Conquest has ever been the easiest and most frequent of man’s achievements—the consolidation and administration of conquest the most difficult and least successful effort of his genius. It has ever been easier to win empire by the sword, than to establish it by the law of order and government—easier to enslave the body than subject the will—to enforce submission to the conqueror than obedience to the legislator. It is common to man to recognise the action of force in the destroying agencies of fire and sword, and to yield to the might of the stronger hand the possession and subjection which make the law of conquest; but he will not so readily accept or acknowledge a legislation, the principles of which conflict with the customs, laws, and religion of his race. The supremacy of might is a practical thing. The supremacy of government has to contend with all the differences which divide man from man, tongue from tongue, nation from nation, creed from creed. The conquerors are often the few, the conquered the many; they are generally aliens in blood, strangers in feeling, and though a warlike spirit may obtain superiority in the battle, it is hard for one man planted here and there amid a mass to stamp out the marks of ages, and impress instead his own image and superscription. It has been easy to organise a conquest, to divide it into satrapies, to erect systems and form corporations; but the amalgamation of feelings, beliefs, customs, languages, literatures, and nationalities, which can alone constitute an united state betwixt victors and vanquished, is a thing which the world seldom witnesses. Our own land furnishes the most perfect instance. Genius has failed again and again to effect this fusion. The universal sovereignty of Alexander soon broke up into the old divisions of localities and race; so did the empire of Charlemagne; so did the kingdoms of Napoleon. Force has been still less successful. Wars of extermination and persecution have seldom made man conform to a creed which he denied, or customs he repudiated. The Romans adopted as the polity of their conquests, the incorporation of the conquered with themselves, according them rights and privileges, and granting them an heritage in the power and glory of the nation in which they were absorbed. This produced a certain amalgamation until the Empire outgrew itself, and the title of Roman citizen became rather a reproach than an honour. They had, however, struck the right key. The only principle on which conquest can be consolidated, is by that of a government which shall aim at raising the governed to the state of the governors; which shall respect their customs and religions; which shall rule them intermediately by laws made sacred through time- honoured usage; which shall inculcate civilisation by contact; and shall, by giving them community and individual interest in the welfare of the State, involve them in its prosperity and progress. Against this principle arises ever the belief, innate in most nations, that their own institutions are the best, and that their universal adaptation must be for the benefit of man. Thus the ox would fit his yoke on the racer, and the racer again would fain bit and saddle the ox.

Nowhere have all the phases of conquest been so thoroughly illustrated as in that vast tract which we call India. It has been the great stage on which the drama has been acted in all its successive scenes and acts. Conquests which have broken over its boundaries like an inundation, and receded, leaving only a debris; conquests which have rolled over it wave on wave, sweeping races on races, and laying them in layers like ribs of sand on the sea-shore, mixed with weed and shell; wars of annexation, wars of spoliation, wars of dynasties, and wars of races, wars of creeds and intrigues—all have passed on and off the land, leaving their consequences and effects; yet in no time was the consequence or effect, consolidation of empire or amalgamation of race. War in its every shape, conquest in its every character, have been there exhibited, and as if it were destined to witness their phenomena as well as their wonted courses, there also was produced a novelty in conquest, an anomaly in empire. Invaders with vast hordes at their back, rushing over countries, toppling down thrones, dynasties, and peoples, and establishing a government of force—a dominant race fixing themselves by the sword, and ruling from a centre by lieutenants, satraps, and deputies, by soldiers, taxation, and prestige—an enlightened despot giving to despotism its best form by organised laws, order, and justice, were things often repeated in the annals of mankind. The Mahmouds, Tamerlanes, Babers, Acbars, and Nadir Shahs were representatives of systems of conquest, and systems of empire, which the world had often witnessed. But it was new to the traditions of the land—new, perhaps, to the history of man—to see a small band of traders—pedlars with their packs—who, at their first coming, bowed humbly at musnuds, and licked the dust at the feet of rajahs and omrahs, asking for a small space to spread and store their wares, for harbouring their ships, growing gradually, by the force of necessity, into soldiers and legislators;—now wielding the ell-wand, now the sword;—now prescribing treaties, now entering bills of lading; then becoming, by the stern destiny of advance, conquerors and annexors of kingdoms, and, finally, masters of the land, building up, stage by stage, and story by story, a Babel of empire, which towered above and overshadowed the grand old dynasties and magnificent institutions of the past.

It is the moral of the old story in the Arabian Nights, of the fisherman who found a vessel sealed, and on opening it there issued a thin smoke, which expanded into the vast presence of a genie, filling all the surrounding space.

Thus novelty in conquest, this anomaly in empire, was the British power in India. How it arose, and how it grew, are questions of deep import now—now that it is becoming a problem how it shall be maintained and confirmed. History opens suddenly on India. We look upon it when it first appears as geologists suppose one might have looked on the world during one of its stages of creation, covered with vegetation and moving forms of life, and see it in no crude state of barbarism or confused tradition, but rejoicing in richness of luxuriance and ripeness of civilisation. From the boundaries of the Indus and the Himalaya to the sea-shores of its peninsula, we see a vast area watered by mighty rivers, and divided by gigantic mountain- ranges, gorgeous in its character, grand in the vastness and proportion of its features, glorious with sunshine, rich in all the forms of animal and vegetable life, various in its climates, and almost universal in its production. On the broad plains, along the banks of its rolling streams, on the table-lands of its grand hills, by the sides of its thick jungles, and by the shores of the ocean, are settled a race of men high in their characteristics, and advanced in polity and arts. So advanced, indeed, that they ranked with the Hebrews, Egyptians, and Chinese as the great primitive civilisations. Nature had prescribed for their country a geographical unity with grand boundaries; but the minor divisions of localities, and the influences of climate on habits of life and thought, had broken them into sovereignties and sects, though they still owned a common origin for themselves and their creed. From the conception of this origin sprang a religious and social system peculiar and remarkable even among the old faiths and polities—remarkable for its character and influences, and for the vitality with which it has existed amid the vicissitudes of conquests and internal revolutions, the contact with other races, and the effects of time; and which now offers itself as a resisting element to progress and amalgamation. It stands before us as a memorial of the primitive ages, and looms onwards as a dark cloud in the future. This system, which gave to social distinctions the sacredness of religious ordinances, was the well-known (though not well-understood) institution of castes. It would seem superfluous to describe an institution so frequently discussed, were it not that its operation on the present, and its bearings on the future destinies of our Indian Empire give it a grave import; and that in its peculiar nature and action may be found a clue to much that has been hitherto difficult and mysterious in the people whom we govern. This institution divided mankind arbitrarily into four classes, all separate, and differing in rank, degree, and privileges; and asserted as its principle, that this division emanated from Deity itself. There was the first or superior class, to whom was attached a holiness which was supposed to place them above the common laws of humanity. These issue forth, ‘twas believed, from the mouth of the god, and were the expression of his will and wisdom, and to them was intrusted the interpretation and legislation of Divine laws. They were the Brahmins, the hereditary priests, judges, and legislators, who alone had access to the holy books, and to whom was attributed a sanctity and precedence which placed any one of the order, however low his office might be, above kings, princes, or civil dignitaries. From the arm, the limb of might, came the Kshukuas, the representatives of power, the warriors, the rules, the executors of law and order. The Brishyas, the artists, artisans, traders, agriculturalists, sprang from the thigh, and constituted the order of industry and skill. From the foot, the lowest member, crawled the Soodras, the hewers of wood and drawers of water, the diggers and delvers, the men whose destiny it was to serve their brethren. Here we have a priesthood, an aristocracy, a middle and lower class—no uncommon ordination among men. But in the hereditary transmission of a class, in the inviolable maintenance of its privileges and distinctions, we see a principles which has seldom been long adhered to in the polities of the world. The same distinctions have often existed, but they have generally been established by circumstances, and been open to change and competition, and been attached to position. The king was king in rank and authority; the noble was noble in station and precedence; the trader stood according to his grade; and any man rising from one class to the other would assume the superiority of the grade which he had attained. The system of caste fixed at a man’s birth the class to which he and his were to belong for ever. No circumstance, no individual energy or act, could change his destiny. Crime might degrade him, but no merit could raise him. The law of caste did not (as is often supposed, and as it did in the polity of Egypt) restrict men to their hereditary pursuits, but it enacted that the distinction should cling to him, whether king or menial. The Soodra might, and did, especially in the latter days, attain power and sovereignty, but he was still a Soodra. The lowest Brahmin beggar would despise him as inferior, and refuse to eat with him, or sit on the same mat. It is hard to conceive how men ever acquiesced in a classification which doomed many of them to perpetual degradation, except by supposing that it was enforced at a time when conquest had placed inferior races in subjection to a dominant one, and that it was afterwards interpreted to posterity as the ordinance of their religion, and the law of their god. One other cause which led to its preservation was, that each caste had its rights, and that even the lowest was considered superior to any other race or people. The Hindoo Soodra regarded himself as a being more favoured by the Deity than the Mohammedan conqueror who slew his cattle, burnt his shed, and drove him to the woods.

This institution was reflected, also, on the civil polity as well as on the social relations of life. It originated a constitution similar to the feudalism of the middle ages, save that it was more simple in its conditions. The village or municipality was the first element; over this reigned a Thakoor as lord, who was responsible for its rule, order, and taxation; then, again, there were lords of ten villages—a hundred—a thousand—and at the head of all was the sovereign, the great feudal lord, the holder of the great fief. From those immediately below him he demanded the conditions of military service and taxation, and they again exacted them from those next in gradation; so that the will and necessities of the State passed on link by link through the chain of society until they reached the ryot or cultivator. The government was chiefly local and municipal. The chief or potail of each village superintended its affairs, regulated the police, and collected the revenue. The inhabitants saw or knew little of any authority save his; recognised no administration save that which emanated from him; and felt no laws or interest save those appertaining to their own localities. The few square miles of land about them made their country and their nation. The municipal system was perfect in itself; and though the isolation it produced gave it a permanence amid the change of dynasties and the succession of feudal masters, yet it tended to break down nationality, and destroy the community of race.

Beside and above the king, amid noble, trader, and serf, moved the Brahmin, holy and supreme, the intercessor betwixt God and man, the custodian of the sacred books, the interpreter of them, the councillor of princes, without whom no law or edict could be passed; himself absolved from the obligation of law; his person sacred, and his power unlimited. That a class endowed with such power by virtue of hereditary descent, and not from any sacerdotal fitness or from superior learning, should endeavour to maintain a system by which they profited so largely, was natural; and that such a system could have been perpetuated through so many ages only by basing it on religion and superstition, we know from our experience in human error. Even by such means an institution so repellant to the natural development and aspirations of man could not have been conserved, had it not been somewhat suited to the nature and condition of the people on whom it was imposed. The natural effects of an institution which ignored the natural and moral differences of man, and substituted for them arbitrary and superstitious distinctions, were to repress all emulation and enterprise, all energy and progress, and reduce men’s minds to an abject and passive state of apathy and stagnation. The municipal polity, acting with caste, by narrowing the sympathies and interests, and by confining man’s thoughts and hopes to his own small community, also begot a low tone of morality; nor did a religion of forms, customs, pilgrimages, and penances, a religion sensual and metaphysical, tend to incite moral or intellectual development. Thus we find that the Hindoos, though exhibiting a certain refinement, a certain excellence in the arts, and certain passive virtues, were never capable of a great national effort, never able to achieve greatness as a people, or maintain their empire as a nation.

Such was India—such the Hindoos, when the Greeks saw it and them. The pomp of its kings, the polity of its peoples, and the mysticism of the religion, were even to them a wonder and a speculation. The Greeks and their conquest became a tradition. Several shocks of invasion followed, but the empire remained intact. Solar and lunar dynasties, descendants of the sun and the moon, succeeded each other and exercised a nominal sovereignty over the whole land, though even then the geographical divisions had led to the formation of separate races. These divisions, with little alteration, have existed through all the changes, and correspond, in some measure, with our Presidencies. In the district between the desert and the Vindaya hills lived and rules the Rajpoot princes, the purest and highest branch of the Hindoo race. In the Deccan, enclosed by its hills and its jungles, the Mahrattas grew into a confederacy of independent states and soldier tribes. In the south, and along the shores, the kingdom of Bizanagur existed almost in isolation, little disturbed and little affected by the primal conquests. In all these principalities, again, the feudal system acknowledged rajahs and territorial lords of different degrees.

The great movement and migrations of people directed on India and its kings an invasion, which was destined ultimately to make a greater impression, and introduce a more permanent change of rule, than had been felt since the Hindoos themselves were conquerors and settlers. This invasion impelled on the country the Mohammedan power. Sultaun Mahmoud, of Ghizni, was the forerunner and leader of the conquest. As the termination of his exploits he penetrated into India, defeated king after king, collected treasure, "waged war with men and idols," and though withdrawing after his incursions, yet leaving a foothold of dominion, which enabled his race to establish an empire at Lahore over several Indian provinces. Then the sceptre began to pass from the Hindoo. His race, though always numerically the inhabitants of the land, was never again the dominant one. There was ever after to be the foot of a foreign master on his neck. The northern hills and steppes ever furnished hordes of brave and barbarian people, ready to hurl themselves wherever wealth and weakness tempted them, and these temptations Hindostan ever offered. The wealth was in the hands of the few—the many had little impulse to resist invasions which found and left them with the same poverty and subjection. The loose organisation of feudal forces prevented, too, any great combination of the race or nation. An invader met merely the power of the locality on which his attack was directed, and one battle generally settled the supremacy. The Ghiznivid dynasty ran the usual course of Eastern destiny—grew, flourished, declined, and then fell before a younger and fresher power. The Affghans, or Patans, ever men of might and valour, were the next rulers. From Delhi as a centre they extended the sway of an alien race and the dominance of a strange religion even to the fastness of the Deccan. The faith of Islam overshadowed the creed of Brahm; the Koran was mightier than the Vedas. Mosques rose in the place of or beside pagodas; omrahs were lords instead of rajahs, and the Mohammedan was associated with the Hindoo as master and ruler. Renewed by constant inpourings of their countrymen, the Affghans long retained their vigour and vitality; but they yielded at last to the common fate; and divisions, anarchy, intrigues, assassinations—slaves becoming sultans, omrahs ruling their masters, robbers in the ascendant, the people suffering—showed that the time was come for another conqueror. He came in the person of Tamerlane, who broke with his hordes over the mountain-barriers like a torrent, and swept over the plains and valleys, conquering, slaying, robbing, burning, and devastating; and then passed back with his plunder, leaving only the shadow of sovereignty. The Patan dynasty survived even this shock, and lingered on through several successions, but effeminacy had fallen on the race, and dissolution on their empire. Lords and people, conscious of no restoring power in themselves, looked abroad for a master who should give them at least the security of power.

Such an one appeared in the Sultan Baber; a man born to the throne, but who, through the vicissitudes of fate, became an adventurer, a soldier of fortune, and then ended by achieving the most powerful empire Indian had ever known, and by establishing a dynasty which acted the most brilliant period of its history. Dominion, not plunder, was the aim of his invasion—the consolidation of empire, the object of his rule. Acbar, who, like his ancestor, had tasted of adversity, went beyond him in his policy, attempted the administration of conquest. He organised the laws and the revenue, "divided the country into soubahs or provinces, these again into circars, and circars into pergunnahs, and what each had and required was ascertained to the minutest district;" improved the arts; impelled industry; lightened taxation; and erected a despotism, which exhibited at the same time the strength and the beneficence of government. Though inferior in moral greatness, Aurungzebe followed the principles of his race; yet even amid the pomp and power of his splendid reign was seen the handwriting on the wall, which foretold the coming doom of the Mogul line. Even the wisdom, enlightenment, and valour of the house of Baber could not effect or secure stability of empire; and there must have existed in the Mohammedan rule and the Hindoo policy elements, which resisted and repelled state unity or the amalgamation of races. The closing scene of the Mogul power was dark and turbid with rapine and strife and bloodshed. The seeds of moral debasement, sown through many centuries of conquest and oppression, bore a deadly crop. The bands of society were loosed; law and order were extinct; the power of the ruler was a nullity; and nowhere did there exist any principle of cohesion or authority. Omrahs set up their own standards. In every province there was a smaller Tamerlane. Every man who had a horse and spear went forth to exact the right of the strong over the weak. Outcasts banded together as pillagers. The Great Mogul was bandied about from hand to hand; set up by one party, and thrown down by another; again set, and again thrown down,—a mockery, merely a pageant of sovereignty. Nadir Shah and other invaders passed over the land like avenging blasts, shaking yet more widely apart the disrupted atoms. Yet ere the end came there was to be a final struggle of races for the supremacy which neither had vitality enough to maintain. Ere the reign of Aurungzebe ceased, there appeared a new power on the arena. The Hindoos of Upper Hindostan, who lay in the highway of invasion, had seldom risen above a desultory effort of resistance, save when tempted by some time of weakness and degeneracy. But there were men born in the rugged hills and amid the wild fastnesses of the Deccan, nurtured in hardihood, and bred in the love of war, in whom the long pressure of submission had not deadened the spirit of soldiership. There were the Mahrattas, who, impelled by internal movement, or foreseeing that the shadow of the imperial sway was growing less and less, burst through their mountain-passes in swarms of wild horsemen, and swept over the plains of Central India. Their organisation was that of a military migration. The tribes were led by their heads, and all acknowledged a loose allegiance to a chief or Peishwa, who was of the pure Brahmin tribe. The famous Sevagee was their great chief and founder of their power. After they had progressed in their conquests, and turned their predatory inroads into permanent dominion, two leaders of the families of Scindiah and Holkar—one of the Soodra tribe of cultivators, and the other of the shepherds—became pre-eminent, and, through admitting the supremacy and reverencing the character of the Peishwa, were henceforth the real leaders of the Mahratta race.

As the Moguls declined, the Mahrattas advanced until they had surrounded the throne at Delhi with their armed bands. The Mohammedans, trembling for their supremacy, summoned Ahmed Shah to aid the cause of Islam. He came with his Duranees, a brave and conquering race, and around the same standard rallied the fierce Rohillas. These, with the Nawab of Oude, and other Mohammedan chiefs, stood in array on the field of Paniput; against them were encamped the Mahrattas, with their auxiliaries the Jâts, the Pindarees, and all the low castes and outcasts whom love of plunder had drawn to the war. The Hindoo and Mohammedan race stood face to face in battle-gage. The Mahrattas came as a population, with their wives, their children, their plunder, and their cattle; the Duranees as warriors, free and unencumbered. The battle was fierce and long, but the vigour and discipline of Islam prevailed, and the last chance of ascendancy was lost to the Hindoo.

From hence onwards the Mogul power swayed and tottered, until a master came to seize the fallen sceptre. It would seem superfluous to recapitulate facts and events so well known, were it not that it is on the past we must place the fulcrum by which we would move our future. "It is only by continually reverting to the past that we can hope for success in the future," says a high authority (Sir J. Malcolm). By studying the past of another race ruling over the same country and the same people, and by gathering the harvest of their experience, we may undoubtedly gain some interpretation of our present, and some lessons for the future, which open such a great and difficult path before us.

This period of Indian history closes upon us with the conclusion that neither in the Mohammedan nor the Hindoo system was found the vital principle which could consolidate so widespread a dominion, or extend a permanent empire over its peoples. The Hindoo system was essentially wanting in combination; when left to itself, it was ever the unbound bundle of sticks; there was no union, no cohesion in the parts. The Mohammedan, though more based on the science of government, though containing more elements of progress, and being continually refreshed by the inpourings of fresh impulses from master minds and master races, had not the vitality of endurance, and sank ever into effeteness and dissolution when no longer stirred by the incitement of conquest. From the dawn of its history up to this time, every fact in its annals asserts that the rulers of the land, the men who should evolve order out of chaos, were yet to come. The Mohammedans, like ourselves, were conquerors; they, like ourselves, had to contend against a diverse religion, against superstition and caste. The leading principle of their rule was the right of conquest. They had conquered by the sword, and they ruled by the sword. It was the symbol of their right and their might, and they kept it in their own hands. Everywhere and in everything they assumed a supremacy. Theirs was the dominant race; theirs the dominant power; theirs the dominant creed. The Hindoos, indeed, were admitted into place and power, and held high offices of state, but it was ever as agents of the ruling people. From the centre of the empire issued soubahdars and nabobs, all carrying with them into their districts the shadow of the throne. They were ready to respect existing ranks, states, and institutions, but they must be subordinate. Islam was to be paramount. Though agents of a proselytising faith, and guilty at times of savage persecution, they appear, on the whole, to have given the creed of Brahm a fair degree of toleration. It was toleration, however, not patronage. Such ceremonies and customs as were contrary to the dominant faith and the dominant laws, were repressed. They respected the civil polities and local institutions, and were content to collect their taxes and administer local governments by existing agencies. Their justice, though irresponsible often, and irregular, was quick and summary, free from the uncertainty and suspense of delay. The power of the sword they held as their own, and trusted it not to the conquered. In the days of their strength this principle was maintained in reality; in the days of their weakness they upheld the semblance of it. And the Hindoo ever bowed down to the reality, and kicked at the semblance. He never recognised or respected any other sign of a superior race than strength. How could one who hugged to himself the pretensions of caste respect any other? He felt that. Throughout his history we find the Hindoo ever the same—ever abject under oppression, submissive to power, rebellious and insolent to weakness; neither tyranny, nor persecution, taxation, nor subjection, could rouse him to resistance or rebellion; no advantages of justice or civilisation could ever win or attach him; but the instant that the sceptre grew light or wavering, he we ready to start up, to slay, to ravage, and spoil. The annals of the race prove the attributes of meekness and gentleness, so often ascribed to it, to be fallacies. The Hindoo was supple and humble ever when the strong hand was upon him, and the yoke pressed heavily on his neck; but in the hour of opportunity he would rush forth to lap blood like a tiger. Cruelty and love of torture were a nature grafted on him by his religion. Such were briefly the principles of Mohammedan rule, though seldom wholly asserted or carried out; and such would seem to be reasonably adapted for the domination of a conquering over a conquered race. But principles require a fitness in their execution as well as in their adaptation—a fitness and a power; and in these the Mohammedan failed. Wherein they failed, and how they might succeed, it will be for us to consider when we compare them with our system.

With the decay of the Mogul power came the exhaustion of the warrior conquerors. The great tribes had expended or diffused themselves, and were no longer hanging around in hordes ready to prey on India’s weakness.

Meanwhile, amid the turmoil of invasions and the changes of dynasties, there had been slowly and steadily advancing on the land another line—that of the merchant conquerors.

The wealth of India was ever the temptation to its conquest. The wealth of treasure, the Koh-i-noors, the peacock thrones, the elephant furniture, the jewelled idols, lured the warrior races. The wealth of produce, the spices, the gems, the ivories, brought the traders of the world, by all possible routes, to the land where such things could be bought. The dominant races of the East were ever, for a time at least, the masters of the country. The great merchant city of the age ever possessed its commerce. Whilst the inrush of soldiers passed over mountain-barriers and across rivers, from Tyre and Alexandria, from Genoa and Venice, in succession, came small bands of traders by the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, by inland seas and rivers, by caravan routes and deserts. The difficulties of the way daunted them not, but they circumscribed their numbers, prevented settlement, and compelled them to come and go as traffickers merely in the more precious commodities. The enterprise of discovery opened the route by the Cape of Good Hope, and the sea because henceforth the great roadway of commerce, and the maritime nations gathered round the land to fight for and over it as their prey. The Portuguese, as discoverers, were the first settlers, but their lust of empire made their aggression premature, whilst the native powers were in their strength, and able to repel and crush it. The Dutch came next; and then the English merchants, anxious to share in the profits of Eastern traffic, sent forth their ships. The adventurers of the age went with them, half traders, half buccaneers, with bales in their holds and culverins on their decks, with swords by their sides and invoices in their desks, ready to fight or trade according to circumstances.

The dangers and perils to this trade, from the hostility of rivals and the opposition of the natives, and the inadequacy of individual capital for such extensive speculations, suggested combination. A body of wealthy merchants consequently petitioned Queen Elizabeth that they might be formed into a corporation, with exclusive powers and privileged, for the purpose of carrying on the trade with India. On the 30 th of December 1600 a charter was granted to them under the title of "Governors and Company of Merchants trading tot he East Indies." The sign-manual constituted a corporation of merchants. It was little foreseen at the time that it was also inaugurating a great power, and that the nation was thereby accepting for its posterity a vast empire and a gigantic responsibility. By this charter the Company was to be directed by a governor and twenty-four directors, nominated at first by the Crown, and afterwards to be elected by the body of proprietors; and in them, their sons when of age, their apprentices, servants, and factors in India, was vested the privilege of an exclusive trade "into the countries and parts of Asia and Africa, and into and from all the islands, ports, towns, and places of Asia, Africa and America, or any of them beyond the Cape of Bona Esperanza or the Straights of Magellan, where any traffic may be used, and to and from every of them."

The general assemblies of the Company were empowered to make laws and regulations for the conduct of their concerns, and to inflict punishments, which should not be at variance with the laws of the realm; to purchase lands without any limitation, and to export goods free of duty for four years. This charter was granted for fifteen years, the Crown reserving the right of resuming the grant should it not prove advantageous to the country. Some years after, it was made perpetual.

Such was the beginning of the government which has spread over 1,370,000 square miles, over 160 millions of subjects, and which it is now taxing all our energies to confirm, and concentrating all our thought to reconstitute and re-form.

With such powers the first fleets sailed, but the want of settlements and forts for the protection of their servants and property was soon felt. Embassies were sent to Delhi, imperial permission was obtained, and factories were established at Surat, Cambay, &c. The Company then stepped from the position of buyers and sellers to that of territorial possessors. Fortuitous circumstances favour their plans of acquisition. A physician cures the favourite daughter of Shah Jehan the emperor; in gratitude is granted the right of free trade, which he cedes to the Company, and by which they are enabled to erect a factory at Hooghley, and found that settlement in Bengal which has since proved the source of their greatness and prosperity. The king, Charles II, gets the isle of Bombay as a dowry with his wife, hands it over to the Company, and here again another factory arises. In 1636 a settlement had been effected also at Madras. These factories soon grew into forts, the factors into governors, the clerks and servants into soldiers. Thus, in little more than half a century from its institution, we find this corporation of merchants firmly planted at three points of the great empire of India. And strangely enough, these points, though chosen with a view to commerce as the harbourage of ships, were those best adapted for the military occupation of the country by a maritime power. Placed in central parts of the three great divisions of the country, they formed bases of defence and aggression for men whose great base was the sea, and gave them a power of commanding separately the peoples and states which occupied these territories.

Thus the Company goes on for years, suffering vicissitudes of success and prosperity. A rival company starts up, and, after some run of competition, is incorporated with the old under a new charter, "by which the courts of directors and proprietors were regularly constituted, and their respective relations and duties clearly defined." The three factories were created into Presidencies, governed under the directors by a president and council, and at each was established a judicial court of a mayor and nine aldermen, empowered to decide in civil cases of all descriptions, and having jurisdiction over every offence save high treason. Thus judicial rights follow territorial and political assumption.

"It is fair to state," says Sir J. Malcolm, "that while we find, in the first century of the history of the East India Company, abundant proofs of their misconduct, we also discover a spirit of bold enterprise and determined perseverance, which no losses could impede, and no dangers subdue. To this spirit, which was created and nourished by their exclusive privileges, they owed their ultimate success. It caused them, under all reverses, to look forward with ardent hopes to future gains; and if it occasionally led them to stain their fame by acts of violence and injustice towards the assailants of their monopoly, it stimulated them to efforts, both in commerce and in war, that were honourable to the character of the British nation."

It is not our purpose to pursue this history, nor to recount the well-known fact, how the French and ourselves struggled long for supremacy in the Carnatic; how, after severe and doubtful contests, it was secured to us by the valour of the Clives, Lawrences, and Fordes; how these contests drew us into alliances and treaties with native powers, and involved us in the web of Eastern policy; how our power and our existence were threatened in Bengal, how they were preserved by a great soldier at Plassey, and afterwards expanded and perpetuated by the wisdom and firmness of a great statesman. Our object is rather to trace the growth of the policy which created our present system, and this will lead us to the period when, as territorial lords and under a fresh charter, the Company began to take a different position, and assumed a place among the sovereignties of the land. Our Indian system—the political and the military—sprang from two men of genius. Clive was first Commander-in-Chief, Warren Hastings the first Governor-General. In them originated the principle of holding subject and ruling the conquered country through itself. But it must be remembered ever that these men adopted their respective systems to meet great emergencies. Clive wanted men to meet the masses opposed to him. Europeans were few, and with the ready genius of a soldier, he seized on the most available materials. Next to Europeans, natives, under European discipline, were the best resource. The natives of India he knew to be destitute of national feeling—to be ready to attach themselves to the strongest power, to be susceptible of subjection to superiors, and alive to the advantages of high pay. Out of such materials he believed it easy to raise a force which, under right discipline, and inspired by the prestige of success, would give a numerical and physical support to his British battalions in the field against native enemies. The principle of his organisation—and it must be the principle of all conquerors ruling by the conquered—was to give the Sepoy in the British ranks, and under British pay, a status and a feeling higher and better than he could enjoy in his own social state, and to make him feel that the prestige of the superior race was resting on him. This principle, upheld by the strong men of his school, and whilst the system was fresh from his hand, sufficed to create a military body, faithful and efficient, out of the population of conquered provinces; but it was one which must fail the instant that any influence paramount to the soldier spirit was allowed to prevail, or that the rigour of discipline and subordination was relaxed. It depended on the impress of our supremacy, and on this impress being made deep and lasting. This military system was the best which could be adopted at the time, and with the disposable means. That it has effected so much and endured so long was a proof in itself of the genius of its creation. That he intended it to be so extended or so trusted is very doubtful.

The political system, like the military, was one of necessity and expediency. It grew naturally out of our position. The protection of trade had necessitated occupation; self-defence had made it military. Self-defence, based on armed occupation of a foreign territory, begets, as a matter of course, interference and aggression—is in itself agression. From the moment that the Company cast off the character of mere traders, and became legislators, soldiers, and territorial rulers—from the instant that they mounted a gun on their forts, enrolled armed bands, made laws, accepted jaghires of lands and villages, and collected revenue—aggression became a destiny. It impelled them onwards and onwards, leaving them no alternative save progressive conquest or expulsion and annihilation. The hostility of foreign rivals first gave action to their self-defence. The alliances with native polities, compelled it to be aggressive. The directors and government of the Company accepted this destiny reluctantly. War and conquest interfered with mercantile profits. The lure of revenue and the illusion of wealth, raised by the fortunes which their servants made, tempted them for a while; but these were soon found to be fallacies, and they fell back on the old policy of non-interference and non-aggression. The discrepancy between the will of the governors and the necessity which impelled their servants, gave a character of timidity and vacillation to their conquests. They shrank from the bold and open course of annexation, and adopted the expedient of protecting and subsidising. They placed their armies in the conquered provinces, their residents in the Council. They collected their revenues and dictated their policy, but left intact the throne and paraphernalia of royalty. They took the substance and left the shadow; grasped at the advantages and evaded the responsibilities of conquest; aimed at the power of state, and hung its duties on the shams and illusions of sovereignty. They sucked out the juice and the pulp, and left mere empty calibashes and dry gourds.

This intermediate system, this halting between the reality and semblance of conquest, has been the great and standing evil of our Indian rule. It has repressed the vigour of government, begotten a temporising and temporary policy, kept us alternating ever between force and conciliation, and led only to doubtful and unconfirmed results. In 1774, again, a change takes place in the constitution of the governing Company. The Court of Directors were henceforth to be elected for four years; the qualification stock was raised. A supreme court of judicature, consisting of a chief and three puisne judges, was appointed by the Crown, with great and extended powers of cognisance over the civil and criminal jurisprudence of the subjects of England, their servants and dependants, within their territories in Bengal. A Governor-General and four councillors were appointed to Fort William, and vested with full powers over the other Presidencies. In this Council all matters were to be decided, and the opinion of the majority was to be decisive. Reports of their proceedings were to be transmitted regularly to the Directors, and from them to one of the Secretaries of State; and also copies of any rules and ordinations which they should have made, and these, if disapproved by the Crown, were to become null and void. Here we have great changes: the centralisation of the English power, the irresponsible authority of a Governor divided with a Council, and his acts and those of the Directors controlled by a Minister of State.

These were all steps towards sovereignty. The nation was identifying itself with the Company and their conquests. Warren Hastings was first Governor-General. This was an era in Indian history. He had before been Governor of Bengal. He found the system of aggression established, but existing feebly under pretences and subterfuges of vassalage and homage. Real masters of Bengal, the Company chose to rule under other names and dignitaries than their own. He saw that, amid the anarchy and confusion of a dissolving empire, the power which would stand must become paramount. It must be first or nothing. He saw that the English must either strike their flag, embark their stores, and abandon their possessions, or prepare to be the first and boldest among the combatants for empire. To stand still was to fall. He would not fall. To stand, it was requisite to extend the political and military system—to be adding more sepoy battalions to our army, and more territory to our dominions. The fair provinces of Bengal, of Bahar, Orissa, and Benares, were held in surer possession, and formed our dominion. The system worked surely and well. A district was required. It was made our ally. Then we subsidised it, and gave it an army; then we protected it, and seized the control of both power and purse; then, if expedient, we annexed it. Generally we left a pageant of royalty; and thus there sprang up a double government—the real and the seeming, the substantial and the shadowy. In such states there was a European, unattended by pomp or dignities, who directed the armies, regulated the finance, and administered the government; this was the reality. There was, again, the native prince, rejoicing in his robes of honour, his trains of elephants, his forms, his jewels, and his zenanas; this was the shadow. By just and by unjust means, by force and diplomacy, by vigour and expediency, did Hastings extend this subsidising and protectorate system, until the British stood prominent among the great powers of India. He did not originate the system, but gave it its most vivid action and development. If he left it as a destiny to posterity, he left also the vitality to fulfil it.

There were, then, three great powers in India: the British, numerically weak, but strong in combination, discipline, and resources; the Mohammedan represented by the Emperor of Delhi; the Mahratta, by the Rajah of Sattara and the Peishwa. These last were mere shades of defunct powers and dynasties, which appeared among the living as corpses do in the catacombs with their robes and their flowers—dead things wrapped in the externals of life. The two races owned but a seeming allegiance to their respective heads; their real strength lay in the detached kingdoms set up by Viceroys, Viziers, and Rajahs. The Mohammedan powers were the Nawab of Oude, whose possessions extended within forty miles of Delhi, but were under British control and superintendence; the Nizam or viceroy who held the Deccan, comprising part of Berar, the Guntorr Circar, and Hyderabad; the Sultan of Mysore, Hyder Ali, who, from a soldier, had become general and sovereign, and had erected himself a principality from the Eastern Ghauts to the sea. These were, however, divided by position and interest—had no general principle of cohesion or power of combination.

The Mahrattas were spread over all Central India. From near Delhi to the Krishna southwards, and from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea, along the line of the Nerbudda, their tribes held sway. They occupied at this time, with more or less of tenure, the principle part of Orissa, Malwa, Candeish, Bejapoor, the greater part of Ajmeer and Guzerat; and portions of Dowlahabad, Allahad, and Agra. The shaking of the nations had broken down with them the restrictions of caste, and the chiefs who founded their states were herdsmen and slipper-bearers. Guickwar, the goatherd, had planted his family and tribe at Baroda in the province of Guzerat. The house of Scindiah were "actual, sovereigns from the Sutlej to Agra"—were possessors of two-thirds of Malwa, and some of the finest provinces in the Deccan. That of Holkar ruled at Indore, and held domains in the Deccan, and a considerable part of Candeish. The Western Mahrattas professed to be under the Rajah of Poonah. The Bhonsla family of Nagpoor were chiefs of Mahratta tribes, and the wild mountain races who occupied the district of Berar. The Rajpoot princes, the representatives of pure Hindooism, were scattered in petty states over Ajmeer, subjectand tributary to the Mahrattas. Of the native powers the Mahrattas seemed most formidable. Their territory was most extended and concentric for attack or defence; but they had no unity among themselves. The independent chiefs had independent interests and ambitions. Their organisation was more suited to a foray than to permanent conquest; they knew not that to combine was to conquer—that to divide was to fall.

With all these powers the British came into collision. Viziers and Nabobs had tried our strength in Bengal; Hyder had swept the country, and appeared under our gates at Madras; the Mahrattas had risen hostility; every danger had threatened, every peril environed it; ruin had impended over it; yet at the close of the first era of our occupation it stood firm and ascendant.

The adventurous soldiers and statesmen who made this era, marked it with deeds of enterprise, energy, and endurance, which stir our blood with wonder and admiration, and also with many an act which conscience can only recognise as the results of stern necessity. In the beginning it exhibited "the strength of civilisation without its mercy," subjection without protection, aggrandisement without compensation; but, ere it closed, there had evolved out of the dark elements a wondrous fabric of order, justice, and power. It may not, it could not, leave in the country an impress of our faith, but it left the prestige of our strength. Clive and Hastings were representatives of this era. They were able, "thorough," relentless in purpose, sometimes unscrupulous in the use of means to an end; but they were strong, they were successful, they were resolute, and the Hindoo and the Mohammedan respected them.

A second era commences. Territorial acquisition had made us a State in India. The three little factories had grown into so many seats of empire. Power had begotten responsibilities, external and internal. Self-defence was involved in political relations, alliances, and the balance of power. This great change of position necessitated a change of government. The nation, alarmed by the past, and anxious for the future, came forward to interfere in an administration with was incurring for it a vast responsibility. The result was Pitt’s bill, passed in 1784, and amended 1786.

By this a new power was constituted—the Board of Control; consisting of six Privy Councillors, with a Secretary of State as President. These commissioners were to be appointed and be removable at the pleasure of the Crown, and were vested with a control and superintendence over all civil, military, and revenue affairs of the Company. The chief government in India was by this Act to consist of a Governor-General and three Councillors. The subordinate Presidencies were to be similarly governed, but were to be entirely under the rule of the Governor-General in Council on all points connected with negotiations with the country power—peace or war, and the application of their revenues and forces. Governors-General and Governors were also vested with the discretionary right of acting on their own responsibility in extraordinary cases, without the concurrence of their Councils. This Act, too, asserted strict neutrality as our policy, and declared that the pursuit of schemes of conquest was repugnant to the wish, honour, and interests of the British nation.

Lord Cornwallis was the first person intrusted with this form of government. To him it soon appeared that the neutral and moderation principle was impracticable, and inconsistent with our safety or our reputation. The native powers which had recognised our existence and place among them, looked upon us as a people who might become either allies or foes. These powers were all military despotisms, bound by no tie of policy save interest or ambition, and by no permanent principle of action. To be neutral with these was to be subject to their combination, or to the attack and hostility of any power which might become predominant among them. The balance of power became a political necessity to us. Lord Cornwallis found three States existing which might be brought into collision with us or with one another; and as these all bordered our different Presidencies, it would be fatal to look on their aggressions and policies with indifference or apathy. These were the Soubah of the Deccan, under the Nizam of Hyderabad—the kingdom of Mysore, under the Mohammedan adventurer and usurper, Tippoo Saib—and the Mahratta confederacy. The government of Mysore was known to be hostile to us, and the antagonism of the Mahrattas was ever to be expected. The Nizam became our safest ally. The alliance took the usual course towards him, and a subsidiary force was granted him. This was the first step. Henceforth we were committed to all the conflicting struggles and policies of Central and Southern India. Cornwallis encountered this responsibility boldly and firmly; and during his administration the Mahrattas were repressed, Mysore humnbled, the Nizam protected, and the British power exalted to the paramount rank in the eyes of the people of India. His successor adopted the conciliation and forbearance system; neglected our obligations; forsook our allies; stood aloof from all contests; suffered the Mahrattas to grow insolent and overpowering; and left the British name as low as it had been high and formidable before.

A witty writer says that, in the succession of our aristocracy, it has ever been the fate of one peer to spend, and the next to starve, in expiation of the excesses of his predecessor. So it would seem that it was the destiny of one Governor-General to aim at peace and economy, and for his successor to meet the consequences in expenditure and war. It was ever the effect of moderation and neutrality to accumulate around us complications and confusions, and to raise over us dangers which threatened our very existence. Such was the consequence of Sir J. Shore’s administration. Fortunately there came after him a man equal to the redress of the evils which had been created. He found, in addition to other dangers, a new enemy in the field. The French were carrying on negotiations with Tippoo; and in the Mahratta and Nizam territories they wielded the force of the armies which they had organised and disciplined. The schemes of to-day might be the plans of tomorrow. The danger was to be met, and ‘twas met vigorously. Tippoo was crushed; a Hindoo prince restored to the throne; the alliance with the Nizam was strengthened; the French influence destroyed. Success demanded further action. "There was no choice save to retreat or advance. The first of these courses offered a temporary exemption from present evils at the price of future security; the second led through difficulty and embarrassment to peace and prosperity." Lord Wellesley hesitated not which to adopt. The Mahrattas came next. They, through the ability of our generals, Lake and Wellesley, were beaten and subdued. The moderation system interfered to prevent their entire subjection, and checked the operation of the preventive principle, which might have at once settled a people whom it cost us expensive wars afterwards to overcome. The extension of the subsidiary system was his policy, "as it gave us an increase of force without an increase of expenditure, and gave us the most commanding military positions to secure the general peace of India." The Peishwa was by him included in it. The neutral system was fairly tried by Lord Minto’s government, and pronounced to be fallacious. Its advocacy by Directors and Boards of Control, and its rejection by the Executive authorities, proved the difference between theory and practice. The Marquess of Hastings gave it the coup-de-grace. Like Lord Wellesley, he felt that "the fame and prosperity of the British could only be maintained by its commanding influence and power." In pusuance of this sentiment, the Mahratta confederacy was utterly broken—its members subjected to the different degrees of the subsidiary and protective system—the Pindarees and other leagued bands of robbers were annihilated; and, to the great result of all, British supremacy was proclaimed; the British power declared "to be arbiter of all disputes, and the conservator of the general peace." From hence onwards the course of events is too well known to need record. The destiny of conquest swept on. Scinde was annexed, Gwalior subdued, the Punjab conquered, small states coerced, predatory tribes exterminated—until we reigned as sole masters within the great old boundaries of river, mountain, sea—over an area of 1,370,000 miles, and a population of 160,000,000 beings. And within that vast country, there existed not a chief or sovereign, a state, a people or tribe, which were not subject to us in dependence or alliance. Such was the mighty end of the small beginning in the few storehouses at Surat.

This Empire, acquired as it was by successive steps, and in spite of the will and wish of the conquerors, must exhibit many anomalies. The resistance itself to the destiny we had evoked would produce these necessarily. The temporising idea, which thought that every stage was an end, and every expedient a finality, impelled us "to the non-exercise of the commanding and paramount power we enjoyed," and thereby deferred the consolidation and administration of our conquest. This shrinking from the responsibility we had incurred, produced intervals of anarchy and confusion, which desolated the fairest provinces of the land; spread suffering among its peoples; and raised difficulties of fearful magnitude in the path of civilisation. An offspring of this temporising policy was the subsidiary system. It was based on the principle of making the conquest maintain itself, and was doubtless expedient at the time, when our direct rule would have required an exertion of force, a boldness of action, and an abundance of resources, which our nation and the times were not capable of. The system in itself was false and corrupt. It was an evasion of our duties as conquerors. It was a subterfuge—a weakness. It involved us in the petty policy and diplomacy of states, obstructed uniform or permanent forms of government, and introduced into the courts of native princes the deterioration of dependence, sloth, and luxury. It debased and unsettled the people, and gave bitterness to the humiliation of conquest, by parading the poor mockeries and shams of defunct dignities and powers before their eyes. The system was necessary—perhaps inevitable; "but like all other human arrangements, it bore within it the sources of its own decay, and required the application of corrective measures to obviate its natural and progressive tendency to dissolution."1

Another great anomaly was the native army. We were reigning mainly through native titles, and we were ruling by soldiers taken from the population. Conquest so established could be maintained only by the force of our opinion or the power of the sword. How had we aimed at securing either?

Our rule comprehends about one hundred and ninety millions. Of these, about one hundred and forty millions belong to the British territories, the remainder to the native subordinate states and foreign settlements. In this mass the Mohammedans are in the proportion of one to seven, and the reigning race is represented by about twenty thousand individuals, exclusive of soldiers. It must, therefore, be evident that the empire of opinion must depend on other than social influences and contact with a superior people; for, with all our pride of civilisation, we could scarcely expect that such a small body would leaven such a mass. It must arise from the acknowledged justice of our government—the beneficial effects of our rule, and its fitness to the wants and institutions of the people—and its superiority over any other to which they had been subject. It is thus, and thus only, that such a minority could expect to rule the many by their own will and choice. Is our government of India compatible with such a purpose, and such an end? Does it answer the great requirements of justice, security, and prosperity—of strength and permanence? We have already spoken of its nature and constitution. From the peculiarity of its origin there sprang a double and divided action. The legislative, and the administrative or executive powers were subject to different motives and influences. The legislative had in mind the profits of trade, and were guided chiefly by abstract principles in the adoption of measures and laws. The executive were impelled by the force of events—the exigencies of the time, and naturally formed their plans of administration on local experiences. This discrepancy was felt by the people in the delay and incompleteness of all schemes of improvement.

The legislative power was embodied in the Court of Directors, who decided on all questions civil, political, and military—who elected and could dismiss, subject to the consent of the Crown, Governors-General, Commanders-in-Chief, &c.—in the Board of Control, who revised all decisions and elections, and in the body of proprietors who were consulted on all financial changes. The administrative, or executive, comprised, as was stated, a Governor-General in Council—Governors of Presidencies—residents at the different courts, vested with duties and authorities according to the degree of dependency—a corps of civil servants, in charge of the revenue and judicial administration of the country. In 1813 the privilege of monopoly was withdrawn; and in 1833 the nation decided on the transfer, by the Company, of the Indian territory, in consideration of an equivalent payment by the legislature, and the continuation of the government of India to them, on these conditions, for twenty years.

The application of such machinery to a country fifteen thousand miles distant, and to a people entirely alien in habits, thoughts, temperament, and religion, was necessarily in many respects defective. Our courts of justice were little adapted to the usages of the land. They were too slow, too expensive. Their processes or principles were not understood of comprehended. They promoted litigation. Consequently these courts "were viewed as grievances by the higher classes, and not considered as blessings by the lower. To the latter they were hardly accessible from their expense, and nearly useless from their delays." Our mode of managing the revenue was also founded on hasty and mistaken notions of the tenure of property, and our fiscal system disturbed rights and usages which had existed before the Mohammedan conquest. In its general operation, however, our administration was beneficial and just. The private injustice, rapine, and extortion, which had characterised our first era of possession had been speedily and effectually repressed. Predatory bands were extinct; order prevailed; property was secure; prosperity and improvement were manifest. Seeing, in such a state, a consummation of our conquest—seeing no enemies without, and no danger within—we looked with complacency around us—folded our hands, and said—All is well. Suddenly there fell upon us a calamity, terrible as a curse, and fearful as a visitation of wrath—a calamity, at the thought of which the heart sickens and the blood curdles—at the hearing of which our children will grow pale. Our army—the sepoys whom we had disciplined trusted; who had eaten of our bread; had fought by our sides; had shared our prosperity and perils—rose in rebellion against us—not in the rebellion of men resisting wrong and asserting right, but in the rebellion of fiends and demons, wild with lust, ferocity, and bloodthirstiness. Dark as the world’s history is with crime and woe, they have made it darker still. Horrors, such as men have seldom perpetrated in cold blood, outrages on women and children, atrocities and cruelties devilish in their kind—murder, treachery, rapine, mutiny—have been the expression of their rebellion. Here and there a spark of heroism or flash of generosity gleamed through the blood-red episode, enough to speck, but not to lighten it.

Had the princes whom we deposed, the officials whom we displaced, the people whom we misruled, done this, we might have bowed our heads and said, "It is just—we have sinned." But these men—our servants—bound to us by allegiance and oath, to whom we have ever been true and faithful masters, where are their wrongs?—where their plea for vengeance? They have not a wrong, nor a shadow nor a tradition of a wrong. However our rule has fallen on other classes, to them it has been just, generous, and even gentle. To them our yoke has been easy, our hand light. And yet, for these murderers, ravishers, traitors, rebels, a maudlin cry for mercy and leniency has arisen! It has not come from the pulpit, where words of mercy under any circumstances might have been pardoned. The Ministers of God’s Word have told us, with the boldness of truth, that vengeance belongeth unto the Lord, and they have summoned us as His vicegerents in the land we rule—as delegates of His justice—not to suffer crimes which He has denounced to go unpunished. Murder is death by God’s law. Mutiny is death by the law of nations and the law of armies. All these men—mutineers and murderers—have forfeited their lives. We say not that all lives should be taken—that the extreme expiation should be demanded: the gallows is perhaps the worst sight a land can see: "hanging is perhaps the worst us a man can be put to." Nor do we advocate indiscriminate slaughter, ravage, or extermination by fire and sword. But we do say, that every man who has imbrued his hands with blood, or stood in the ranks of mutiny, should be seen no more in the land. None should be left to boast of their atrocities, or as records of the iniquities which have been inflicted upon us. Expatriation should be the lightest doom on those whose lives are spared. Other countries—the West Indies and the Cape—would gladly hail an accession to the labour-market. The doom, whatever is be, should fall with the speedy effect of retribution. It should come by law, but not through its delays and procrastinations. The assertion of our power demands this—the exercise of justice demands it. "Here the highest political expediency and purest justice are one."2

Many were the warnings of dangers to our Empire. Some pointed to foes without, some to hidden causes within; but no finger turned towards the quarter from whence the evil came. Great Indian authorities are alike in this. Munro deprecates the precaution of mixing European troops with sepoys to insure their fidelity. Napier, who has lately attained the dignity of a prophet, though engaged in repressing mutiny, again and again asserts his faith in the loyalty of the sepoy, and ridicules the idea of any apprehension of their combination on being massed. Their own officers to the last were confident, unsuspicious, and trusting, until the bayonets were at their breasts, and the bullets whizzing around them.

Many are the causes to which the catastrophe is attributed—the resentment of the people at the deposition of their princes—at the annexation of Oude, the fear of forced conversion, the superstitions of religion, the hatred of our rule, the machinations of the Mohammedans for a return to power. There must, however, be some relation between cause and effect; and from none of these causes do the effects naturally or probably belong, according to the facts and results. A Mohammedan revolution would have shown itself in the population; a rising against oppression would have manifested itself in the masses throughout the land; an assertion of the rights of native princes would have met with countenance from themselves. Yet nowhere are there signs of such movements or such feelings. The land, its princes, and its peoples, passively deny and repudiate it. All these causes may have aided the development and incited the extension of the mutiny; but in none of them is to be found its true origin according to the laws of probability and fact. If there be no clue in the present, we may find it in the past. Throughout their history the Hindoos have never risen in support of their princes—have never shown attachment to them, even when they claim it from legitimacy of rank and superiority of caste; the Mohammedans seldom. Oppression has never roused them; indignity, open and violent, to their religion, has only on one or two occasions stirred them to resistance; but both races, ever and at all times, have been ready to perceive and to use the opportunity of relaxed rule or declining power. Our Indian rule has of late relaxed. There were no immanent dangers, no trying difficulties, to incite the impulses or stir the energies, and apathy had seized on all departments—civil, military, and judicial. This relaxation was to the natives weakness; our conciliation, our moderation, our temporising policy, our toleration even, were to them signs of their coming opportunity. Where the weakness was most apparent, there demonstration was first made; and this was the Bengal army. Year by year the traditions of the Clives, Cootes, and Munros, had grown fainter among the sepoys; the example of the superior race from circumstances less and less impressive; the authority of their commanders more and more restricted: the interference of civil and central authority in the control of military power and discipline more manifest: their fanaticism more developed; the consciousness of their own power more and more decided; and, with the instincts of their race, they rose at the temptation of weakness. The discontent spread among other classes, and the plottings of the Mohammedans doubtless affected them; doubtless the influence of the Brahmins, who saw in the progress of our power the decline of their own, incited them; but these causes alone would not have prompted them to revolt. In the laxity of our rule and the suppression of our power were the true causes which led our soldiers to defy their masters, and prepared other classes to abet them. The history of the mutiny is well known—the details are in every mouth—they are graven deeply on some hearts. When our soldiers shall have stamped it out, and the work of retribution be finished, it will behove us to look solemnly and manfully at the future, and to address ourselves to the work before us—the consolidation and administration of our conquest.

How is this work to be done? Let us turn to the wisdom and experience of those who have studied and known the country and its people well, for maxims and leading principles. We quote from Malcolm, Munro, and Metcalf.

"For if, in the pride of power, we ever forget the means by which it was attained, and, casting away all our harvest of experience, are betrayed, by a rash confidence in what we may deem our intrinsic strength, to neglect the collateral means by which the great fabric of our power in India has hitherto been supported, we shall with our own hands precipitate the downfall of our authority. But that event is still more likely to be accelerated by the opposite error, which should lead us to disown our greatness, and, under an affected and unwise humility (ill suited to our condition), to pursue a policy calculated to discourage friends and give confidence to enemies, and in its consequences to involve us in those very wars and conquests which it pretends to disclaim.

"Between these extremes there is a mean which we must follow if we desire that our empire in India should be durable; and that mean must combine the unshaken firmness and dignified spirit of an absolute but tempered rule, with the most unceasing attention to the religious prejudices and civil rights of our Indian subjects. Their condition it must be our continual study to improve, in the conviction that our government, in the great scale upon which it is now established, cannot be permanent but by these means; and that it is not in nature that they should contribute their efforts to its support unless they are, by a constantly recurring sense of benefit, made to feel a lively and warm interest in its prosperity and duration."3

"There are two important points which should always be kept in view in our administration of affairs. The first is, that our sovereignty should be prolonged to the remotest possible period. The second is, that whenever we are obliged to resign it, we should leave the natives so far improved, from their connection with us, as to be capable of maintaining a free, or at least a regular government among themselves."4

"Our power in India is so strangely constituted, that unless we take advantage of all opportunities to increase our strength, we may meet some day with unexpected reverses, and have our power shaken. It is doubtful, I think, how long we shall preserve our wonderful empire in India; but the best chance of preserving it must arise from our making ourselves strong by all just means; not from an absurd system which would affect to look on with indifference at the increasing strength of others, and to trust for our existence to the unattainable character of unambitious, amiable innocence and forbearance.

"Let our policy be guided by justice and moderation, but let us take every fair opportunity of securing and aggrandising our power.

"Our power in India rests upon our military superiority. It has no foundation in the affection of our subjects. It can only be upheld by our military prowess; and that policy best suited to our situation in India, which tends in the greatest degree to increase our military power by all means consistence with justice."5

These practical observers and profound statesmen agree in the belief that our empire in India must be consolidated by power and administered by moderation. But we must consolidate ere we can administer—we must be strong ere we can be moderate. The empire of the sword must precede the empire of opinion.

The great principle of Indian rule must be strength. The past reveals it, and the present confirms it. Strength, open strength, the manifestations of which shall make patent throughout the land that we are a dominant and abiding race. This can be shown only by an absolute sway and undivided supremacy. We must be supreme, sole masters. The temporising policy must be abandoned. Its real vitality has been long extinct. We can no longer rule under the musnud. We have incurred the guilt of conquest, and now, before God and in the face of man, must boldly assume its responsibilities. The shams and puppetries of sovereignty must be swept away, and the real rulers must come forth. We must bury our dead. The annihilation of the native states and the deposition of native princes would doubtless excite the outcry of injustice and wrong. And towards the states and princes who have remained faithful, such an act would perhaps be a sin against faith and honour, which the direct necessity, much less expediency, would not justify. If, however, "policy and justice require that we should govern a considerable part of India through the agency of its native princes and chiefs, it is our duty to employ all our moral influence and physical power to strengthening, instead of weakening, these royal instruments of government. If compelled by circumstances to depart from this course, it is wiser to assume and exercise the immediate sovereignty of the country, than leave to such mock and degraded instruments any means of avenging themselves on a power who has rendered them the debased tools of its own misgovernment."6 We must elevate them in the eyes of their people; we must compensate them for the loss of splendour; we must rescue them from deterioration by making them the active agents of a beneficent and powerful rule.

To effect this there must be uniformity of system. "We must speak by our actions the same language to all ranks; till princes trembling for their sovereignty, chiefs doubtful of their continued independence, and all who dread farther encroachment, have their minds tranquillised by the steady contemplation of an uniform and consistent system of rule, instead of being disturbed and distracted, as they must be, by arrangements differing in form, if not in substance, in almost every province."7

In all things, however, as a first consideration, our supremacy must be manifest; our name and ascendancy supported; for our strength must not be even doubted. In the centre of the ancient states and races, under our immediate rule, must stand the palace, the citadel, the judgment-seat, the church, as signs that our state polity, our law polity, our military polity, our church polity, are supreme—are those of the dominant race. This, it may be said, will provoke and revive anew the dread of national subjection and conversion. Be it so. As long as we hold the land, we must be ever jarring with those feelings. It is better to meet them openly and boldly at once. We can never have a fitter time than now, when an overt act of revolt has challenged us to the issue, and given us the plea of re-conquest.

Such supremacy must be supported by a strong Executive. The chief who is to rule such an Empire must have great and extended powers, and he should have freedom and opportunity to exercise them. He should be, as now, a Governor-General; but a Governor-General, in fact, who could maintain a broad and general supervision over the whole, and be therefore free from the details of local government and the claims of bureaucracy which cling ever round our executive like an ivy entwining the oak. The country should be subdivided into governments, each within the limit of man’s control, and defined chiefly by the localisation of customs and races. There might be a governor for Bengal, another for Agra, as at present, presiding over the North-western Provinces, both subordinate to the Presidency at Calcutta. Hyderabad and Berar might form another government, dependent on Madras. Malwa or Gwalior might be the centre of authority over the Mahrattas, subject to Bombay. Ajmeer and its rajpoots might be attached to the north-western district. The Punjab would remain as now. The governors or lieutenant-governors of these districts should be absolute as to the details of government, referring only to the central authority for general principles and exigencies. Such an executive must be allied with military occupation, and this must be based on the massing of troops at the commanding points and stations of the different districts. The dispersion of corps and the cantonment system should be abandoned, and barracks constructed on the principle of defence, and with a view to the health of the soldiers. These barracks would be citadels throughout the land—centres of attack and places of refuge in times of disaster.

Large bodies of troops should be assembled in these, and columns might be moved backwards and forwards between them. They should be connected by roads—railroads if possible; and as the military posts would correspond generally with the seats of government and the principal towns on the high-road, this would be feasible enough, and would dovetail with the requirements of traffic. Railways are open to the objection of being easily destroyed by people holding or rising in the country; but they will always be available for a time, and to a certain degree, and would provide for the concentration of a force to meet an emergency. The rivers should everywhere be made use of. Steamers should be stationed at the chief points, and gun-boats should move up and down betwixt them, defending the roads or railways whenever they were within their range, and at any rate keeping the communication safe and open. Sir C. Napier, in his plan of defence, named several bases; but his plan was formed with the intent of resisting a foreign invader and defending our frontier.

For the occupation of the country itself, the real bases must be the Presidencies, as thence must come supplies, resources, reinforcements. The grand base must be England. Military occupation suggests the reconstruction or replacement of that army which has dissolved itself. Whether it can ever be drawn again from the same resources, or whether it would be expedient, are questions at present. The causes of the Bengal mutiny will be lessons to us, if such a thing be attempted. The limited power of commanding officers, the obstruction of discipline by appeals and references, the little intercourse betwixt the soldier and his chief, the mode of promotion from the ranks, the excessive feeling of caste, the influence of the Brahmin element, all tended to produce the catastrophe. Should this body be again re-formed, we must return to the discipline of Clive and Coote and Munro. The European must assert the superiority of his race by superior vigour, energy, and endurance; the intermediate authority of the native subordinate must become obsolete, and the communication between officer and man be direct and complete; the hands of chiefs must be strengthened, and their power of reward and punishment summary and manifest; the men must be chosen from the soldier races, such as the Ghoorkas, Sikhs, Rohillas—men who are more soldiers than religionists, and whose feelings of class would be superior to caste. The Bengalee could scarcely be trusted again; nor need he. The sources named would meet the required demand. It is doubtful whether we should ever need again so large a native force. It was raised chiefly to resist attacks from without, and to control the military powers within. The necessity of preparing against a foreign foe, at least one contiguous to our dominions, no longer exists. The experience of the present shows us how small a body of Europeans can make a stand, and hold a country against the natives; and when massed, concentrated, and organised, with these fortified barracks as citadels, it is evident that the land could be controlled by fewer soldiers that have been hitherto necessary. Those in Bengal should be chiefly Europeans. The English soldier is costly, but he is valuable in proportion, and reliable. In the other Presidencies also, perhaps it would be advisable to increase the proportion of British gradually. The soldier, too, should be a soldier, and nothing more—should perform only the soldier’s duties. The troops, no longer scattered, would experience "the immense enhancement of military discipline, and the perfection at which large masses of troops arrive by being collected in numbers." "All the moral feelings of an army and its physical powers are increased by being assembled in large masses." This would be peculiarly the effect as native soldiers mixed with Europeans, for the danger of their combination would be more than counterbalanced by the influences which would cherish in them the soldier spirit, and beget the principle of comradeship, and would be less probably than the disaffection gathered by dispersion in detachments. In the event of invasion by a European power, our reinforcements could be send from home as speedily as his. And home, England, must be ever the grand reserve. Here, by means of militia, volunteer corps, and other resources, must be kept the reserve from which aid can be drawn in time of need. All these plans are open to the objection of expense. It may be so. But we think with Lord Metcalfe that "views of economy and retrenchment should be secondary to those of safety and power." The old system, however, of residents, politicals, cantonments, camp-followers, &c., had its expenses, which would go far to maintain a well-organised and concentrated system of government and possession.

Thus we believe, that by the open resolute assertion of our supremacy, and military tenure, we might consolidate our empire.

The empire of the sword once established, the empire of opinion begins. This can be created—so says experience, so say the authorities—only by moderation—by elevating the native subject, by respecting his laws and customs, by identifying his interests with our own, by firmness, consistency, and by justice. This must depend partly on governmental, partly on social influences. The government must be constructed on broad abstract principle, capable, however, of adaptation to local feelings, laws, and habits. The social evils most felt, and most irritating to the poorer classes, especially, are the collection of the revenue and the administration of justice. These both, though not unjust in themselves, from our want of knowledge in their institution, militate against old rights, old claims, old privileges, usages, and prejudices. A code of general laws, formed by an inquiry into the leading principles of the past, and capable of adopting the details and forms peculiar to each district, would, by restoring content and prosperity, tend much to the amelioration of the lower orders. In regard to the higher classes, Sir T. Munro, who had thought deeply on that subject, says, "Various measures might be suggested for their improvement, but no one appears to me so well calculated to insure success as that of endeavouring to give them a higher opinion of themselves, by placing more confidence in them, by employing them in important situations, and perhaps by rendering them eligible to almost every office under the Government. It is not necessary to define at present the exact limit to which their eligibility should be carried, but there seems to be no reason why they should be excluded from any office for which they are qualified, without danger to the preservation of our own ascendancy." This seems reasonable and just to the class itself, and calculated to win us the empire of opinion, by securing at least their support and interest in our work. Such changes must be slow, slowly progressive; and in making such changes, we must remember ever that we are stepping beside men centuries behind us, and that we must regulate our pace to theirs. Patience, discretion, and consistency can alone achieve results here.

The social influences, in their operation on our amalgamation with the native race, must be slower still. We are the few among the multitude, and shall long be so. Experience has proved that the English cannot be reared in the plains of India; England must be the nursery of our children; mixed races degenerate, so do races born and bred under the influences of an uncongenial climate;—we should gain nought by repeating the West Indian classes and castes; so that we can never hope to constitute such a proportion to the population as could impress civilisation by contact. We must be content therefore, so far, with its outward influences—give to the people the blessings of repose, security, and justice, the benefit of example, the opportunity of development, and trust society to work out its own improvement. "Great and beneficial alterations in society, to be complete, must be produced within the society itself. They cannot be the mere fabrication of its superiors, or of a few who deem themselves enlightened."

The same reasons would affect colonisation; and besides the difficulties attending the occupation of land, and the fact of a colonist being brought into competition in the labour market with a man whose whole existence costs twenty-five shillings a-year, would effectually prevent its being carried out to any great extent, or with any great result.

The last and greatest agent in the consolidation and administration of our conquest must be Christianity. By this alone we can hope to break down the barriers of caste and the difference of race. A community of faith could alone beget a perfect union betwixt the conquerors and the conquered, the governors and the governed. Such a consummation in the existing relations betwixt the two, seems difficult and far distant. Yet as a Christian people we are bound to look upon it as the great end of our conquest, and to consider deeply how it can be attained. As rulers, it is our duty, doubtless, to assert our own faith; to support and maintain its worship among the Christian inhabitants of our territories; to place our religion side by side with our power; but how far its active propagation among the native population by government would consist with the toleration guaranteed to them, and with the furtherance of our object, is a grave question. Throughout the world’s history, propagandism by power has ever failed—it has made faith more firm, and bigotry more obstinate. Those who have lived long in the land as statesmen and as rulers, have declared, as the result of their experience, that such propagandism would arouse in India a spirit of fanaticism and hostility which would effectually defeat the purpose of conversion, and endanger our power and influence—that the only rational hopes of success in propagating Christianity consist in a more general diffusion of knowledge; in the voluntary labours of missionaries and evangelists, who shall go forth "trusting to their own efforts, and the support of the Almighty;" "in gaining the attachment and confidence of our Indian subjects, by a pure administration of justice and general good government;" and "by maintaining and founding institutions for their improvement, trusting that better knowledge may hereafter dispose their minds to renounce their own errors and superstitions, and to embrace the doctrines of the Gospel, when capable of appreciating their real character." This they deem the true path to our object. We would not temporise in such a cause, nor would we precipitate such a work. We must undertake it steadfastly and conscientiously, using the fittest agencies for its fulfilment, and then leave the issue in God’s hands.

If we thus stand up manfully and calmly to the work before us, firmly maintaining our power, and honestly respecting the rights and interests of the peoples whom we govern, we may hope that our children, or our children’s children, will read in history how their ancestors planted themselves in a vast country; how step by step they conquered it, and how a fearful catastrophe befell them; how then at last they consolidated this empire in power, and administered it in justice, and how they left the land happy and prosperous, civilised and Christian.

Dare we hope that such bright things are written in our future? By God’s help and a strong nation’s will, we may do so.


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Last modified 9 October 2007