Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

morals at Paris as theology at Gottingen. Comparing the great writers of our own country on the evidences of revelation, or even on scriptural criticism with those of Germany, we see in the one the optics of an eagle, in the other those of a mole. Seated on a cominanding elevation, the first take a clear and penetrating view of the widely extended prospect around them, while the second, poring, slow, minute and obscure, at once industrious and superficial, wbile they toil in pursuing every subject to its last ramifications, never appear to make any progress. Their erudition, such as it is, clouds their intellect: it is a suit of armour which seems to encumber, while it neither adorns nor assists the wearer. But this is not all We complain not of the diversion of these streams into our own country, because they are foul and fæculent only—they spring from poisoned fountains. An English theologian (there is no suspicion of the contrary in a single instance) believes what he asserts, and feels what he believes--with a German, theology is a rather than a profession : his bread, and that of his family, depends upon his maintaining a decent external respect for revelation; but his aid in the cause is hollow and heartless: with all his care to adjust the mask, there are moments of inadvertence in which it drops off; and in the freedom of confidential intercourse, we know that it is spontaneously laid aside. From such instructors, we would anxiously remit our students to Dr. Townson.

An engraving is prefixed to the first volume, which contradicts all the principles of physiognomy, if it really resemble so sensible a

man.

ART. VII. Historical Sketches of the South of India; in an Ata

tempt to trace the History of Mysoor, from the Origin of the Hindoo Government of that State, to the Extinction of the Mahommedan Dynasty in 1799, 80. By Lieut. Col. Wilks. Vol. I,

London, 1810. BOLI OLD indeed would that man be, however gifted, and unavailing,

we fear, his toil, who should venture over the same ground which Mr. Orme has so successfully occupied in his History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in Ilindostan. In that valuable work we have all the great events which fell within his range, narrated with so much perspicuity, and the detail of facts stated with such accuracy, as to leave us nothing to desire on any of the points which his comprehensive plan embraces. The sources from which he derived his information were of the most extensive and authentic kind; he possessed all the advantages which local knowledge can impart; and his fidelity, we believe, was never called in question. To sum up all, his history occupies so vast a field, that

G4

every became

every future historian of modern India, must unavoidably trench, in a greater or less degree, upon his premises. We were not surprized, therefore, to find Colonel Wilks occasionally touching on events already told by Mr. Orme; sometimes, indeed, but very rarely, venturing to differ from him, though never, we believe, in points of any great moment. Whenever,' he observes, 'I dissent from the statements of Mr. Orme, I desire to be understood as doing so with the utmost deference for his authority.'

The immediate object of Colonel Wilks's book is not, however, as he tells us in his preface, the history of the British arms, and still less that of the British policy, in India ; it is rather an attempt to trace, 'the bistory of the House of Mysoor from the origin of the Hindoo government of that state, to the extinction of the Mahommedan dynasty in 1799.' For such an undertaking, his long services in India, and more particularly his situation as Political resident'at the court of Mysore, were eminently favourable. Hebad there not only access to all the written documents relating to the families who had filled the throne of Mysore, the titles of the most important of which he enumerates in his preface, but the additional advantage of consulting many living characters, who had been intimately connected, both in public and private life, with Hyder Ali Khan and Tippo Sultaun. Those parts therefore of his Historical Sketches, which relate to Mysore, may fairly be considered as of unquestionable authenticity.

After all, however, we entertain great doubts, whether the best authenticated accounts of a succession of robbers and barbarians, one excelling the other in every species of atrocity, and most of them stained with crimes unequalled perhaps in the history of the world, will be found to possess a sufficient degree of interest to compensate the compiler for the labour and expense of bringing out so voluminous a work, or the reader for the toil and disgust which he must neces. sarily undergo in the perusal of transactions so degrading to human nature. Still we think it our duty to attend to every work of respectable authority, which treats on so important and extensive a part of the British empire, as is comprehended within its Asiatic dominions.

We do not conceive it necessary, however, to notice any of those transactions in which Europeans have been concerned ; nor to repeat any of those brilliant exploits, which have immortalized the names of Laurence, Clive, and Coote, in the pages of Mr. Orme, Indeed Colonel Wilks himself has but slightly touched upon many interesting events that might, legitimately enough, have been brought within the immediate scope of bis history, though he has not omitted to render ample justice to the characters of those great men: perhaps he has rather overrated that of Sir Eyre Coote, who, however conciliatory his manners may have been in the early part of his life, became exceedingly petulant, irritable, and unmanageable towards its close. The fact, however, mentioned by Colonel Wilks, that no Sepoy, who had ever served under him, enters the exchange at Madras without making his obeisance to the portrait of Coote Bahauder, affords a strong testimony of the feelings with which he was regarded by the native troops. His military character is summed up in few words :. Nature had given to Col. Coote all that nature can confer in the forination of a soldier:' but the same thing is said of Clive—'he was born, if ever human being was born, a soldier and a statesman. Both were unquestionably men of extraordinary talents; but we should suppose that few will be inclined to bring the merits of Coote in competition with those of Clive. Passing, then, over their exploits, together with the intrigues, the struggles, and the various alliances of the Europeans with the native powers, we shall contine our observations to those points which relate more immediately to the main object of the work.

The irruption of the Mahommedans into Ilindostan, is generally supposed to have brought with it an accession of wretchedness and misery to the unfortunate inhabitants of that country. Calamity must necessarily be the concomitant of war; and if it could be shewn, that this extensive and populous country liad long been in the enjoyment of peace at the time when the Mussulmans first invaded it, we might safely conclude that the general condition of the people suffered an immediate change for the worse. It would appear, however, from the few remaining records which have been examined, as well as from oral tradition, that the farther we attempt to look back, the greater share of wretchedness was the portion of the Hindoos. “The golden age of India,' says Colonel Wilks, like that of other regions, belongs exclusively to the poet.'-—' At periods long antecedent to the Mahommedan invasion, wars, revolutions, and conquests, seem to have followed each other, in a succession more strangely complex, rapid and destructive, as the events more deeply recede into the gloom of antiquity. In such a state of confusion, it is utterly impossible that the people could enjoy the least degree of happiness or prosperity. Their fields destroyed, their houses burnt, their cattle swept away, they were generally left to perish by famine, whenever two neighbouring chiefs thought fit to go to war.

The following note paints, in strong colours, the condition of the Hindoos under their own governments.

'On the approach of an hostile army, the unfortunate inhabitants of India bury under ground their most cumbrous effects, and each individual man, woman, and child, above six years of age, (the infant children being carried by their mothers,) with a load of grain proportioned to their strength, issue from their beloved homes, and take the direction

of

[ocr errors]

of a country (if such can be found) exempted from the miseries of war; sometimes of a strong fortress, but more generally of the most unfrequented hills and woods, where they prolong a miserable existence until the departure of the enemy. The people of a district thus deserting their homes are called the wulsa of the district. A state of habitual misery, involving precautions against incessant war and unpitying depredations, of so peculiar a description as to require in any of the languages of Europe a long circumlocution, is expressed, in all ihe languages of the Deckan and the South of India, by a single word. No proofs can be accumulated from the most profound research, which shall describe the immemorial condition of the people of India with more authentic precision than this single word: and it is a proud distinction,' he adds, * that the wulsa never departs on the approach of a British army when unaccompanied by Indian allies.' (p. 309.)

The character and conduct of the British army are, indeed, proudly distinguished, not only in India, but in every part of the globe, where British troops are placed under the command of brave and discreet officers. The people of India now happily know from experience the distiyction, not only between a British army and the lawless rabble of a native prince, but also between a British government and the petty sovereignties, whether of a Hindoo or Mahommedan dynasty. It is the British nation only that remains in wilful ignorance of the anxious endeavours which the British government and its servants have exerted, and continue to exert, for improving the condition of the native Indians. We are unquestionably a humane and a feeling people ; but our humanity is too often wasted in a foreign land, and lavished on the most worthless of mankind; and such is the effect of our feelings, assisted by the imagination, that the fancied claims on our charity generally become magnified in the direct ratio of the distance from which the objects of them are viewed. On this principle only, can we possibly attempt to explain how the wild and extravagant declamation of a Burke, and the pathetic figments of a Sheridan, were able to succeed in shutting the ears of the nation against the sober statements of truih. To those who have not given themselves the trouble of inquiry, and who have viewed only through the false glare of eloquence, the studied cruelties said to have been inflicted by British agents on rajalis and rannies, on nabobs and vizirs, we recommend the perusál of Colonel Wilks's book, that they may at least learn for what description of persons their pity has been so warmly excited: they will then be able to form a better judg. ment of the probability of the truth or falsehood of those statements, which, even at the present day, continue to be repeated, once a year at least, in the British senate.

We agree with Colonel Wilks, that civil liberty, among the incessant revolutions of India, never once entered into the contem

plation

plation of the natives, and that it is to this day without a name in the language of Asia. We think too, with him, that the cause of this political debasement will admit of a better explanation than by referring it to the physical influence of climate, or to that • Aimsy and superficial hypothesis, which would measure the human mind by the scale of a Fahrenheit's thermometer. That theory, indeed, like most other theories not founded on experience, has passed away; to the inhabitants of India, however, it never could, with any propriety, have been applied. Of all the regions of the globe India, perhaps, is the most highly favoured by nature. The rich and productive soil of its vast plains, made still more productive by a soft and delicious climate, and by periodical returns of refreshing slowers, pours forth, almost spontaneously, all that the necessities and even the luxuries of life require. If to the clearness of the atmosphere and the fertility of the soil, of Egypt, we are to ascribe the proximate causes which conducted the natives into the paths of science and, from the dawn of history, rendered famous the learning of the Egyptians;' the same causes, operating with accumulated force in India, might be expected to produce the same effects: but the truth is, that the progress of the human mind depends very little on the influence of climate, and is governed rather by moral than physical causes. Perhaps, indeed, if the learning of the Egyptian hierophants were exposed in its naked state, we should not find it much superior to that of the Brahmins. We may, at any rate, be confident, that the mass of the people was equally ignorant in both countries; that, in both, they were mere machines in the hands of a crafty priesthood, set in motion by an external impulse uniformly acting upon them, without spring or elasticity of their own.

A different cause then, from that of climate, must be assigned for the mental and political degradatiou to be found among the inhabitants of India. Colonel Wilks seems to be of opinion, that their present condition may be explained by the priestly contrivance which has united the divine with the human code; a system which must, consequently, reject all the attempts of the human faculties towards improvement, inasmuch as it connects, by inseparable ties, the ideas of change and profanation.

* The political, civil, and criminal code of the Hindoos is interwoven with their theology, and is equally considered to be derived from die vipe authority. The affairs of government, of judicature, and police, down to the most minute forms of social and domestic intercourse, are all identified with religious observances; the whole is sacred and unchangeable; and, in this case, the ideas attached to improvement and profanation can scarcely be distinguished from each other. The sacred code of the Hindoos, like the Koran of the Mahommedans, is

held

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »