Vintage Vault - First Afghan War

  By paul
With the British in Afghanistan again, it familiarly all going pear-shaped, the public not supporting the war and press condemning it. In this edition of Vintage Vault topically we travel to Afghanistan to see what it was like first time round in 1843.

William Blackwood’s Magazine of Miscellany ran from 1817 - 1990. It was famous for publishing the works of outspoken radical as well as cutting satire on the politics of the day and quickly drew a large readership.

Blackwood’s Magazine
Vol. 53, #328: February 1843


Since the day when Lord Auckland, by his famous proclamation in October 1838, "directed the assemblage of a British force for service across the Indus," we have never ceased to denounce the invasion and continued occupation of Affghanistan as equally unjust and impolitic[25]--unjust, as directed against a people whose conduct had afforded us no legitimate grounds of hostility, and against a ruler whose only offence was, that he had accepted[26] the proffer from another quarter of that support and alliance which we had denied to his earnest entreaty--and impolitic, as tending not only to plunge us into an endless succession of ruinous and unprofitable warfare, but to rouse against us an implacable spirit of enmity, in a nation which had hitherto shown every disposition to cultivate amicable relations with our Anglo-Indian Government. In all points, our anticipations have been fatally verified. After more than two years consumed in unavailing efforts to complete the reduction of the country, our army of occupation was at last overwhelmed by the universal and irresistible outbreak of an indignant and fanatic population; and the restored monarch, Shah-Shoojah, ("whose popularity throughout Affghanistan had been proved to the Governor-general by the strong and unanimous testimony of the best authorities") perished, as soon as he lost the protection of foreign bayonets, by the hands of his outraged countrymen.[27] [25] See the articles "Persia, Affghanistan, and India," in Jan. 1839--"Khiva, Central Asia, and Cabul," in April 1840--"Results of our Affghan Conquests," in Aug. 1841--"Affghanistan and India," in July 1842. [26] It now seems even doubtful whether the famous letter of Dost Mohammed to the Emperor of Russia, which constituted the  gravamen of the charge against him, was ever really written, or at least with his concurrence.-- Vide "Report of the Colonial Society on the Affghan War," p. 35. [27] The particulars of Shah-Shoojah's fate, which were unknown when we last referred to the subject, have been since ascertained. After the retreat of the English from Cabul, he remained for some time secluded in the Bala-Hissar, observing great caution in his intercourse with the insurgent leaders; but he was at length prevailed upon, by assurances of loyalty and fidelity, (about the middle of April,) to quit the fortress, in order to head an army against Jellalabad. He had only proceeded, however, a short distance from the city, when his litter was fired upon by a party of musketeers placed in ambush by a Doorauni chief named Soojah-ed-Dowlah; and the king was shot dead on the spot. Such was the ultimate fate of a prince, the vicissitudes of whose life almost exceed the fictions of romance, and who possessed talents sufficient, in more tranquil times, to have given eclat to his reign. During his exile at Loodiana, he composed in Persian a curious narrative of his past adventures, a version of part of which appears in the 30th volume of the Asiatic Journal. The tottering and unsubstantial phantom of a Doorauni kingdom vanished at once and for ever--and the only remaining alternative was, (as we stated the case in our number of last July,) "either to perpetrate a second act of violence and national injustice, by reconquering Affghanistan for the vindication (as the phrase is) of our military honour and holding it without disguise as a province of our empire--or to make the best of a bad bargain, by contenting ourselves with the occupation of a few posts on the frontier, and leaving the unhappy natives to recover, without foreign interference, from the dreadful state of anarchy into which our irruption has thrown them." Fortunately for British interests in the East, the latter course has been adopted. After a succession of brilliant military triumphs, which, in the words of Lord Ellenborough's recent proclamation, "have, in one short campaign, avenged our late disasters upon every scene of past misfortune," the evacuation of the country has been directed--not, however, before a fortunate chance had procured the liberation of all the prisoners who had fallen into the power of the Affghans in January last; and ere this time, we trust, not a single British regiment remains on the bloodstained soil of Affghanistan. The proclamation above referred to,[28] (which we have given at length at the conclusion of this article,) announcing these events, and defining the line of policy in future to be pursued by the Anglo-Indian Government, is in all respects a remarkable document. As a specimen of frankness and plain speaking, it stands unique in the history of diplomacy; and, accordingly, both its matter and its manner have been made the subjects of unqualified censure by those scribes of the Opposition press who, "content to dwell in forms for ever," have accustomed themselves to regard the mystified protocols of Lord Palmerston as the models of official style. The Morning Chronicle, with amusing ignorance of the state of the public mind in India, condemns the Governor-general for allowing it to become known to the natives that the abandonment of Affghanistan was in consequence of a change of policy! conceiving (we suppose) that our Indian subjects would otherwise have believed the Cabul disasters to have formed part of the original plan of the war, and to have veiled some purpose of inscrutable wisdom; while the Globe, (Dec. 3,) after a reluctant admission that "the policy itself of evacuating the country may be wise," would fain deprive Lord Ellenborough of the credit of having originated this decisive step, by an assertion that "we have discovered no proof that a permanent possession of the country beyond the Indus was contemplated by his predecessor." It would certainly have been somewhat premature in Lord Auckland to have announced his ultimate intentions on this point while the country in question was as yet but imperfectly subjugated, or when our troops were subsequently almost driven out of it; but the views of the then home Government, from which it is to be presumed that Lord Auckland received his instructions, were pretty clearly revealed in the House of Commons on the 10th of August last, by one whose authority the Globe, at least, will scarcely dispute--by Lord Palmerston himself. To prevent the possibility of misconstruction, we quote the words attributed to the late Foreign Secretary. After drawing the somewhat unwarrantable inference, from Sir Robert Peel's statement, "that no immediate withdrawal of our troops from Candahar and Jellalabad was contemplated," that an order had at one time been given for the abandonment of Affghanistan, he proceeds--"I do trust that her Majesty's Government will not carry into effect, either immediately or at any future time, the arrangement thus contemplated. It was all very well when we were in power, and it was suited to party purposes, to run down any thing we had done, and to represent as valueless any acquisition on which we may have prided ourselves--it was all very well to raise an outcry against the Affghan expedition, and to undervalue the great advantages which the possession of the country was calculated to afford us--but I trust the Government will rise above any consideration of that sort, and that they will give the matter their fair, dispassionate, and deliberate consideration. I must say, I never was more convinced of any thing in the whole course of my life--and I may be believed when I speak my earnest conviction--that the most important interests of this country, both commercial and political, would be sacrificed, if we were to sacrifice the military possession of the country of Eastern Affghanistan." Is it in the power of words to convey a clearer admission, that the pledge embodied in Lord Auckland's manifesto--"to withdraw the British army as soon as the independence and integrity of Affghanistan should be secured by the establishment of the Shah"--was in fact mere moonshine: and the real object of the expedition was the conquest of a country advantageously situated for the defence of our Indian frontier against (as it now appears) an imaginary invader? Thus Napoleon, in December 1810, alleged "the necessity, in consequence of the new order of things which has arisen, of new guarantees for the security of my empire," as a pretext for that wholesale measure of territorial spoliation in Northern Germany, which, from the umbrage it gave Russia, proved ultimately the cause of his downfall: but it was reserved for us of the present day, to hear a British minister avow and justify a violent and perfidious usurpation on the plea of political expediency. It must indeed be admitted that, in the early stages of the war, the utter iniquity of the measure met with but faint reprobation from any party in the state: the nation, dazzled by the long-disused splendours of military glory, was willing, without any very close enquiry, to take upon trust all the assertions so confidently put forth on the popularity of Shah-Shoojah, the hostile machinations of Dost Mohammed, and the philanthropic and disinterested wishes of the Indian Government for (to quote a notable phrase to which we have more than once previously referred) "the reconstruction of the social edifice" in Affghanistan. But now that all these subterfuges, flimsy as they were at best, have been utterly dissipated by this undisguised declaration of Lord Palmerston, that the real object of the war was to seize and hold the country on our own account, the attempt of the Globe to claim for Lord Auckland the credit of having from the first contemplated a measure thus vehemently protested against and disclaimed by the late official leader of his party, is rather too barefaced to be passed over without comment. [28] It is singular that this proclamation was issued on the fourth anniversary of Lord Auckland's "Declaration" of Oct. 1, 1838; and from the same place, Simla. Without, however, occupying ourselves further in combating the attacks of the Whig press on this proclamation, which may very well be left to stand on its own merits, we now proceed to recapitulate the course of the events which have, in a few months, so completely changed the aspect of affairs beyond the Indus. When we took leave, in July last, of the subject of the Affghan campaign, we left General Pollock, with the force which had made its way through the Khyber Pass, still stationary at Jellalabad, for want (as it was said) of camels and other means of transport: while General Nott, at Candahar, not only held his ground, but victoriously repulsed in the open field the Affghan insurgents, (as it is the fashion to call them,) who were headed by the prince Seifdar-Jung, son of Shah Shoojah! and General England, after his repulse on the 28th of March at the Kojuck Pass, remained motionless at Quettah. The latter officer (in consequence, as it is said, of peremptory orders from General Nott to meet him on a given day at the further side of the Pass) was the first to resume active operations; and on the 28th of April, the works at Hykulzie in the Kojuck, which had been unaccountably represented on the former occasion as most formidable defences,[29] were carried without loss or difficulty, and the force continued its march uninterrupted to Candahar. The fort of Khelat-i-Ghiljie, lying about halfway between Candahar and Ghazni, was at the sane time gallantly and successfully defended by handful of Europeans and sepoys, till relieved by the advance of a division from Candahar, which brought off the garrison, and razed the fortifications of the place. Girishk, the hereditary stronghold of the Barukzye chiefs, about eighty miles west of Candahar, was also dismantled and abandoned; and all the troops in Western Affghanistan were thus concentrated under the immediate command of General Nott, whose success in every encounter with the Affghans continued to be so decisive, that all armed opposition disappeared from the neighbourhood of Candahar; and the prince Seifdar-Jung, despairing of the cause, of which he had perhaps been from the first not a very willing supporter, came in and made his submission to the British commander. [29] "The fieldworks believed to be described in the despatch as 'consisting of a succession of breastworks, improved by a ditch and abattis--the latter being filled with thorns,' turned out to be a paltry stone wall, with a cut two feet deep, and of corresponding width, to which the designation of ditch was most grossly misapplied.... A score or two of active men might have completed the work in a few days."--(Letter quoted in the Asiatic Journal, Sept., p. 107.) On whom the blame of these misrepresentations should be laid--whether on the officer who reconnoitred the ground, or on the general who wrote the despatch--does not very clearly appear: yet the political agent at Quettah was removed from his charge, for not having given notice of the construction in his vicinity of works which are now proved to have had no existence! During the progress of these triumphant operations in Western Affghanistan, General Pollock still lay inactive at Jellalabad; and some abortive attempts were made to negotiate with the dominant party at Cabul for the release of the prisoners taken the preceding winter. Since the death of Shah-Shoojah, the throne had been nominally filled by his third son, Futteh-Jung, the only one of the princes who was on the spot; but all the real power was vested, with the rank of vizier, in the hands of Akhbar Khan, who had not only possessed himself of the Bala-Hissar and the treasure of the late king, but had succeeded in recruiting the forces of the Affghan league, by a reconciliation with Ameen-ullah Khan,[30] the original leader of the outbreak, with whom he had formerly been at variance. All efforts, however, to procure the liberation of the captives, on any other condition than the liberation of Dost Mohammed, and the evacuation of Affghanistan by the English, (as hostages for which they had originally been given,) proved fruitless; and at length, after more than four months' delay, during which several sharp affairs had taken place with advanced bodies of the Affghans, General Pollock moved forward with his whole force, on the 20th of August, against Cabul. This city had again in the mean time become a scene of tumult and disorder--the Kizilbashes or Persian inhabitants, as well as many of the native chiefs, resisting the exactions of Akhbar Khan; who, at last, irritated by the opposition to his measures, imprisoned the titular shah, Futteh-Jung, in the Bala-Hissar; whence he succeeded after a time in escaping, and made his appearance, in miserable plight, (Sept. 1,) at the British headquarters at Futtehabad, between Jellalabad and Gundamuck. The advance of the army was constantly opposed by detached bodies of the enemy, and several spirited skirmishes took place:--till, on the 13th of September, the main Affghan force, to the number of 16,000 men, under Akhbar Khan and other leaders, was descried on the heights near Tazeen, (where the slaughter of our troops had taken place in January,) at the entrance of the formidable defiles called the Huft-Kothul, or Seven Passes. It is admitted on all hands that in this last struggle, (as they believed, for independence,) the Affghans fought with most distinguished gallantry, frequently charging sword in hand upon the bayonets; but their irregular valour eventually gave way before the discipline of their opponents, and a total rout took place. The chiefs fled in various directions, "abandoning Cabul to the avengers of British wrongs," who entered the city in triumph on the 15th, and hoisted the British colours on the Bala-Hissar. The principal point now remaining to be effected was the rescue of the prisoners whom Akhbar Khan had carried off with him in his flight, with the intention (as was rumoured) of transporting them into Turkestan; but from this peril they were fortunately delivered by the venality of the chief to whose care they had been temporarily intrusted; and on the 21st they all reached the camp in safety, with the exception of Captain Bygrave, who was also liberated, a few days later, by the voluntary act of Akhbar himself.[31] [30] It was this chief whose betrayal or destruction Sir William McNaghten is accused, on the authority of General Elphinstone's correspondence, of having meditated, on the occasion when he met with his own fate. We hope, for the honour of the English name, that the memory of the late Resident at Cabul may be cleared from this heavy imputation; but he certainly cannot be acquitted of having, by his wilful blindness and self-sufficiency, contributed to precipitate the catastrophe to which he himself fell a victim. In proof of this assertion, it is sufficient to refer to the tenor of his remarks on the letter addressed to him by Sir A. Burnes on the affairs of Cabul, August 7, 1840, which appeared some time since in the Bombay Times, and afterwards in the Asiatic Journal for October and November last. [31] The kindness and humanity which these unfortunate detenus experienced from first to last at the hands of Akhbar, reflect the highest honour on the character of this chief, whom it has been the fashion to hold up to execration as a monster of perfidy and cruelty. As a contrast to this conduct of the Affghan barbarians, it is worth while to refer to Colonel Lindsay's narrative of his captivity in the dungeons of Hyder and Tippoo, which has recently appeared in the Asiatic Journal, September, December, 1842. General Nott, meanwhile, in pursuance of his secret orders from the Supreme Government, had been making preparations for abandoning Candahar; and, on the 7th and 8th of August, the city was accordingly evacuated, both by his corps and by the division of General England--the Affghan prince, Seifdar-Jung, being left in possession of the place. The routes of the two commanders were now separated. General England, with an immense train of luggage, stores, &c., directed his march through the Kojuck Pass to Quettah, which he reached with little opposition;--while Nott, with a more lightly-equipped column, about 7000 strong, advanced by Khelat-i-Ghiljie against Ghazni. This offensive movement appears to have taken the Affghans at first by surprise; and it was not till he arrived within thirty-eight miles of Ghazni that General Nott found his progress opposed (August 30) by 12,000 men under the governor, Shams-o-deen Khan, a cousin of Mohammed Akhbar. The dispersion of this tumultuary array was apparently accomplished (as far as can be gathered from the extremely laconic despatches of the General) without much difficulty; and, on the 6th of September, after a sharp skirmish in the environs, the British once more entered Ghazni. In the city and neighbouring villages were found not fewer than 327 sepoys of the former garrison, which had been massacred to a man (according to report) immediately after the surrender; but notwithstanding this evidence of the moderation with which the Affghans had used their triumph, General Nott, (in obedience, as is said, to the positive tenor of his instructions,) "directed the city of Ghazni, with the citadel and the whole of its works, to be destroyed;" and this order appears, from the engineer's report, to have been rigorously carried into effect. The mace of Mamood Shah Ghaznevi, the first Moslem conqueror of Hindostan, and the famous sandal-wood portals of his tomb, (once the gates of the great Hindoo temple at Somnaut,[32]) were carried off as trophies: the ruins of Ghazni were left as a monument of British vengeance; and General Nott, resuming his march, and again routing Shams-o-deen Khan at the defiles of Myden, effected his junction with General Pollock, on the 17th of September, at Cabul; whence the united corps, together mustering 18,000 effective men, were to take the route for Hindostan through the Punjab early in October. [32] The value still attached by the Hindoos to these relics was shown on the conclusion of the treaty, in 1832, between Shah-Shoojah and Runjeet Singh, previous to the Shah's last unaided attempt to recover his throne; in which their restoration, in case of his success, was an express stipulation. Such have been the principal events of the brief but brilliant campaign which has concluded the Affghan war, and which, if regarded solely in a military point of view, must be admitted to have amply vindicated the lustre of the British arms from the transient cloud cast on them by the failures and disasters of last winter. The Affghan tragedy, however, may now, we hope, be considered as concluded, so far as related to our own participation in its crimes and calamities; but for the Affghans themselves, "left to create a government in the midst of anarchy," there can be at present little chance of even comparative tranquillity, after the total dislocation of their institutions and internal relations by the fearful torrent of war which has swept over the country. The last atonement now in our power to make, both to the people and the ruler whom we have so deeply injured, as well as the best course for our own interests, would be at once to release Dost Mohammed from the unmerited and ignominious confinement to which he has been subjected in Hindostan, and to send him back in honour to Cabul; where his own ancient partisans, as well as those of his son, would quickly rally round him; and where his presence and accustomed authority might have some effect in restraining the crowd of fierce chiefs, who will be ready to tear each other to pieces as soon as they are released from the presence of the Feringhis. There would thus be at least a possibility of obtaining a nucleus for the re-establishment of something like good order; while in no other quarter does there appear much prospect of a government being formed, which might be either "approved by the Affghans themselves," or "capable of maintaining friendly relations with neighbouring states." If the accounts received may be depended upon, our troops had scarcely cleared the Kojuck Pass, on their way from Candahar to the Indus, when that city became the scene of a contest between the Prince Seifdar-Jung and the Barukzye chiefs in the vicinity; and though the latter are said to have been worsted in the first instance, there can be little doubt that our departure will be the signal for the speedy return of the quondam Sirdars, or rulers of Candahar, (brothers of Dost Mohammed,) who have found an asylum in Persia since their expulsion in 1839, but who will scarcely neglect so favourable an opportunity for recovering their lost authority. Yet another competitor may still, perhaps, be found in the same quarter--one whose name, though sufficiently before the public a few years since, has now been almost forgotten in the strife of more mighty interests. This is Shah Kamran of Herat, the rumours of whose death or dethronement prove to have been unfounded, and who certainly would have at this moment a better chance than he has ever yet had, for regaining at least Candahar and Western Affghanistan. He was said to be on the point of making the attempt after the repulse of the Persians before Herat, just before our adoption of Shah-Shoojah; and his title to the crown is at least as good as that of the late Shah, or any of his sons. It will be strange if this prince, whose danger from Persia was the original pretext for crossing the Indus, should be the only one of all the parties concerned, whose condition underwent no ultimate change, through all the vicissitudes of the tempest which has raged around him. Nor are the elements of discord less abundant and complicated on the side of Cabul. The defeat of Tazeen will not, any more than the preceding ones, have annihilated Akhbar Khan and his confederate chiefs:--they are still hovering in the Kohistan, and will doubtless lose no time in returning to Cabul as soon as the retreat of the English is ascertained. It is true that the civil wars of the Affghans, though frequent, have never been protracted or sanguinary:--like the Highlanders, as described by Bailie Nicol Jarvie, "though they may quarrel among themselves, and gie ilk ither ill names, and may be a slash wi' a claymore, they are sure to join in the long run against a' civilized folk:"--but it is scarcely possible that so many conflicting interests, now that the bond of common danger is removed, can be reconciled without strife and bloodshed. It is possible, indeed, that Futteh-Jung (whom the last accounts state to have remained at Cabul when our troops withdrew, in the hope of maintaining himself on the musnud, and who is said to be the most acceptable to the Affghans of the four sons[33] of Shah-Shoojah) may be allowed to retain for a time the title of king; but he had no treasure and few partizans; and the rooted distaste of the Affghans for the titles and prerogatives of royalty is so well ascertained, that Dost Mohammed, even in the plenitude of his power, never ventured to assume them. All speculations on these points, however, can at present amount to nothing more than vague conjecture; the troubled waters must have time to settle, before any thing can be certainly prognosticated as to the future destinies of Affghanistan. [33] The elder of these princes, Timour, who was governor of Candahar during the reign of his father, has accompanied General England to Hindostan, preferring, as he says, the life of a private gentleman under British protection to the perils of civil discord in Affghanistan. Of the second, Mohammed-Akhbar, (whose mother is said to be sister of Dost Mohammed,) we know nothing;--Futteh-Jung is the third, and was intended by Shah-Shoojah for his successor;--Seifdar-Jung, now at Candahar, is the youngest. The kingdom of the Punjab will now become the barrier between Affghanistan and our north-western frontier in India; and it is said that the Sikhs, already in possession of Peshawer and the rich plain extending to the foot of the Khyber mountains, have undertaken in future to occupy the important defiles of this range, and the fort of Ali-Musjid, so as to keep the Affghans within bounds. It seems to us doubtful, however, whether they will be able to maintain themselves long, unaided, in this perilous advanced post: though the national animosity which subsists between them and the Affghans is a sufficient pledge of their good-will for the service--and their co-operation in the late campaign against Cabul has been rendered with a zeal and promptitude affording a strong contrast to their lukewarmness at the beginning of the war, when they conceived its object to be the re-establishment of the monarchy and national unity of their inveterate foes. But the vigour of the Sikh kingdom, and the discipline and efficiency of their troops, have greatly declined in the hands of the present sovereign, Shere Singh, who, though a frank and gallant soldier, has little genius for civil government, and is thwarted and overborne in his measures by the overweening power of the minister, Rajah Dhian Singh, who originally rose to eminence by the favour of Runjeet. At present, our information as to the state of politics in the Punjab is not very explicit, the intelligence from India during several months, having been almost wholly engrossed by the details of the campaign in Affghanistan; but as far as can be gathered from these statements, the country has been brought, by the insubordination of the troops, and the disputes of the Maharajah and his Minister, to a state not far removed from anarchy. It is said that the fortress of Govindghur, where the vast treasures amassed by Runjeet are deposited, has been taken possession of by the malecontent faction, and that Shere Singh has applied for the assistance of our troops to recover it; and the Delhi Gazette even goes so far as to assert that this prince, "disgusted with the perpetual turmoil in which he is embroiled, and feeling his incapacity of ruling his turbulent chieftains, is willing to cede his country to us, and become a pensioner of our Government." But this announcement, though confidently given, we believe to be at least premature. That the Punjab must inevitably, sooner or later, become part of the Anglo-Indian empire, either as a subsidiary power, like the Nizam, or directly, as a province, no one can doubt; but its incorporation at this moment, in the teeth of our late declaration against any further extension of territory, and at the time when the Sikhs are zealously fulfilling their engagements as our allies, would be both injudicious and unpopular in the highest degree. An interview, however, is reported to have been arranged between Lord Ellenborough and Shere Singh, which is to take place in the course of the ensuing summer, and at which some definitive arrangements will probably be entered into, on the future political relations of the two Governments.[34] [34] The war in Tibet, to which we alluded in July last, between the followers of the Sikh chief Zorawur Singh and the Chinese, is still in progress--and the latter are said to be on the point of following up their successes by an invasion of Cashmeer. As we are now at peace with the Celestial Empire, our mediation may be made available to terminate the contest. The only permanent accession of territory, then, which will result from the Affghan war, will consist in the extension of our frontier along the whole course of the Sutlej and Lower Indus--"the limits which nature appears to have assigned to the Indian empire"--and in the altered relations with some of the native states consequent on these arrangements. As far as Loodeana, indeed, our frontier on the Sutlej has long been well established, and defined by our recognition of the Sikh kingdom on the opposite bank;--but the possessions of the chief of Bhawulpoor, extending on the left bank nearly from Loodeana to the confluence of the Sutlej with the Indus, have hitherto been almost exempt from British interference;[35] as have also the petty Rajpoot states of Bikaneer, Jesulmeer, &c., which form oases in the desert intervening between Scinde and the provinces more immediately under British control. These, it is to be presumed, will now be summarily taken under the protection of the Anglo-Indian Government:--but more difficulty will probably be experienced with the fierce and imperfectly subdued tribes of Scindians and Belooches, inhabiting the lower valley of the Indus;--and, in order to protect the commerce of the river, and maintain the undisputed command of its course, it will be necessary to retain a sufficient extent of vantage-ground on the further bank, and to keep up in the country an amount of force adequate to the effectual coercion of these predatory races. For this purpose, a place d'armes has been judiciously established at Sukkur, a town which, communicating with the fort of Bukkur on an island of the Indus, and with Roree on the opposite bank, effectually secures the passage of the river; and the ports of Kurrachee and Sonmeani on the coast, the future marts of the commerce of the Indus, have also been garrisoned by British troops. [35] Bhawulpoor is so far under British protection, that it was saved from the arms of the Sikhs by the treaty with Runjeet Singh, which confined him to the other bank of the Sutlej; but it has never paid allegiance to the British Government. Its territory is of considerable extent, stretching nearly 300 miles along the river, by 100 miles average breadth; but great part of the surface consists of sandy desert. It has long since been evident[36] that Scinde, by that principle of unavoidable expansion to which we had so often had occasion to refer, must eventually have been absorbed into the dominions of the Company; but the process by which it at last came into our hands is so curious a specimen of our Bonapartean method of dealing with reluctant or refractory neutrals, that we cannot pass it altogether without notice. Scinde, as well as Beloochistan, had formed part of the extensive empire subdued by Ahmed Shah, the founder of the Doorani monarchy; but in the reign of his indolent son Timour, the Affghan yoke was shaken off by the Ameers, or chiefs of the Belooch family of Talpoor, who, fixing their residences respectively at Hydrabad, Meerpoor, and Khyrpoor, defied all the efforts of the kings of Cabul to reduce them to submission, though they more than once averted an invasion by the promise of tribute. It has been rumoured that Shah-Shoojah, during his long exile, made repeated overtures to the Cabinet of Calcutta for the cession of his dormant claims to the suzerainte of Scinde, in exchange for an equivalent, either pecuniary or territorial; but the representations of a fugitive prince, who proposed to cede what was not in his possession, were disregarded by the rulers of India; and even in the famous manifesto preceding the invasion of Affghanistan, Lord Auckland announced, that "a guaranteed independence, on favourable conditions, would be tendered to the Ameers of Scinde." On the appearance of our army on the border, however, the Ameers demurred, not very unreasonably, to the passage of this formidable host; and considerable delay ensued, from the imperfect information possessed by the British commanders of the amount of resistance to be expected; but at last the country and fortress were forcibly occupied; the seaport of Kurrachee (where alone any armed opposition was attempted) was bombarded and captured by our ships of war; and a treaty was imposed at the point of the bayonet on the Scindian rulers, by virtue of which they paid a contribution of twenty-seven laks of rupees (nearly L300,000) to the expenses of the war, under the name of arrears of tribute to Shah-Shoojah, acknowledging, at the same time, the supremacy, not of Shah-Shoojah, but of the English Government! The tolls on the Indus were also abolished, and the navigation of the river placed, by a special stipulation, wholly under the control of British functionaries. Since this summary procedure, our predominance in Scinde has been undisturbed, unless by occasional local commotions; but the last advices state that the whole country is now "in an insurrectionary state;" and it is fully expected that an attempt will erelong be made to follow the example of the Affghans, and get rid of the intrusive Feringhis; in which case, as the same accounts inform us, "the Ameers will be sent as state-prisoners to Benares, and the territory placed wholly under British administration." [36] So well were the Scindians aware of this, that Burnes, when ascending the Indus, on his way to Lahore in 1831, frequently heard it remarked, "Scinde is now gone, since the English have seen the river, which is the road to its conquest." But whatever may be thought of the strict legality of the conveyance, in virtue of which Scinde has been converted into an integral part of our Eastern empire, its geographical position, as well as its natural products, will render it a most valuable acquisition, both in a commercial and political point of view. At the beginning of the present century, the East-India Company had a factory at Tatta, (the Pattala of the ancients,) the former capital of Scinde, immediately above the Delta of the Indus; but their agents were withdrawn during the anarchy which preceded the disruption of the Doorani monarchy. From that period till the late occurrences, all the commercial intercourse with British India was maintained either by land-carriage from Cutch, by which mode of conveyance the opium of Malwa and Marwar (vast quantities of which are exported in this direction) chiefly found its way into Scinde and Beloochistan; or by country vessels of a peculiar build, with a disproportionately lofty poop, and an elongated bow instead of a bowsprit, which carried on an uncertain and desultory traffic with Bombay and some of the Malabar ports. To avoid the dangerous sandbanks at the mouths of the Indus, as well as the intricate navigation through the winding streams of the Delta, (the course of which, as in the Mississippi, changes with every inundation,) they usually discharged their cargoes at Kurrachee, whence they were transported sixty miles overland to Tatta, and there embarked in flat-bottomed boats on the main stream. The port of Kurrachee, fourteen miles N.W. from the Pittee, or western mouth of the Indus, and Sonmeani, lying in a deep bay in the territory of Lus, between forty and fifty miles further in the same direction, are the only harbours of import in the long sea-coast of Beloochistan; and the possession of them gives the British the undivided command of a trade which, in spite of the late disasters, already promises to become considerable; while the interposition of the now friendly state of Khelat[37] between the coast and the perturbed tribes of Affghanistan, will secure the merchandise landed here a free passage into the interior. The trade with these ports deserves, indeed, all the fostering care of the Indian Government; since they must inevitably be, at least for some years to come, the only inlet for Indian produce into Beloochistan, Cabul, and the wide regions of Central Asia beyond them. The overland carrying trade through Scinde and the Punjab, in which (according to M. Masson) not less than 6500 camels were annually employed, has been almost annihilated--not only by the confusion arising from the war, but from the absolute want of means of transport, from the unprecedented destruction of the camels occasioned by the exigencies of the commissariat, &c. The rocky defiles of Affghanistan were heaped with the carcasses of these indispensable animals, 50,000 of which (as is proved by the official returns) perished in this manner in the course of three years; and some years must necessarily elapse before the chasm thus made in the numbers of the species throughout North-western India can be supplied. The immense expenditure of the Army of Occupation, at the same time, brought such an influx of specie into Affghanistan, as had never been known since the sack of Delhi by Ahmed Shah Doorani--while the traffic with India being at a stand-still for the reasons we have just given, the superfluity of capital thus produced was driven to find an outlet in the northern markets of Bokhara and Turkestan. The consequence of this has been, that Russian manufactures to an enormous amount have been poured into these regions, by way of Astrakhan and the Caspian, to meet this increasing demand; and the value of Russian commerce with Central Asia, which (as we pointed out in April 1840, p. 522) had for many years been progressively declining, was doubled during 1840 and 1841, (Bombay Times April 2, 1842,) and is believed to be still on the increase! The opening of the navigation of the Indus, with the exertions of the Bombay Chamber of Commerce to establish depots on its course, and to facilitate the transmission of goods into the surrounding countries, has already done much for the restoration of traffic in this direction, in spite of the efforts of the Russian agents in the north to keep possession of the opening thus unexpectedly afforded them; but it cannot be denied that the "great enlargement of our field of commerce," so confidently prognosticated by Lord Palmerston, from "the great operations undertaken in the countries lying west of the Indus," has run a heavy risk of being permanently diverted into other channels, by the operation of the causes detailed above. [37] Khelat (more properly Khelat-i-Nussear Khan, "the citadel of Nussear Khan," by whom it was strongly fortified in 1750,) is the principal city and fortress of the Brahooes or Eastern Baloochee, and the residence of their chief. It had never been taken by any of the Affghan kings, and had even opposed a successful resistance to the arms of Ahmed Shah;--but on November 13, 1839, it was stormed by an Anglo-Indian force under General Wiltshire, and the Khan Mihrab was slain sword in hand, gallantly fighting to the last at the entrance of his zenana. The place, however, was soon after surprised and recaptured by the son of the fallen chief, Nussear Khan, who, though again expelled, continued to maintain himself with a few followers in the mountains, and at last effected an accommodation with the British, and was replaced on the musnud. He has since fulfilled his engagements to us with exemplary fidelity; and as his fears of compulsory vassalage to the nominally restored Affghan monarchy are now at an end, he appears likely to afford a solitary instance of a trans-Indian chief converted into a firm friend and ally. Before we finally dismiss the subject of the Affghan war and its consequences, we cannot overlook one feature in the termination of the contest, which is of the highest importance, as indicating a return to a better system than that miserable course of reduction and parsimony, which, for some years past, has slowly but surely been alienating the attachment, and breaking down the military spirit, of our native army. We refer to the distribution, by order of Lord Ellenborough, of badges of honorary distinction, as well as of more substantial rewards, in the form of augmented allowances,[38] &c., to the sepoy corps which have borne the brunt of the late severe campaign. Right well have these honours and gratuities been merited; nor could any measure have been better timed to strengthen in the hearts of the sepoys the bonds of the Feringhi salt, to which they have so long proved faithful. The policy, as well as the justice, of holding out every inducement which may rivet the attachment of the native troops to our service, obvious as it must appear, has in truth been of late too much neglected;[39] and it has become at this juncture doubly imperative, both from the severe and unpopular duty in which a considerable portion of the troops have recently been engaged, and from the widely-spread disaffection which has lately manifested itself in various quarters among the native population. We predicted in July, as the probable consequence of our reverses in Affghanistan, some open manifestation of the spirit of revolt constantly smouldering among the various races of our subjects in India, but the prophecy had already been anticipated by the event. The first overt resistance to authority appeared in Bhundelkund, a wild and imperfectly subjugated province in the centre of Hindostan, inhabited by a fierce people called Bhoondelahs. An insurrection, in which nearly all the native chiefs are believed to be implicated, broke out here early in April; and a desultory and harassing warfare has since been carried on in the midst of the almost impenetrable jungles and ravines which overspread the district. The Nawab of Banda and the Bhoondee Rajah, a Moslem and a Hindoo prince, respectively of some note in the neighbourhood of the disturbed tracts, have been placed under surveillance at Allahabad as the secret instigators of these movements, "which," (says the Agra Ukhbar) "appear to have been regularly organized all over India, the first intimation of which was the Nawab of Kurnool's affair"--whose deposition we noticed in July. The valley of Berar, also, in the vicinity of the Nizam's frontier, has been the scene of several encounters between our troops and irregular bands of insurgents; and the restless Arab mercenaries in the Dekkan are still in arms, ready to take service with any native ruler who chooses to employ them against the Feringhis. In the northern provinces, the aspect of affairs is equally unfavourable. The Rohillas, the most warlike and nationally-united race of Moslems in India, have shown alarming symptoms of a refractory temper, fomented (as it has been reported) by the disbanded troopers of the 2d Bengal cavalry,[40] (a great proportion of whom were Rohillas,) and by Moslem deserters from the other regiments in Affghanistan, who have industriously magnified the amount of our losses--a pleasing duty, in which the native press, as usual, has zealously co-operated. One of the newspapers printed in the Persian language at Delhi, recently assured its readers that, at the forcing of the Khyber Pass, "six thousand Europeans fell under the sharp swords of the Faithful"--with other veracious intelligence, calculated to produce the belief that the campaign must inevitably end, like the preceding, in the defeat and extermination of the whole invading force. The fruits of these inflammatory appeals to the pride and bigotry of the Moslems, is thus painted in a letter from Rohilcund, which we quote from that excellent periodical the Asiatic Journal for September:--"The Mahomedans throughout Rohilcund hate us to a degree only second to what the Affghans do, their interest in whose welfare they can scarcely conceal.... There are hundreds of heads of tribes, all of whom would rise to a man on what they considered a fitting opportunity, which they are actually thirsting after. A hint from their moolahs, and the display of the green flag, would rally around it every Mussulman. In March last, the population made no scruple of declaring that the Feringhi raj (English rule) was at an end; and some even disputed payment of the revenue, saying it was probable they should have to pay it again to another Government! They have given out a report that Akhbar Khan has disbanded his army for the present, in order that his men may visit their families; but in the cold weather, when our troops will be weakened and unfit for action, he will return with an overwhelming force, aided by every Mussulman as far as Ispahan, when they will annihilate our whole force and march straight to Delhi, and ultimately send us to our ships. The whole Mussulman population, in fact, are filled with rejoicing and hope at our late reverses." [38] By a general order, issued from Simla October 4, all officers and soldiers, of whatever grade, who took part in the operations about Candahar, the defence of Khelat-i-Ghiljie, the recapture of Ghazni or Cabul, or the forcing of the Khyber Pass, are to receive a silver medal with appropriate inscriptions--a similar distinction having been previously conferred on the defenders of Jellalabad. What is at present the value of the Order of the Doorani Empire, with its showy decorations of the first, second, and third classes, the last of which was so rightfully spurned by poor Dennie? [39] The following remarks of the Madras United Service Gazette, though intended to apply only to the Secunderabad disturbances, deserve general attention at present:--"We attribute the lately-diminished attachment of the sepoys for their European officers to a diminished inclination for the service, the duties whereof have of late years increased in about the same proportion that its advantages have been reduced. The cavalry soldier of the present day has more than double the work to do that a trooper had forty years ago;... and the infantry sepoy's garrison guard-work has been for years most fatiguing at every station, from the numerical strength of the troops being quite inadequate to the duties.... These several unfavourable changes have gradually given the sepoy a distaste for the service, which has been augmented by the stagnant state of promotion, caused by the reductions in 1829, when one-fifth of the infantry, and one-fourth of the cavalry, native commissioned and non-commissioned officers, became supernumerary, thus effectually closing the door of promotion to the inferior grades for years to come. Hopeless of advancement, the sepoy from that time became gradually less attentive to his duties, less respectful to his superiors, as careless of a service which no longer held out any prospect of promotion. Still, however, the bonds of discipline were not altogether loosened, till Lord W. Bentinck's abolition of corporal punishment; and from the promulgation of that ill-judged order may be dated the decided change for the worse which has taken place in the character of the native soldiery." [40] This corps, it will be remembered, was broken for its misconduct in the battle of Purwan-Durrah, against Dost Mohammed, November 2, 1840. It may be said that we are unnecessarily multiplying instances, and that these symptoms of local fermentation are of little individual importance; but nothing can be misplaced which has a tendency to dispel the universal and unaccountable error which prevails in England, as to the popularity of our sway in India. The signs of the times are tolerably significant--and the apprehensions of a coming commotion which we expressed in July, as well as of the quarter in which it will probably break out, are amply borne out by the language of the best-informed publications of India. "That the seeds of discontent" says the Delhi Gazette--"have been sown by the Moslems, and have partially found root among the Hindoos, is more than conjecture"--and the warnings of the Agra Ukhbar are still more unequivocal. "Reports have reached Agra that a general rise will erelong take place in the Dekkan. There have already been several allusions made to a very extensive organization among the native states[41] against the British power, the resources of which will, no doubt, be stretched to the utmost during the ensuing cold season. Disaffection is wide and prevalent, and when our withdrawal from Affghanistan becomes known, it will ripen into open insurrection. With rebellion in Central India, and famine in Northern, Government have little time to lose in collecting their energies to meet the crisis." The increase of means which the return of the army from Affghanistan will place at the disposal of the Governor-General, will doubtless do much in either overawing or suppressing these insurrectionary demonstrations; but even in this case the snake will have been only "scotched, not killed;" and the most practical and effectual method of rendering such attempts hopeless for the future, will be the replacing the Indian army on the same efficient footing, as to numbers and composition, on which it stood before the ill-judged measures of Lord William Bentinck. The energies of the native troops have been heavily tasked, and their fidelity severely tried, during the Affghan war; and though they have throughout nobly sustained the high character which they had earned by their past achievements, the experiment on their endurance should not be carried too far. Many of the errors of past Indian administrations have already been remedied by Lord Ellenborough; and we cannot refrain from the hope, that the period of his Government will not be suffered to elapse without a return to the old system on this point also--the vital point on which the stability of our empire depends. [41] The Nawab of Arcot, one of the native princes, whose fidelity is now strongly suspected, assured the Resident, in his reply to the official communication of the capture of Ghazni in 1839, that from his excessive joy at the triumph of his good friend the Company, his bulk of body had so greatly increased that he was under the necessity of providing himself with a new wardrobe--his garments having become too strait for his unbounded stomach! A choice specimen of oriental bombast. Such have been the consequences, as far as they have hitherto been developed, to the foreign and domestic relations of our Eastern empire, of the late memorable Affghan war. In many points, an obvious parallel may be drawn between its commencement and progress, and that of the invasion of Spain by Napoleon. In both cases, the territory of an unoffending people was invaded and overrun, in the plenitude of (as was deemed by the aggressors) irresistible power, on the pretext, in each case, that it was necessary to anticipate an ambitious rival in the possession of a country which might be used as a vantage ground against us. In both cases, the usurpation was thinly veiled by the elevation of a pageant-monarch to the throne; till the invaded people, goaded by the repeated indignities offered to their religious and national pride, rose en masse against their oppressors at the same moment in the capital and the provinces, and either cut them off, or drove them to the frontier. In each case the intruders, by the arrival of reinforcements, regained for a time their lost ground; and if our Whig rulers had continued longer at the helm of affairs, the parallel might have become complete throughout. The strength and resources of our Indian empire might have been drained in the vain attempt to complete the subjugation of a rugged and impracticable country, inhabited by a fierce and bigoted population; and an "Affghan ulcer." (to use the ordinary phrase of Napoleon himself in speaking of the Spanish war) might have corroded the vitals, and undermined the fabric, of British domination in the East. Fortunately, however, for our national welfare and our national character, better counsels are at length in the ascendant. The triumphs which have again crowned our arms, have not tempted our rulers to resume the perfidious policy which their predecessors, in the teeth of their own original declarations, have now openly avowed, by "retaining military possession of the countries west of the Indus;" and the candid acknowledgement of the error committed in the first instance, affords security against the repetition of such acts of wanton aggression, and for adherence to the pacific policy now laid down. The ample resources of India have yet in a great measure to be explored and developed, and it is impossible to foresee what results may be attained, when (in the language of the Bombay Times) "wisdom guides for good and worthy ends, that resistless energy which madness has wasted on the opposite. We now see that, even with Affghanistan as a broken barrier, Russia dares not move her finger against us--that with seventeen millions sterling thrown away, we are able to recover all our mischances, if relieved from the rulers and the system which imposed them upon us!" * * * * * The late proclamation of Lord Ellenborough has been so frequently referred to in the foregoing pages, that for the sake of perspicuity we subjoin it in full. "Secret Department, Simla, "Oct. 1, 1842. "The Government of India directed its army to pass the Indus, in order to expel from Affghanistan a chief believed to be hostile to British interests, and to replace upon his throne a sovereign represented to be friendly to those interests, and popular with his former subjects. "The chief believed to be hostile became a prisoner, and the sovereign represented to be popular was replaced upon his throne; but after events which brought into question his fidelity to the Government by which he was restored, he lost, by the hands of an assassin, the throne he had only held amidst insurrections, and his death was preceded and followed by still existing anarchy. "Disasters, unparalleled in their extent, unless by the errors in which they originated, and by the treachery by which they were completed, have in one short campaign been avenged upon every scene of past misfortune; and repeated victories in the field, and the capture of the cities and citadels of Ghazni and Cabul, have again attached the opinion of invincibility to the British arms. "The British army in possession of Affghanistan will now be withdrawn to the Sutlej. "The Governor-General will leave it to the Affghans themselves to create a government amidst the anarchy which is the consequence of their crimes. "To force a sovereign upon a reluctant people, would be as inconsistent with the policy, as it is with the principles, of the British Government, tending to place the arms and resources of that people at the disposal of the first invader, and to impose the burden of supporting a sovereign without the prospect of benefit from his alliance. "The Governor-General will willingly recognize any government approved by the Affghans themselves, which shall appear desirous and capable of maintaining friendly relations with neighbouring states. "Content with the limits nature appears to have assigned to its empire, the Government of India will devote all its efforts to the establishment and maintenance of general peace, to the protection of the sovereigns and chiefs its allies, and to the prosperity and happiness of its own faithful subjects. "The rivers of the Punjab and the Indus, and the mountainous passes and the barbarous tribes of Affghanistan, will be placed between the British army and an enemy from the west, if indeed such an enemy there can be, and no longer between the army and its supplies. "The enormous expenditure required for the support of a large force in a false military position, at a distance from its own frontier and its resources, will no longer arrest every measure for the improvement of the country and of the people. "The combined army of England and of India, superior in equipment, in discipline, in valour, and in the officers by whom it is commanded, to any force which can be opposed to it in Asia, will stand in unassailable strength upon its own soil, and for ever, under the blessing of Providence, preserve the glorious empire it has won, in security and in honour. "The Governor-General cannot fear the misconstruction of his motives in thus frankly announcing to surrounding states the pacific and conservative policy of his Government. "Affghanistan and China have seen at once the forces at his disposal, and the effect with which they can be applied. "Sincerely attached to peace for the sake of the benefits it confers upon the people, the Governor-General is resolved that peace shall be observed, and will put forth the whole power of the British Government to coerce the state by which it shall be infringed." * * * * *