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Wellington's Opinion of Political Agents. 427 The political agent to be of any service, must be in some degree independent of his military coadjutor ; and though doubtless this partition of power is well avoided, when, as may happen once twice in a century, an individual can be found uniting in his own person either such knowledge as we have described, or its only substitute, vast and comprehensive general talent, with the exact grade of army rank to entitle him to the command ; still, considering how rarely this can happen, the distribution is perhaps not so universally absurd as it is sometimes represented.
To illustrate our meaning, let us only look at the correspondence of Sir W. Nott, as given in the Article of the Quarterly Review. The gallant general was very probably fitted to fill the joint posts of military and political chief of the Afghan expedition. This double appointment, however, was precluded by his juniority to some other general officers in the field, to not one of whom would he himself, we suspect, have wished to see such a combined charge delegated.
It is true that the Government of India might have given the office of Envoy to Sir W. Nott; but then he would have become a political—the object of his own abhorrence and a butt to sarcasms as bitter, and very probably as merited, as those levelled by himself at the late Sir W. Macnaghten and his subordinates. Perhaps things might have been better managed by him than they were by Sir W. Macnaghten—but so they might have been by somebody else; and the circumstance of individual capacity does not touch at all upon the general question of the wisdom of separate political agency.
But we can give a very high authority for our view of the necessity for attaching a degree of independent authority to the post of political agent with an army, or in a newly conquered country. In that repertory of military and political wisdom, the Wellington Despatches, there may be found the following letter, dated 13th October, 1803, and addressed to a gallant officer who seems to have complained of his subordination to a political functionary.
“In this part of the world there is no power but that of the sword; and it follows that if those Agents have no authority over the Military they have no power whatever. The natives would soon find out their state of weakness, and the residents would lose their influence over their councils. It may be argued, that if this is the case, the Military Commanding Officer ought to be the Resident or Political Agent. In answer to this argument, I say, that the same reasoning applies to every part of the executive government; and that, upon this ground, the whole ought to be in the hands of the Military. In short, the only conclusion to be drawn from all reflection upon this subject is, that the
99 TL British Government in Iidia is a phenomenon, and that it will not answer to apply to it, in its present state, either the rules which guide other governments, or the reasoning upon which those rules are founded.”
Wellington Despatches, Vol. 2, Page 411...
Here we may quit this part of our subject, merely remarking that the illustrious writer of the above Despatch is, to the best of our recollection, the only individual to whom in Europe the full and undivided power of political and military administration has for a century past been delegated; while the only corresponding instance in India, that we can call to mind, was that of one who used to be styled the Wellington of the East-the late Sir David Ochterlony.
Returning from this digression to the consideration of the volume before us, we now propose to follow Mr. Thornton's parrative in its bearing on political transactions, to the exclusion, in as far as possible, of all purely military matter. The account of our political relations with Persia and Afghanistan from the beginning of the century to the breaking out of the war in the latter country is, with partial exceptions, clearly as well as concisely given by Mr. Thornton. There is little in this passage of our history to be contemplated with satisfaction. The whole scheme of subsidizing Persia, and so making the Persians think that we were paying them to defend us, was faulty, and betrayed an ignorance of Asiatic character; while is
“Suspicion must have slept At Wisdom's gate, and to Simplicity
Resign'd her charge," when, in 1814, we, to please our Russian allies, persuaded the Court of Persia to engage to maintain no navy on the Caspian.”
The first of these errors was, perhaps, a natural consequence of the negotiations being conducted under instructions from the Ministry of the Crown, but the second looks rather like an act of infatuated fondness on the part of an individual, than of cold and measured friendship, such as alone can subsist between states.
Our author says nothing in explanation of Dost Moohummud's estrangement from us, and leaning towards Russia, although it is evidently in this mood of his mind that the origin of our expedition to Cabool is to be sought for.
We are told indeed that
:Shah Shooja twice unsuccessfully attempted to recover the throne from which Muhmood had been expelled ; but Runjeet Sing succeed
Russian Intrigue in India.
ed in wresting Peshawur from the grasp of the Rebel Chiefs, and an nexing it to his own dominions."--P. 123.
· This is stated as a separate insulated fact having no connexion with anything that followed; and yet, as we showed in our former article, the proof may be found in the first pages of the Afghan Blue Book, that Shah Shooja was permitted to form his little army at Lodiana in our territory, and to march out at its head in the winter of 1833-34, for the avowed purpose of attack
, ing the de facto ruler of Afghanistan.
If, as we believe, it was this conduct on our part that disposed Dost Moohummud to look for alliances in another quarter, a stronger instance can hardly be adduced, of the danger of swerving, however slightly, from the plain rule of open and fair dealing, with which no casuistry can reconcile the passive countenance given by us to this operation against a friendly, or at least a neutralpower. It is not known in how far Dost Moohummud was privy to the designs of the King of Persia, but these were directed against Herat, and professed to be limited to obtaining from Kamran, the Suddozye King of Western Afghanistan and nephew of Shah Shooja, compensation for certain real and undisputed injuries, of no great moment perhaps, but furnishing a fair plea for the hostile movement on which the heart of the former
had long been bent. That Persia was encouraged and prompted by Russia, in the claims she was so forward to press, is broadly stated by Mr. Thornton on apparently satisfactory grounds-p. 124 et seq. After two years spent in preparation, the movement against Herat was, as is well known, made in the summer of 1838, and certainly one more full of menace to our tranquillity in India was never undertaken. It was well remarked, as Mr. Thornton tells us, by the late Sir A. Burnes before the Afghan war began, and the remark continues true after its close, that there may be an extravagance of incredulity as well as of alarm, with regard to the designs of Russia in the direction of Hindostan. The chance of her appearing at Delhi has of course been absurdly exaggerated, but it is sheer folly to believe that all her subtle operations were without aim or object. Russia may be our very good friend, but what business, as Sir A. Burncs said, had she in Afghanistan ? “Vat shall de honest man do in my closet ?” said Dr. Caius. We know not what she intended, but we know what she effected, and that was a rousing and stirring up
of the Mahommedan mind in India to an extent imperceptible possibly to those who were not in the habit of personal communication with our subjects of that persuasion, but never 10 be forgotten by those who were. It was deep, intense,-sufficiently so to break throngh the restraints, not only of prudence
but of what is of more force in the East, conventional politeness and reserve. Verses in the Hindostanec language, not wanting in fire and spirit, and calling upon the votaries of Islam, of every class and rank, to lay aside their ordinary pursuits, and to gird up their loins for the approaching Juhad or Holy war, were lithographed at some undiscovered work-shop, and circulated far and wide. The lately emancipated Press was also turned to account, and the columns of the Persian newspapers in Calcutta were filled with articles of nearly the same inflammatory tendency. A result, little anticipated at the time of its liberation, was the discovery through this
channel, of some extraordinary proceedings at Kurnool in the Deccan, which, even to this day, remain enveloped in a degree of mystery. The ruling Nabob of this little principality was a zealous Moosulman, and his outward demonstrations of this spirit became the subject of such ardent encomium in the Persian newspapers, that attention was thereby drawn to the subject. An inquiry, set on foot by the Government of Madras, ted to the discovery of several hundred well-made pieces of field artillery, skilfully concealed under the soil of the great court of the Nabob's palace, and of a store of small arms and accoutrements laid up in vaults, sufficient for the equipment of an army of 50,000 men. A sharp skirmish, in which Lieutenant-Colonel Wright of H.M. 39th Foot, and several other officers were wounded, ended in the dispersion of whatever force the Nabob had collected, but neither entreaty nor threat could extort from him any explanation of the cause of an accumulation so disproportioned to the means of his little state. “ It was my fancy," was his only reply: "some men like to buy horses, some to buy books, and I to collect arms and military stores." He was deposed and removed to the Southern province of Tritchinopoly, where, as noticed by Mr. Thornton, page 324, he came to a remarkable and unlooked-for end. He who had been the cynosure of every Mooslim eye, listened to a Christian Missionary, was struck by what he heard, and began to frequent the Mission Chapel. While he was seated there one night a man rushed in, stabbed him to the heart, and escaped. The undiscovered assassin was believed to have been one of his followers, shocked at his incipient apostasy ; but there may have also been a prudential motive for making away with one who probably had much to disclose, and appeared to be wavering in his attachment to the faith of which he had só recently been the vaunted champion.
Such were some of the effects produced by the King of Persia's advance to Herat; and that Russia was accessory to that movement is proved by the presence of the envoy, Count Simonich, in the camp, and by his conduct, as stated by Mr. Thornton, page 138, in advancing money to promote the enterprise,
Russia's concurrence is also to be inferred from the strong facts of a Russian battalion having served under the wily alias of Polish deserters at the siege, and of a Russian general having, as we have heard, been killed in the trenches. Had Herat been taken, the Persian force would have rolled on to the Indus, leaving Russia established in power, in its rear.
“ How shall I describe, or what shall I say of the vast armies of Russia ? Herat is the first object of attack, and then the intention is to advance against the English possessions in Hindostan." These are the translated words of a letter printed in a Persian newspaper in Calcutta, and may assist our readers to estimate the extent of the danger to our peace, involved in the fall of that town and fortress.
How was this peril averted ? How came this important place, assailed as it was by the united force of an Asiatic and a European despotism, to be preserved from becoming the advanced base of a series of hostile demonstrations against our empire in India ? It is useless to seek for a reply in the volume before us, where
, an incidental allusion at page 161 is the only notice bestowed upon what we consider to be, not only in its attendant circumstances, the most striking, but in its consequences the most important event of any that preceded our occupation of Candahar and Cabool. We must endeavour to fill up this strange blank in Mr. Thornton's tale.
The siege was raised, partly in consequence of the alarm caused by an exaggerated report of the strength of an expedition fortunately detached from Bombay during that season to take possession of the island of Kurrac in the Persian Gulf. Even the Russians were startled by this well-timed move, and some of their officers in Persia are said to have expressed their surprise at such promptitude on the part of England, "the unready.” They forgot that India is not governed precisely upon the model of the mother-country, and that a Governor-General enjoys a freedom of action unknown in Downing Street.
"The detachment on the island consisted only of native troops from Bombay, or “rotten Hindoos," as the King of Persia called them in his wrath, when he discovered how inferior to what he had been led to believe, was the force which had contributed to divert him from the attack of Herat. But there was another cause for his failure in that enterprise : a causé passed over in silence by our author, although it might have been made the subject of a sketch, to form a pendant to his animated description of the defence of Vandewash, by Lieutenant Flint in 1781. Liettenant Eldred Pottinger of the Bombay Artillery, a nephew of the present distinguished Governor of the Cape of Good Hope,