense, and always kept up, it is probable, an intercourse with the court of St. Petersburg. But by whatever motives they might have been actuated, or in whose service soever they were politically engaged, they faithfully discharged their military duties to Ranjit Singh, and brought his army to a state of efficiency that might, in some respects, be compared to that of the Mahrattas under another set of French adventurers. Most persons foresaw that numerous alterations would take place in the Punjâb on the death of Ranjit Singh, because it was scarcely to be expected that he should be succeeded by a prince equally capable of swaying the power which he had called into existence. His successor was an idiot. This unhappy individual, Kurruk Singh, being wholly incapable of managing any thing, of necessity abandoned the lead in public affairs to the minister bequeathed to him by his father. But, however harmless or uninfluential he might be, he still occupied the Guddee, and prevented others from sitting on it. A fever, therefore, came opportunely to deliver the ambitious and impatient spirits in the state from this impediment to their projects, and his son Nao Nehal Singh did not outlive the ceremonies of his father's funeral. An ingenious piece of mechanism was contrived. He was placed in a howdah on the back of an elephant, with a son of the minister Dhyan Singh by his side. The royal beast moved forward through the multitude, and arrived at a street where there existed a gateway. The exit was narrow. There was a pressure. The elephant, thrusting its huge bulk against the sides of the gateway, loosened the superincumbent beam, which came down with all its weight exactly upon the head of the unfortunate prince, striking also the son of Dhyan Singh in its fall, and occasioning the death of both. In the East, when a crime has been committed, you must wait to observe who steps forward to pluck the fruits of it, before you can form any conjecture respecting its affiliation. Even then a cloud of mystery