Изображения страниц

Majesty would enter his dominions surrounded by his own troops, the future character of the Shah's contingent must have been fully known. Lord Palmerston's equivocating defence is worthy of the assertion which he defends.

If, however, the Indian government failed in surrounding Shah Soojah with Affghan troops, they proceeded effectually to fulfil their promise of supporting him with a British army. The preparations made indicated an expectation of meeting with no inconsiderable amount of " factious opposition," and a resolution that no amount should interfere with the execution of their great project. Including the Shah's contingent, as it was called, and a few thousands of Sikh levies, the forces assembled in the early part of 1839, along the line of the Indus, amounted to more than 40,000 men. We subjoin a map, or maplike sketch of the country which was the scene of our operations, containing as few names of places as possible, but sufficient, we hope, to make our subsequent remarks intelligible.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

A glance at this map will show, that from Ferozepore, the head-quarters of the Bengal division of the "Army of the Indus," the nearest line of march on Cabool would have been that by which our troops, in 1842, evacuated the country, through the Punjaub and the defiles of the Khyber. The line ultimately chosen for the Bombay and Bengal divisions-the chief strength of the army both in numbers and efficiency-was the longer western route, leading through the territory of the Ameers of Scinde, and Eastern Beloochistan, by the Bolan Pass to Quettah and Candahar. It is curious to find that a principal reason for this preference was-the reluctance of our "old and faithful ally," Runjeet Singh, to permit those, who, by a reciprocal relation, must have been his "old and faithful allies," to traverse his territories with so large a force. For his scruples we had every respect; but, apparently, it is not every ruler who is entitled by his position to object to the passage of armies. The scruples of the weaker Ameers of Scinde, and of the Khan of Khelât, the principal chieftain of Eastern Beloochistan, though not less natural, were less complacently regarded. The former, who had previously promised supplies, assistance, and carriage, were, on our arrival in their country, found to regard the advance of the army with hostile feelings, which were more than shared by the fierce Beloochee tribes who acknowledged their dominion. It is even said that large sums of money were distributed by them among their undisciplined followers, assembled in thousands along the Indus, to prevent their attacking the British army. For a long time they refused to subscribe the new treaty tendered for their acceptance, large as it was in its demands, and equivalent to a renunciation of independence. At length, under immediate apprehension of an attack upon their capital by twenty thousand men, they agreed to forward by all means an expedition, of which the immediate effect would be to restore them to their former dependent position upon the monarch of Cabool, to pay a large sum of money as instalment of tribute due to Shah Soojah since 1805, and to cede the fort of Bukkur, the key of the Lower Indus, to be permanently occupied by a British garrison. Ten months before this occurred that conversation between Captain Burnes and Dost Mahomed, in which "I referred him to Scinde as an example of the advantages of British connexion;" five years later that connexion reached its climax, in perhaps the fiercest battle ever fought in India, resulting in the captivity of the princes of the land, and the occupation of its capital; and now, as we learn, in its permanent annexation to our empire.

On the subject of our dealings with Scinde, in 1839, we have read Captain Havelock with painful astonishment. That officer, who "records, not without a sentiment of national shame and humiliation," that our original demand on the Ameers was in

direct violation of a treaty entered into with them only a few years earlier, who styles that demand "an expression of calm contempt, on the part of the British, for subsisting engagements," yet afterwards "ventures to think, that, after all, these deceitful rulers were dealt with too leniently," and speaks of the anticipated storm and plunder of Hyderabad, and the "blasted hopes" of the army, in consequence of a peaceful arrangement, in the spirit of a disappointed Mahratta plunderer. We solemnly assure our readers that the page in Captain Havelock's work, which anticipates the storm of Hyderabad, is headed "Golde. Prospects," that the page which records how Hyderabad came not to be stormed, is headed "Prospects Blighted;" that each page is like to its heading, and that we have been able to discover no trace of irony. Is this the natural tone of a British officer? or is it the case that injustice on the part of rulers leavens the whole mass of those whom they employ with.a corresponding leaven of iniquity?

After passing through Scinde, the route followed by our army led them through the parts of Eastern Beloochistan, subject to Mehrab Khan of Khelût-a name of deep significance to the student of the Affghan war. That chieftain, or his predecessors, had been, like the Ameers of Scinde, feudatory to the crown of Cabool, but for the last many years they had possessed. both virtual and nominal independence. In 1834, Shah Soojah, flying from the consequences of a defeated attempt to recover his dominions, took refuge in the territories of Mehrab Khan, of whom he was demanded by his pursuer, one of the Barukzye chieftains of Candahar. Mehrab Khan had the generosity to refuse to give up the fugitive, and the Barukzye the generosity to applaud the refusal, saying, that "Mehrab Khan acted like a good man." Shah Soojah had now an opportunity of showing his gratitude to the man to whom he was perhaps indebted for liberty and life, and he did so characteristically. On understanding that Mehrab Khan demurred to the passage of the army, he wrote to him, reminding him that Shah Nawaz Khan was now in his camp; this Shah Nawaz Khan being a shoot of the ruling family of Khelât, and a legitimate pretender, with pretensions about one hundred years old, to the throne; whom the English afterwards actually set up on the death of Mehrab Khan, and maintained for a few months. In any estimate of the character of our protegé, Shah Soojah, this incident ought not to be forgotten.

Sir Alexander Burnes, who was more than once at Khelât for the purpose of conducting the negotiation for the supply of provisions and carriage with Mehrab Khan, has recorded some of his conversations with the chieftain. The Khan's remarks upon the dangerous impolicy of our conduct, by which, though we might set up Shah Soojah, "we could never win over the



Affghan nation," indicate far more judgment and shrewdness than he receives credit for from Mr. Masson, who considers him an imprudent, though by no means treacherous, character. Once he is said to have used words of ominous prophecy: "You have brought an army into the country, but how do you propose to take it out again?" Ultimately, after showing much reluctance, Mehrab, as the historian of the Bombay Times says, "promised plentifully, as most Oriental, and many European, princes, under these circumstances, would have done; trusting that the chapter of accidents would enable him to evade, or release him from a treaty which was acceded to under fear or constraint."

As might have been expected, these promises were little regarded; probably it would not have been in Mehrab Khan's power to perform them, whatever had been his intention. But the distress of the army, in consequence of their non-performance, seems to have been fearful; even before the main division of Bengal, estimated, with the camp followers, at little short of one hundred thousand men, entered the tremendous pass of the Bolan, the non-combatants were reduced to half rations. A vivid idea of the nature of the march may be gained from Dr. Atkinson's sketches of the scenery of this pass; the deep and narrow split in the hills, where the precipitous cliffs, inclining towards each other as they run up, and, nearly meeting at top,

"Forehead to forehead hold their monstrous horns."

Half-way up, a wild group of Beloochees are perched in a cleft peering and pointing their matchlocks over the ledge at the invading column; some adventurous Sepoys are scrambling up the rocks to some "coin of vantage" from which to assail the plunderers; while the long line of march, men, horses, and laden camels, is toiling on painfully below. During the advance of seventy miles along that terrible chasm, their losses in baggage and provisions were great, owing to the difficulties of the route even more than to such predatory attacks; and the Bombay column, when following some weeks later, found the track marked by the dead bodies of horses, camels, and marauding Beloochees, who were invariably dealt with according to the order that "no prisoners were to be taken." Yet they were never attacked in force. An intercepted letter to a hill chief, written, whether by Mehrab Khan, or, as Mr. Masson thinks, by his treacherous minister without his knowledge, contains the following expressions:-"What is the use of your treaties and your arrangements? all child's play. There is no relief but in death: no cure but in the destruction of the English. Their heads, goods, and bodies must be sacrificed. Strengthen the Pass. Call on all the tribes to harass and destroy." Had this fierce but not unwise counsel been heartily followed; had

Mehrab Khan combined with the chiefs of Candahar for the purpose of resolutely opposing the advance of the English, there seems no slight probability that the invasion of Affghanistan might have terminated short of the frontier of that country. But the retribution which, perhaps, but for the disunion of our enemies, might have signalized the Pass of the Bolan, was deferred until it should be better merited;

"Until a day more dark and drear,

And a more memorable year"

should give to Khoord Cabool and Tezeen the fame of the slaughter of an English army.

Between Quettah and Candahar, shortly before entering the Kojuk Pass, the danger-not from the sword, but from starvation-was great. The camp followers were in a state bordering on famine; the men were dispirited, and desponding; speculations upon the necessity of a retreat were prevalent in the camp; but were put an end to by the spirited and judicious order of the Commander-in-chief, directing an immediate advance. Still beset by attacks, rather on their baggage and stores than themselves, losing very few men by the sword, but many by sickness and exhaustion, having had many horses shot to preserve them from dying by starvation, and almost all the rest unfit for duty, the harassed, half-famished, and diminished column struggled on to Candahar. The Barukzye chiefs of Candahar, deterred from resistance by the treacherous desertion of one of their most influential adherents, fled at the approach of the British army, and Shah Soojah entered unopposed into the second city of his dominions, where he was apparently well received-flowers and loaves of bread being strewed before him by his loving subjects; the latter of which demonstrations of respect would have been more to the purpose in the course of the march through the passes. He proceeded to constitute a court, hold levees, and perform other similarly important functions of sovereignty. For all such formalities he seems to have had a strong taste, diametrically opposed to the prejudices and principles of his Affghan subjects, accustomed to feel pride in the rude freedom and social equality which existed under the half-patriarchal, halffeudal, government of their chieftains. On the plain outside the city, surrounded by English officers, and the roar of English cannon, he was solemnly recognised as sovereign of Affghanistan. The whole ceremony was conducted according to theatric programme, assigning to every one his place; and, among others, a place to the "populace," whose exuberant loyalty was to be "restrained" by the Shah's troops. The performance went off well; but the part of Hamlet was omitted-the people were not there.

Advancing, after two months' delay, from Candahar, and still exposed to similar privations, the army arrived at length before

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »