The British public is notoriously slow to realise a great disaster. The national self-reliance seems impenetrable to the voice of warning: at the first note of evil tidings, the money- market—our only sensitive organ—is kept quiet by assurances that the accounts are exaggerated, and the worst is over. In Parliament, a Government which has no secrets from the enemy either evades inquiry, or answers with a misplaced vaunt. It is only by degrees that the truth creeps out. Private information appears in the papers; admissions are gradually extorted of all the red-tapists, denied before; and as the different statements get pieced together, the public wakes up with a roar, and incontinently plunges into a panic. Then a minister or a cabinet must be sacrificed; committees and commissions are voted to inquire whom we shall hang; millions are flung about in frantic profusion; reforms long talked of are adopted with a bewildering precipitation—till, having put itself through all its paces and beginning to suspect that its indignation is hardly more creditable than the original impassibility, the magnanimous public subsides into a calm, and finishes with the indiscriminate decoration of accusers and accused.
Such is the routine: it has been faithfully followed, up to the time we write, in the matter of the Bengal mutiny; it may have completed the circle before what we write can appear in print. The disaffection which, long smouldering in the Bengal army, began to show itself in action as early as January last, attained to a crisis in the second week of May. An official narrative of its rise and progress was despatched from Calcutta on the 18 th of that month. Lord Ellenborough, with his usual vigilance, adverted to the subject in the House of Lords on the 9 th June and was answered by Lord Granville, that he hoped the accounts were exaggerated! Two days after, Mr. Vernon Smith, in opposing the petition of some missionaries in Bengal, told the House "it could not be disguised that considerable disaffection prevailed among the troops in consequence of a prevalent notion that a compulsory conversion of the natives was intended." He added, that "it was not his wish to alarm the House or the public—the agitation, he trusted, was limited to a few of the troops, and would speedily be repressed!" The President of the Board of Control was at this time in possession of despatches announcing the disappearance of six regiments from the strength of the Bengal army, the commission of horrible attrocities by the Sepoys on the officers, and the seizure of Delhi with the proclamation of a Mussulman emperor! To Lord Ellenborough's suggestion that a proclamation should be issued to tranquillise the angry suspicions of the native soldiery, Lord Granville replied—for there must always be a reply—that the Indian Government had acted judiciously in not taking any such step. Yet, if his lordship had read his despatches, he would have found that a similar suggestion had proceeded from the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-western Provinces; and the proclamation was actually issued by the Governor- General on the 16 th May!
So unequal, too was the action of the home authorities to the emergency reported that, notwithstanding the loud cry from India for the immediate despatch of every English soldier that could be spared, it was thought enough, as late as the end of June, to have placed four regiments under orders to embark for India. Happily 10,000 men had returned to Bombay from the Persian expedition, and the force despatched from this country for China will have been diverted to a duty more consistent with justice and the security of the British Empire. For these reinforcements, however, the Indian Government is no way indebted to the foresight or judgment of the Cabinet at home. Their mouthpiece in the House of Lords again assured us, on the 29 th June, that the disaffection in India was "exaggerated by the noble earl. There was no occasion for alarm, and it was quite unnecessary to call out the militia." On the same evening the President of the Board of Control told the other House that the additional forces were sent out simply as a measure of security, not at all as believing the empire of India to be in peril.
Very different, and much more sagacious, was the language held by the leader of the Conservative Opposition. "No one," said Mr. Disraeli, "could shut his eyes to the extreme peril to which, at this moment, our authority is subject in that country; but I cannot say—little as my confidence has ever been in the Government of India—that I take these despairing or desperate views with respect to our position which, in moments of danger or calamity, are too often prevalent. I would express my opinion, that the tenure by which we hold India is not a frail tenure; but when we consider that that great country is inhabited by twenty-five nations, different in race, different in religion, and different in language, I think it is not easy—perhaps it is not possible—for such heterogeneous elements to fuse into perfect combination. EVERYTHING, HOWEVER, IS POSSIBLE—EVERY DISASTER IS PRACTICABLE—IF THERE BE AN INEFFICIENT OR NEGLIGENT GOVERNMENT."
These are the sentiments which actuate, to a man, the persons now in England best acquainted with the condition of India. Of all dangers or disasters, there is none which more quickly sends the blood out of an old Anglo-Indian's face than the prospect of mutiny among the native troops on the ground of caste of religion. Yet this is the very danger of which the Home Government and the public generally were appraised with so little emotion. Anglo-Indians, however, are in sufficient numbers at home to impart their apprehensions to a large portion of society. By the middle of July, Ministers had roused themselves to the determination of sending 20,000 troops to India. The President of the India Board—of whom Lord Ellenborough, with more candour than politeness, declared that "in his constant and extensive communications with gentlemen connected with India, he never met a man who had not the most thorough distrust of the right hon. gentleman,"—promised to lay "papers" on the table of Parliament; and on the 27 th, the question attained the dignity of a field-day in the House of Commons. Mr. Vernon Smith was then content to maintain that it was a "mere military mutiny," not a national revolt, we had to deal with. Admitting the delicacy and importance of the religious question, he coolly observed it was nothing new, having been agitated so long ago as the mutiny of Vellore! and to remove all remaining uneasiness, his Grace the Duke of Argyll was good enough to promise in the House of Lords that "Government would put down the insurrection with a high hand, and spare no exertion to maintain our Indian empire!"
August comes, and with it the assurance that the troops to be despatched to India amount to 30,000. Now, too, Lord Ellenborough's suggestion—ridiculed by Lord Granville two months before—to embody the militia, is adopted with the entire approval of H.R.H. the Commander-in-Chief. Still, as late as the 11 th, General Evans denounced, with reason, the tardy despatch of the troops, while many leading military members joined his complaint that Government was not sufficiently alive to the danger.
Three months have now elapsed since the despatch of that mail, which, Mr. Vernon Smith so pleasantly told us, came away a day of two too soon to bring the intelligence of the recapture of Delhi and the entire suppression of the revolt. Each succeeding mail has brought tidings only of its extension. The armies of the other Presidencies are happily still stanch; but it would be rashness, rather than wisdom, to predict for one week the fidelity of any native troops, while insurrection maintains itself in Bengal. We are far enough from despair, but we are more than ever impressed with the correctness of Mr. Disraeli's remark, that "any disaster is practicable if there be a negligent or inefficient government."
We agree at once with the Government and the journals, that it is a military mutiny, not a national revolt, which threatens us: but we are unable to share the consolation which they derive from the distinction, when we remember that it is exclusively on the military arm that the possession of Indian depends. From the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, the use of the term "national" is in India a "mockery, a delusion, and a snare." The great continent to which we assign that appellation, contains (exclusively of its Mahommedan invaders) a good score of native populations, far more distinct from each other in language, customs, and religion than the nations of Europe. We lump them together in common parlance under the term "Hindu," just as, with much nearer approximation to correctness, the native accepts "European" for the distinctiveness of his pale-faced rulers. But the populations of India not only never formed a nation, nor even a confederacy, but they have nothing "national" within themselves. The ancient peculiar polity of the land has been called, without much forcing of the term, municipal; every village has a government and a society strongly compacted within itself; but its connection with the neighboring communities is feeble, and its relations to the Supreme Government are simply those of a tributary. The native cultivator, mechanic, or merchant, has little further concern with the ruling power, whether Hindu, Mahommedan, or British, but to contribute his share of the rent or taxes levied from the community to which he belongs. All that he desires in return,—and usually desires in vain,—is the protection of an efficient police, with the administration of justice in matters above the reach of the village conclave. For the rest, he only asks to be let alone—to tread the little round that his parents trod before him; to scratch the fields with the same crooked stick that served his father for a plough; to shave with the same razor the children of those whom his father shaved of old; to beat upon the same great stone, with the identical jerk and groan wherewith his father made the river's bank resound, the scant apparel of his dusky clan; to tell the same stories, eat the same food, share the same ceremonies, lead the same stolid life, and die the same apathetic death, which millions have done, are doing, and will continue to do, before, around, and after himself, in most supreme indifference whether Prospero or Stephano be king of the island.
To talk of national insurrection, national discontent, or national anything, among a population of this description, is to talk ignorantly. The utmost extent of their political cohesion is that of marbles in a bag; the sole questions open to debate are the colour and texture of the bag, or whether a marble more or less shall rattle in its interior. It is this condition which has made India, from the most ancient times, the easy, almost willing, prey of every adventurer, native or foreign, who had a mind to put the marbles in his bag. The means by which each successive change of government has been effected and perpetuated, was invariably military power. So that to be told this is no national insurrection—this is only a military mutiny—is, in other words, to be assured that we are not experiencing that which never was, nor can be, experienced in Hindustan; we are only threatened with the defection of that organisation upon which the possession of the country is entirely and exclusively dependent!
In endeavouring to estimate more correctly the nature and progress of the danger before us, we would glance back for a moment to the origin of the force from which it has arisen. The Bengal Native Army dates its birth from exactly one hundred years ago. It was in January 1757, when calcutta had been recaptured from Surajah Dowla, and the British Government re-established by Clive after the disaster of the Black Hole, that the first battalion of Bengal Sepoys was raised and officered from a detachment which accompanied Clive from Madras. Its establishment was one European captain, lieutenant, and ensign, who acted as field-officers; a native commandant and adjutant, with one subadar (captain), and three jamadars (subalterns), to each of the ten companies. The company consisted of five havildars (sergeants), four naiks (corporals), two tomtoms (drummers), one trumpeter, and seventy Sepoys; each company had a colour (carried by a havildar), in the centre of which the subadar was allowed to bear his own device or badge, such as a sabre, dagger, crescent, &c.1
Such was the rude organisation—such the feeble establishment of European officers—with which Clive was satisfied to lead his Sepoys against the native armies of Hindustan, fighting under their own chiefs, and in possession of a dominion which they deemed insuperable. The total force with which the great founder of this army undertook the subversion of the kingdom of Bengal consisted of 3100 men, of whom only 900 were Europeans! The army he encountered at Plassey numbered 50,000 foot, 18,000 horse, and a strong train of artillary. Such was the unequal match played on the 23d June 1757, directly for the fair provinces of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, but ultimately for the imperial sceptre of India. Clive was aided, it is true, at Plassey, by treachery and defection within the ranks of the enemy. The nabob himself, no less cowardly than cruel, fled with a numerous army as soon as he learned the desertion of Jaffier. Many a bloodier field has since been fought in India, but it was Plassey that first witnessed that simple policy which established, and which alone can perpetuate, the British ascendancy—the unhesitating advance of the English soldier on every enemy that presents himself, be the disproportion in numbers or materiel what it may.
When Lord Clive returned to the supreme command in 1765, the Bengal army was but little increased in numerical strength. Yet the Great Mogul and principal feudatory the Nabob of Oude, were soon after prisoners at one time in the British camp; while of the two pretenders to the kingdom of Bengal, one was a puppet appointed and governed by the Council at Calcutta, the other a hopeless fugitive on the banks of the Indus. Even at that early period, however, mutiny frequently agitated an army which was almost a stranger to defeat. Sometimes German or French adventurers, in the service of Company, proposed to carve out an independent career for themselves. Occasionally the more vulgar deficiency of pay and provisions was the exciting cause; but the most frequent and formidable ground of discontent was that which now meets us again, a century later—the suspicion of encroachment on the native caste. The fear was then chiefly of being ordered to sea, which, though in itself no violation of caste, entails so many difficulties in the observance of the prescribed diet and ablutions as to be readily regarded in that light. It was not, indeed till after the shipwreck of part of the third battalion en route from Madras to Bengal in the year 1769, that the sea became a prominent difficulty. The native, it may be remarked, habitually extends his "custom" beyond the strict requisites of caste, and some craft has been shown both in advancing the plea of religion against a disagreeable duty, and in modifying it to suit a secular convenience.2 Four regiments were broken in 1782 for mutiny, originating in a mistaken suspicion that they were to be sent to sea. Seven years later, Lord Cornwallis called for volunteers from the regiments at the Presidency to proceed to Sumatra; and after some opposition from the native officers, this experiment was effected by a bounty of ten rupees to every Sepoy before embarkation, with a gratuity of a month's pay, and full batta on their return. Expeditions by sea have since been effected without difficulty; yet it was thought another triumph over the prejudices of caste, when in our own time the Bengal Sepoys were led without a murmur across the Indus, which forms the opposite boundary of their sacred soil. Brahminism is in truth as much an invader in India as Mahommedanism, but having, like all other invasions, entered from the northwest, and settled in the fertile plains which are watered by the Ganges, it had the wisdom to invest that mighty river with a religious character, and consecrate its new- found home as the land of the gods. The provinces on either side of the sacred stream thus became the headquarters of Brahminism as for similar reasons the strength of the Mussulman religion is still found in the upper portions of the same territory, where the Mogul invader established his throne. Neither religion ever pervaded the whole of India. In the presidencies of Madras and Bombay, the older worships of various aboriginal or immigrant populations subsist to this day.3 Hence the native armies of those Presidencies are comparatively little affected by religious questions; while that of Bengal, recruited for the most part in the heart of Brahminism, and largely composed of its two superior castes, has demanded and obtained a consideration for religious scruples, which has at once impaired its own discipline and largely excited the jealousy of the sister Presidencies.
Sprung from a class which regards the profession of a soldier as second in honour to that of a priest; infinitely superior in pay and material comforts to the native cultivator or the mechanic; treated both in cantonments and in the field not simply on par with, but in many points with more solicitous consideration than, the European soldier; indulged with regular furloughs to visit the home of his youth, his family, or the shrines of his religion; rising to commissions by seniority; decorated with an Order of Merit; and finally assured of a handsome pension on retirement,—no private soldier in the world enjoys the advantages of his profession to the same extent, or with so few of its burdens, as the Bengal Sepoy. His position was declared by Lord Dalhousie to be incapable of improvement. All his temptation, in short, arises from having his own way too much and too often; and of this the Government have latterly become so sensible, that orders have been issues to abstain from the old practice of recruiting exclusively or chiefly in the same districts, and to promote a due admixture of castes in the ranks. Every regiment ought to contain at least two hundred Sikhs—men who, maintaining a sufficient amount of amour propre on other grounds, regard the Brahminical pretensions with contempt. The Brahmin, however, is tall and well-formed, docile, polite, and gentlemanly in his demeanour. Six feet in height, and forty inches round the chest, are attractions irresistible to recruiting officers and commandants; and in spite of the orders, the two higher castes have continued to maintain their preponderance in the Bengal infantry.4
At the opening of the present year the native army of Bengal consisted of 11 regiments of light cavalry, and 74 of regular infantry, with 4 troops of horse-artillery and 2 battalions of six companies each, of foot-artillery. Augmented by irregular troops to the extent of 23 regiments of cavalry, 7 battalions of Sikh infantry, and upwards of twenty other corps, it was further supported by the contingents of various native states, disciplined and commanded by officers from the regular regiments. The Company's European forces were 3 brigades of horse, and 6 battalions of foot, artillery, with 3 regiments of infantry. The Queen's troops were 2 regiments of cavalry and 13 of foot. This magnificent force was distributed in nearly a hundred military stations, over a country stretching from the mouths of the Ganges to Afghanistan, and from the Himalays to Nagpore—nearly equalling in extent, and considerably exceeding in population, the united possessions of France, Austria, and Prussia, in Europe.5
We have now to relate the occurrences which in a few weeks have dissipated this army like a summer cloud, and perhaps destroyed for ever the confidence so long reposed in Sepoy fidelity. An uneasy feeling, at times approaching to insubordination, had been visible among the Bengal native troops for some years past. Lord Hastings is said to have been afraid to assemble them in force; and passages are quoted from Sir Charles Napier's writings which abundantly establish the dissatisfaction of the gallant, but not uncomplaining, general with their discipline, though we confess we search them in vain for any distinct apprehension of a general mutiny. In January last, a classie (or workman) attached to the magazine at Dum Dum (the artillery station near Calcutta), being refused a draught of water by a Sepoy of the 2d Native Infantry on the ground of caste, replied, "You will soon lose your caste, as you will have to bite cartridged covered with the fat of pigs and cows." At this place there is a depôt of musketry, where the native soldiers are instructed in the use of the Enfield rifle. The cartridge for this weapon is made of thinner and tougher paper than the old one, and requires to be greased on the ball. The above remark having reached the ears of the commandant, he inquired, and found the new cartridge was regarded with general suspicion. The native commissioned officers stated, but in a manner perfectly respectful, that the mixture used in greasing the ball was open to objection, and suggested the employment of wax and oil. They were assured the grease was composed of muttonfat and wax; but they replied, that a report ot the contrary had spread throughout India, and that if they touched it, their friends would not believe their explanation, and would refuse to eat with them. The matter was immediately reported to Government, General Hearsey remarking, that "though totally groundless, it would be most difficult to eradicate the impression from the minds of the native soldiers, who are always suspiciously disposed when any change of this sort, affecting themselves is introduced." Orders were promptly issued to allow the Sepoys to obtain the ingredients from the bazaar, and grease the bullet themselves, as the native officers had suggested.
It must be observed that at this time, the practice at the depôt had not reached the stage of loading; consequently none of the objectors had actually been called upon to bite, or even to handle, the new cartridges. In fact, it is stated by Government that not a single one has been issued to any native soldier from first to last.6 The objection was wholly specualtive, put into the Sepoys' heads in anticipation of the occasion, and by persons who could know nothing of the fact. General Hearsey attributes the report, with great probability, to the agents of the Dhurma Sobha, a Hindu association allowed to exist at Calcutta, with the avowed object of defending their religious customs against encroachments by the Government. This officer commands the Presidency Division, and has his headquarters at Barrackpore. He observes that all the disaffection is introduced from Calcutta; the detachments sent thither on duty constantly returning imbued with suspicions never exhibited before.
In a few days the ill-feeling has extended to all the regiments at Barrackpore, comprising the 2d, 34 th, and 70 th regiments, N. I.; but the objections to the grease on the ball having been so summarily got rid of, it was now transferred to the paper, which was said to have the unclean mixture spread upon it, or mixed up with it in the making. The paper is, in fact, more highly glazed than the old, though not more so than is common in paper of native manufacture. The Enfield rifle being much smaller in the bore than the musket, it was not so easy to meet the scruple in this new form by reverting to the old cartridge-paper; but every effort was made to explain the truth: the cartridges were broken before the men on parade, and their manufacture explained. Still the objection was not removed, and though on parade the men answered in a respectful and soldierlike manner, several incendiary fires attested to the presence of a mischievous spirit in their ranks.
On the 6 th February information was given by a Sepoy of a plot to rise upon the officers and fire the cantonment. Two days after, this was confirmed by a jemadar of the 34 th regiment. No names, however, were divulged by either, though they had attended a meeting of three hundred Sepoys, held, they stated, on the parade-ground after eight o'clock roll-call, without the slightest knowledge or suspicion on the part of any European officer. The General harangued the brigade on the absurdity of supposing that Government wished to make them Christians by a trick, when they would not be admitted to our religion without a full and intelligent conviction of the truths of the "Book." The address appeared to be well received; the ill- feeling, however, continued, and it was soon discovered that a messenger had been sent from one of the regiments to Berhampore and Dinapore. The former station was garrisoned by the 19 th regiment, which up to the middle of February had exhibited no sort of uneasiness. On the 25 th of that month, a havildar's guard from the 34 th arrived at Berhampore, and was relieved by the 19 th.7 The very next day the 19 th refused to receive their cartridges, though they were old ones made up by another native corps a year before. Expostulation and warnings of the severe punishment to which the men exposed themselves by their refusal to obey their officers were made in vain. The Sepoys tumultuously seized their arms. The artillery and cavalry were called out, but again withdrawn, and the affair terminated without bloodshed.
The regiment subsequently sent in a petition acknowledging that they had committed a great crime through the advice of wicked men, and offering to become a "general service" regiment if their first fault might be pardoned. But the Governor-General had determined that such an act of "open and defiant mutiny" should be punished by disbandment; and as there was no doubt the seeds of the insubordination were sown from Barrackpore, the sentence was carried into execution at that station, in the presence of the regiments whom it was sought by this warning to restrain from revolt. Reasoning after the event, it would certainly appear to have been a sound policy to have accepted the offer of the repentant regiment, and in place of reducing one thousand men of varying degrees of guilt to indiscriminate want, to have endeavoured to execute the ringleaders, and send the remainder to Burmah or China.
Two days before this lesson was read to the mutinous troops at Barrackpore, a Sepoy of the 34 th, having intoxicated himself with bhang, fired upon the adjutant in front of the main-guard, the whole of whom, with a native officer at their head, looked quietly on. A European sergeant-major, who ran to the adjutant's assistance, was ill- treated by some of the guard; others, proposing to seize the mutineer, were kept back by the jemadar. The Sepoy and the jemadar were both executed, by sentence of native court-martials. These convictions occasioned a full investigation into the condition of the 34 th regiment, when it was reported that the Sikhs and Mussulmans were trustworthy soldiers, but the Brahmins and other Hindus could not be relied upon; and this regiment, therefore, was also disbanded, with the exception of three companies detached at Chittagong.
Upon this investigation some particulars were elicited, which we hope are extraordinary. Colonel Wheler, the commanding officer, had been in the habit of circulating tracts, and addressing the men, both of his own and other native corps (but not within the lines), with the declared object of converting them to the Christian religion. It is nowhere stated that any ill effect had ensued from his preaching; but assuredly neither the colonel nor his officers possessed that ordinary respect from the men which we should have thought impossible to be wanting in the worst disciplined corps. He was obliged to confess, that if his regiment were ordered on field service, he could not place himself at their head, in reliance upon their loyalty and good conduct.8 The same disgraceful fact was deposed to by four other European officers, including the adjutant and the quartermaster and interpreter. One captain and one lieutenant were bold enough to declare the feelings of the Sepoys, with the exception of a few instances, which they could not name, to be good, and their own confidence unbounded; and another says he would have as much confidence in them as in any native regiment. It was alleged that the discontent had commenced with the establishment of the rifle depôts; but we know not how to reconcile this statement with the repeated acts of insolence on the part of the native officers complained of by their European superiors, nor with Colonel Wheler's confession, that if he noticed insubordinate expressions, he should have put half the regiment in confinement! It appears also, that in October and November last, before the first introduction of the rifle practice, the regiment was coming down the river, and encountering a gale, in which three boats were wrecked, not a single Sepoy came forward to assist the European officers!9 It can surprise no one that the Governor-General in Council should have come to the conclusion that Colonel Wheler is unfit for regimental command, and directed the Commander-in-Chief to order a court-martial on his conduct.
During this first act of the tragedy, the proceedings were under the immediate direction of the Governor-General, in Council, who exhibited no lack either of vigour or moderation. Every possible effort was made to remove the unfounded and unreasonable suspicion of the Sepoys. If there was some inadvertency at first in permitting cartridges to arrive from England, greased with a mixture of which the materials could not absolutely be defined, the mistake was arrested before a single native could be affected. The matter was carefully and clearly explained by General Hearsey and the commanding officers of the several regiments, and the general orders issued on the occasion of each disbandment, and read at the head of every regiment, troop, and company in the service, contained the most explicit assurances of protection to religious scruples. Such was the anxiety, indeed, to remove all ground for complaint, that a suggestion of Major Bontein to tear off the end of the cartridge with the hand, instead of biting it, was promptly sanctioned, and ordered to be introduced into the platoon exercise of the native troops.
The scene now suddenly shifts to the opposite side of the Presidency, where the controversy is conducted on both sides in a far more summary spirit. The pensioned descendants of the Great Mogul have been permitted to reside with a titular sovereignty, not in the ancient capital of their empire, which has long been in ruins, but in a new city of Delhi, fortified by British engineers, and containing ordnance-stores and treasure to a considerable amount, the property of our Government. To gratify the Mussulman feeling, the custody of this important fortress and station has of late years been confided wholly to a native garrison, which in May last consisted of the 38 th, 54 th, and 74 th regiments, with a company of foot-artillery. Fifty miles north-east of Delhi, and therefore on the other side of the Jumna, is the large military cantonment of Meerut, where were stationed H. M. 6 th Dragoon Guards (Carabineers), a battalion of the 60 th Rifles, a light field-battery, and a party of European horse-artillery, with the following native corps—viz. 3d Light Cavalry, 11 th and 20 th regiments of infantry, and some Sappers and Miners. A depôt of rifle instruction had been opened also in this station; and while the Governor-General was consoling himself with the hope that the cartridge question was finally disposed of by the proceedings we have narrated, it suddenly appeared in a more aggravated form at Meerut.
No account has been sent home of the initiatory stages of this dispute. The official narrative opens with the abrupt intimation that eighty-five troopers of the 3d Light Cavalry had been tried by court- martial for refusing to use their cartridges. This proceeding was ordered by the Commander-in-Chief, General Anson, who appears to have been absent from the seat of government at Simla while disaffection and mutiny were spreading through the army he was sent out to command. The Commander-in-Chief is a Member of Council at Cacutta, and enjoys, we believe, an additional salary of some L6000 a-year in that capacity, yet his name nowhere appears in the proceedings up to this time. While the Governor-Gneral was reviewing at length the condition of the native corps, and all the other members of Council, including the lawyer, discussing, resolving upon, and ordering the disbandment of two regiments, General Anson apparently never once favoured his colleagues with the benefit of the military judgment and experience which are supposed to belong to a commander-in- chief. It is whispered that differences prevailed between his Excellency and Lord Canning. Be that as it may, the Commander-in-Chief had little to value himself upon when the direction of affairs fell into his own hands. No account, we say, is given of the origin of the dispute at Meerut. The Government, relying, perhaps, on their order to discontinue the new cartridge, state that it was the old ones which the cavalry refused to accept. But this would appear to be an error, since a letter from the Adjutant-General, dated at Simla, 4 th May, reports that at all three of the rifle depôts, "the men of all grades have unhesitatingly and cheerfully used the new cartridges."10 And on the 14 th May a general order of the Commander-in-Chief withdraws the objectionable cartridge. The Friend of India also distinctly asserts that it was the new cartridges which the troopers objected to. In the Meerut rifle depôt, then, at least, the concession, ordered by Government to avoid "fighting with shadows" was apparently not carried out; and the offending troopers were probably the fifteen of each troop ordered to be supplied with carbines, in the use of which they were being instructed at the rifle depôt. This is the only way by which we can reconcile the contradictory statements which appear in the papers before us.
There is no account of any explanations being addressed to the Sepoys, such as were attempted at Dum Dum and Barrackpore. The date also of the mutinous act is wanting; it was probably, however, subsequent to the receipt of the general orders of the 27 th March, issued on the disbandment of the 19 th regiment, so that the objectors were in full possession of the renewed assurances then given, that Government would continue to observe its "unvarying rule to treat the religious feelings of all its servants of every creed with careful respect." It may be inferred also—though we could wish that this too had been distinctly stated—that the court-martial was composed of native officers. These remarks are necessary, because the sentences were undoubtedly severe, and the consequences have been disastrous in the extreme.
The men were adjudged to imprisonment for ten years, with hard labour in irons, a sentence doubtless designed to vindicate discipline and kill rebellion in the bud; but from the weakness, we might say, imbecility, with which it was carried out, produced exactly the opposite result. The proceedings of the court-martial were read before the whole force on the 9 th May. The prisoners, stripped on their uniforms, were fettered, and marched from the ground to the common jail. With this proceeding, General Hewitt, who commanded, appears to have considered his duty at an end. A guard was indeed placed over the jail (which contains, it seems, some 2000 malefactors of various descriptions), but no precautions were taken for the safety of the cantonment, or the neighboring fortress of Delhi. A squadron of the Carabineers patrolling the cantonment, a brigade of guns pointed on the native lines, or a wing of the Rifles, encamped on the parade-ground, could hardly have been deemed any unnecessary display of force after what had occurred at the other stations, and with the knowledge of the disaffection that must have prevailed on the spot when eighty-five men in one regiment had been guilty of open mutiny, The Commander-in-Chief was clearly in ignorance of the facts when he ordered his Adjutant-General to report that the men of all grades were "unhesitatingly and cheerfully" using the new cartridge; but his eyes being opened on that point, he might have remembered the proximity of Delhi with its inflammable contents, and ordered over a wing of the Rifles with a troop of European artillery, before he determined on crushing the sparks of rebellin under his heel in the immediate vicinity. All was neglected, as if to prove the truth of the assertion "that every disaster is practicable with a negligent or insufficient Government."
The 10 th May, which happened to be Sunday, passed in apparent tranquillity. The Queen's troops marched to church, had their dinner, and were quietly sauntering in their lines. The officers and ladies (poor souls!) were preparing to go to the evening service, the chaplain was driving thither in his buggy—all was as it had been in every station in India for scores of years past—when the mine exploded. The men of the 3d Light Cavalry, having probably spent the day in drugging themselves with bhang for their intended revenge, suddenly rushed from their huts to the lines, and mounted their horses. A party galloped to the jail, overpowered the guard, and liberated the prisoners. The rest, calling aloud to the Sepoys of the 11 th and 20 th regiments, by whom they were immediately joined, commenced an indiscriminate attack on the European residents. Colonel Finnis, their commander, was shot down by the men of the 20 th. The other officers were eagerly fired at and sabred. Their houses were set on fire, and barbarities practised which have been read with horror throughout the empire, and to which we remember no parallel in the bloodiest scenes of storm or piracy upon record. While our countrymen and countrywomen were thus abandoned as a prey to atrocities more than fiendish, 1500 of the Queen's troops—nearly double the European force with which Clive won the battle of Plassey—were in the same cantonment. The tidings were long in reaching them; the Carabineers were badly mounted, and when they issued at last from their barracks, lost their way in reaching the other end of the cantonment! When they arrived it was dusk, and soon after dark; the Sepoys and their fellow-scoundrels from the jail having pretty well finished their butchery and rapine, declined to engage the Europeans, but took the road to Delhi: and, to the eternal disgrace of all who were guilty of the laches, were allowed to pursue it unmolested. British troops of every arm remained to guard the burning bungalow, the corpses of the slain, their own barracks, and the slumbers of the division headquarters; while three regiments of natives, without leaders or guides, made good a march of forty miles to seize the native capital of the country! Why were they not followed and cut up to a man by the carabineers and horse artillery? The road from Meerut to Delhi crosses the Hindun, a stream which falls into the Jumna by a narrow suspension-bridge, easily held by a few against a much larger force. The mutineers had the sense to post a hundred troopers at this bridge; why was it not seized by a troop of horse artillery from Meerut? Why, in short, was nothing done or attempted before the insurgents could reach Delhi, to arrest their murderous progress, and protect the unfortunate residents in that city? Why, but that our leaders were unequal to their duty, and that General Anson had rushed into a menacing display of authority, without troubling himself to consider the means or the persons by whom it was to be sustained.
The Sepoys had a plan, if the generals had none. Pushing forward unmolested, they reached Delhi the following day. Brigadier Graves, who commanded there, had notice of their approach, and was urged to occupy the Hindun bridge with some of his guns. This move would at once have arrested the mutineers, and, with the prompt co-operation of General Hewill, might have suppressed the flame. But the fatality continued: he preferred to move his guns out on the road to Allyghur, hoping to cover the retreat of the ladies and children; but there the river was fordable, and the rebels being supplied with cavalry, it was judged imprudent to make a stand. Meantime a few troopers who headed the mutineers road fearlessly in at the principal gate. The 38 th native infantry were hastily ordered against them, but the troopers galloped straight at the regiment, calling on the Sepoys, and pointing to the place where their legs had been fettered. The regiment parted to the two sides of the road, leaving their officers in the midst, where they were cut down by the cavalry. The revolt was immediately joined by all the native corps in Delhi, the artillery alone exhibiting some reluctance, and protecting their officers. Mr. Fraser, the civil commissioner, with all the Europeans that could be found, were slaughtered without mercy. The Government treasure, to the amount of half-a-million, was seized; but a similar attempt made upon the magazine gave occasion for one act of heroism which illumines the dark story, and assures us that the spirit which conquered India is not extinct among its defenders. The Commissary of Ordnance, Lieutenant Willoughby, finding himself unable to protect his charge, fired with his own hand, blowing up himself and some hundreds of the rebels who had come to seize it. We regret that it is not certain, though reported, that this gallant officers has escaped alive.
The mutineers now occupied themselves for a day or two in plunder. They then proclaimed the heir-apparent of the titular emperor, king, and began to organise a government. The new-made monarch and his father are said at first to have sent a message to the Lieutenant-Governor at Agra that he was in the power of the insurgent troops. He would seem, however, to have quickly come into the rebellion, for it is reported that the Rev. Mr. Jennings, and English clergyman, and his daughter, being brought before him for orders, he remitted them to the pleasure of the troops; in other words, to be stripped, tortured, and hewed to pieces in the streets!
The flame, now fairly kindled, leaped from station to station till it overspread the whole of the provinces. We have no intention of following the sickening tale of horror in all its details. Suffice it to record that the brutal atrocities of Meerut and Delhi were too faithfully copied at every station where the news arrived, and the native forces were not overawed by Europeans. Officers were murdered, and their dead bodies stripped and mutilated; ladies were violated in the presence of their husbands, parents, and children, and then cruelly mangled and slain; children were thrown up in the air, and received on the points of bayonets as they fell; others had their limbs cut off, and scattered on the roads. Everywhere the determination was avowed to exterminate the hated Europeans, and after each successive outbreak the road was taken to Delhi. Many of these atrocities were no doubt committed by the thieves and camp-followers who rose in the wake of the Sepoys; but the native soldiery, both Mussulman and Hindu, were at the head of all; and though some regiments stood firm for a while, small indeed is the number of the permanently faithful. The 9 th regiment, at Allyghur, seized one of the emissaries of treason, who had found his way into the fort, and handed him over to the commanding officer. A court-martial of native officers condemned him to death, and he was executed; but before the traitor was cut down from the gallows, a rifle company marched in from another station. One of these instantly threw himself on the ground, and casting up dust, exclaimed, "They had destroyed a martyr to the cause of religion." The Sepoys began to debate, wavered, and finally broke up with a loud shout for Delhi; an intention immediately put in execution, though without injury to their officers. The 6 th, again, at Allahabad, demanded to be led against the insurgents, and were publicly thanked in general orders for their fidelity; yet they afterwards murdered their officers with peculiar ferocity, and went off to Delhi in another character. The 70 th, whom Lord Canning thanked in person on the 28 th May for their offer to march against Delhi, and the three companies of the 34 th, who were reported to have followed the honourable example, were disarmed on the 14 th June, with all the native corps at Barrackpore, in order to prevent a rising, and were then found to have secreted a large supply of murderous weapons for the slaughter of the Europeans.
The prolonged stand of the mutineers at Delhi has given countenance to the prophesies circulated by the Brahmins, that destiny limits the British power to the exact duration of a century. The confidence once felt in the Company's good fortune gives ways, as the intelligence is received in every station that a rival authority is in arms in the capital of the Mogul Emperor, and can maintain its stand. The Sepoys hasten to inaugurate the new domination. The infection has extended to the Sikhs and Goorkas, no less than to Mussulmans and Hindus. The Irregular corps have followed the example of the Regulars, and the contingents of Scindia and Holkar, promptly ordered to our assistance, have exhibited symptoms scarcely less alarming. Mutinies have occurred at both Gwalior and Indore. In the former, circumstances have occurred which seem to call into question the good faith of the Maharajah, though he promptly offered his aid at the outset, and undoubtedly preserved the lives of the officers and women. Holkar continues steadfast, and bids fair both to restore order in his dominions and restrain the smaller states. The lately annexed kingdom of Oude, as might be expected, is all in a flame. Sir Henry Lawrence, after performing prodigies of valour with his handful of Europeans, and for a time arresting the rebellion, is now in a state of siege at Lucknow. Sir Hugh Wheeler just maintains himself at Cawnpore, with several thousands of rebels encompassing the station, and bold enough to sustain successive sorties from the garrison. General Reed, in the Punjab, has succeeded in disarming the Sepoys without mischief, and manages to keep those districts quiet. Mr. Colvin, the Lieut.-Governor of the north-western provinces, supports some show of authority at Agra, while confidence is restored at Calcutta, and the lower provinces generally are in tranquillity.
The following is a chronological sketch of the progress of the revolt to the 14 th July:—
April 3. Barrackpore.—19 th Native Infantry disbanded.
May 5. Barrackpore.—34 th N. I. (seven companies) do.
" 10. Meerut.—3d Light Cavalry, 11 th N. I., and 20 th N. I. mutinied.
" 12. Delhi.—38 th, 54 th, 74 th N.I., and 3d comp. 7 th batt. Artillery, mutinied.
" 13. Meerut.—Sappers and Miners mutinied.
" 13. Ferozepore.—45 th and 57 th N.I. mutinied; attacked and dispersed by artillery, H.M. 61 st Foot, and 10 th L.C., which remained stanch.
" 14. Meean Meer (Punjab).—16 th, 26 th, 49 th, N.I., and 8 th L.C., disarmed.
" 18. Roorkee.—S. and M. (300) mutinied.
" 22. Peshawur.—21 st, 24 th, 27 th, 51 st N.I., and 5 th L.C., disarmed.
" 23. Allyghur and Mynpoorie.—9 th N.I. mutinied, opened the jail, and went to Delhi.
" 25. Murdaun.—55 th N.I. mutinied.
" 29. Nusseerabad (Ajmeer).—15 th and 30 th N.I., with a company of Gwalior artillery, mutinied, and went to Delhi.
" 31. Agra.—44 th and 67 th N.I. disarmed (two companies having mutinied).
" 31. Lucknow.—Disturbances on the 29 th; emeute on the 30 th; 31 st, 7 th L.C. (two troops), 13 th N.I. (part), 48 th (half), and 71 st (half), mutinied, and fled toward Seetapore, followed and dispersed by Sir H. Lawrence.
" 31. Bareilly.—18 th and 68 th N.I., 8 th Irreg. Cav., 6 th comp. of artillery, mutinied; 3000 prisoners liberated; officers and chaplain escaped by riding 70 miles in the sun.
" 31. Moradabad.—29 th N.I., and detail of foot-artillery, mutinied; officers escaped while Sepoys were plundering.
June 3. Neemuch (Gwalior).—72d N.I., 7 th Gwalior Inf., 1 st Gwalior Cav., 4 th comp. Gwalior Artil., mutinied.
" 3. Azinghur.—17 th N.I. mutinied.
" 3. Aboozaie.—64 th N.I. disarmed.
" 4. Benares.—37 th N.I., Loodianah Regt., 13 th I.C., and Hurreanah L.I., mutinied.
" 4. Allahabad.—6 th N.I. mutinied.
" 4. Hansi.—4 th I.C. and Hurreanah L.I. mutinied.
" 5. Jhansi (Bundelcund).—12 th N.I. (left wing), and 14 th I.C., mutinied, and killed officers; twelve massacred!
" 5. Cawnpore.—1 st, 53d, 56 th N.I., and 2d L.C., mutinied. Sir H. Wheeler holds out.
" 5. Mooltan (Punjab).—62d and 69 th N.I. disarmed after mutiny.
" 7. Tyzabad (Oude).—22d N.I., 6 th Oude I.I., and 5 th comp. 7 th batt. artil., mutinied; officers protected.
" 8. Jullundur (Punjab).—36 th, 61 st N.I., and 6 th L.C., mutinied.
" 8. Shahjebanpoor (Oude frontier).—28 th N.I. mutinied.
" 13. Before Delhi.—60 th N.I. mutinied.
" 14. Banda (Bundelcund).—50 th N.I. and Nawaub's troops mutinied. Nawaub protected the officers.
" 14. Gwalior, Augur, Seepree, Lulluspore.—Gwalior contingent all mutinied. Maharajah protected the ladies, &c.
" 14. Calcutta and Barrackpore.—2d (Grenadiers), 25 th, 43d, 50 th, 51 st, and 70 th N.I., disarmed.
" 19. Jubbulpore.—52d N.I. threaten to mutiny if ordered to disarm; the adjutant's life attempted, and ladies removed.
" 23. Najpore.—I.C. disarmed.
June 23. Jaunpore.—2d Regt. Irregulars mutinied.
" 23. Seetapore.—41 st N.I. and 9 th Oude I.I. mutinied.
" 23. Sangor.—31 st and 42d N.I. and 3d I.C. mutinied.
" 23. Nowgong.—12 th N.I. (right wing) and 14 th I.C. mutinied.
" 23. Futteghur.—10 th N.I. mutinied; Europeans escape to Banda.
July 1. Indore.—Holkar's two regiments mutinied, and went to Delhi. Maharajah form to the British cause.
" 5. Mhow.—23d N.I. mutinied (officers killed).
" 5. Nowshera (Peshawur).—10 th I. C. disarmed.
From this melancholy calendar it would appear that not more than nineteen of the regular native infantry and six of light cavalry remain under arms in the Bengal army; and of these the Friend of India understands that not more than six or seven can be thoroughly depended upon.
If the reader will turn to the stations above enumerated, most of which are noted on the excellent map of India just published by Mr. Wyld, he will perceive the appalling extent of country over which the insurrection has rapidly spread itself.
The other Presidencies, we repeat, are hitherto undisturbed, though considerable agitation was experienced at Hydrabad, where the death of the Nizam has just occurred; and a rising at Seetabuldee, the new station at Nagpore, was prevented only by the timely action of Madras troops from Kamptee. To crown all, we are informed by the latest mail that papers have fallen into the hands of Government, implying an extensive conspiracy among the natives to overthrown the British dominion. A plan of Calcutta is said to have been found marked out for simultaneous attack, and the deposed King of Oude is in custody on suspicion of complicity in the plot.
Let us now consider what is doing in India to repel the danger which threatens it from so many quarters.
We are happy to sustain the assertion that Lord Canning has displayed at this crisis a vigour and promptitude possibly not anticipated from his previous character or services. On receiving by telegraph the disastrous intelligence from Meerut and Delhi, he hastened to empower every general, brigadier, and officer commanding, to hold court-martials in native soldiers, and execute their sentences without awaiting the orders of superior authority. Two days after, a legislative enactment was passed, authorising such courts to be composed exclusively of European officers. Mr. Colvin having inconsiderately put out a proclamation which might be interpreted to promise immunity to all who would lay down their arms and submit, Lord Canning promptly rescinded it, declaring, with every desire to support the Lieut.-Governor in his anxious position, that no mercy should be offered to soldiers who had murdered their officers and risen against the Government. To remove, however, "the deep and general conviction which Mr. Colvin found had taken possession of all classes of natives," that an outrage on their religion was really contemplated, Lord Canning put out a proclamation, to be translated into the vernacular languages and circulated throughout the lower and north-western provinces, as well as in Oude and the Punjab. We give this paper entire:—
"The Governor-General of India in Council has warned the army of Bengal, that the tales by which the men of certain regiments have been led to suspect that offence to their religion, or injury to their caste, is meditated by the Government of India, are malicious falsehoods.
"The Governor-General in Council has learnt that this suspicion continues to be propagated by designing and evil-minded men, not only in the army, but amongst other classes of the people.
"He knows that endeavours are made to persuade Hindus and Mussulmans, soldiers and civil subjects, that their religion is threatened secretly, as well as openly, by the acts of the Government, and that the Government is seeking in various ways to entrap them into a loss of caste for purposes of its own.
"Some have been already deceived and led astray by these tales.
"Once more, the Governor-General in Council warns all classes against the deceptions that are practiced on them.
"The Governor-General of India has invariably treated the religious feelings of all its subjects with careful respect. The Governor-General in Council has declared that it will never cease to do so. He now repeats that declaration, and he emphatically proclaims that the Government of India entertains no desire to interfere with their religion or caste, and that nothing has been or will be done by the Government to affect the free exercise of the observances of religion or caste by every class of the people.
"The Government of India has never deceived its subjects. Therefore the Governor-General in Council now calls upon them to refuse their belief to seditious lies.
"This notice is addressed to those who hitherto, by habitual loyalty and orderly conduct, have shows their attachment to the Government, and a well-founded faith in its protection and justice.
"The Governor-General in Council enjoins all such persons to pause before they listen to false guides and traitors, who would lead them into danger and disgrace.
"By order to the Governor-General of India in Council.
"Secretary to the Government of India."
The Governor-General at the same time instituted inquiries into the state of the native regiments, which led to a general disarming, and the prevention of much mischief. Despatches were sent to England, and the other Presidencies, for European troops: a messenger was hurried off to intercept the China expedition at Ceylon, and two steamers despatched to the Cape for further assistance. Above all, the Commander-in-chief was urged to lose not a day in marching upon Delhi, and re-establishing the authority of Government over the adjacent country. More than this we see not how the Government at Calcutta could accomplish, and all this was done within a week of the outbreak. We turn to the military arm on which it now devolved to execute justice, and restore the British supremacy.
On what day General Anson was informed at Simla that the army was fast relieving itself of the benefit of his command, or when he put himself in motion to arrest that unsatisfactory movement, we cannot discover. A second order withdrawing the new cartridges is dated at Umballah, the 16 th May. He reached Kurnaul on the 25 th, whence he telegraphed that the movement of the army being retarded by delay in getting up a battering-train, he did not expect to be before Delhi till the 8 th. The next intelligence is that his Excellency died of cholera on the 27 th. The distance from Simla to Umballah is on the map 55 miles in a straight line. Kurnaul is about as much further, and from thence to Delhi is under 80 miles. The march was hardly marked with the rapidity required for the occasion, but there was a want of transport (owing, as Lord Ellenborough affirms, to the rescinding of his arrangement from financial considerations), and a siege-train was judged indispensable.
On the death of General Anson, the chief command in India devolved on the senior Queen's officer, Sir Henry Somerset, commander- in-chief of Bombay. General Reed, the senior officer in Bengal, succeeded by the same system to the command of that army; but Lord Canning decided on appointing to that charge Sir Patrick Grant, commanding at Madras, and who for many years filled the post of Adjutant-General in Bengal. Meantime, Sir Heny Barnard, commanding the Sirhind division, was directed to proceed with the field force against Delhi. These appointments were made with promptitude and judgment. Sir Patrick Grant has long been spoken of as a first-rate officer, and enjoys the further advantage of long and intimate acquaintance with the Bengal Sepoys. He arrived at Calcutta on the 18 th June, but in the disturbed condition of the country was not expected to proceed to the upper provinces until the arrival of European troops should enable him to take the field with a suitable army.
Sir Henry Barnard appeared before Delhi on the 8 th June—and his force amounted, at the date of our last intelligence, to 7000 Europeans and 5000 natives. Finding the rebels strongly intrenched in two successive outposts, he attacked them both the same day, and drove the Sepoys within the walls. From that day sorties were made from the town almost daily; the rebels fought with determination, but were invariably repulsed with considerable loss. A great battle occurred on the 25 th, when the mutineers fought desperately the whole day, but were finally driven again within the walls, in which a great breach was effected. The storm had not taken place on the 27 th, the date of the last reliable advices—but on the 1 st July a report was circulated in Calcutta with the sanction of the Government, that the place had fallen and 7000 natives slain. This report could hardly be authentic, yet we are disposed to hope that the insurgents cannot long hold out.
The capture of Delhi will crush at once the head and life of the mutiny. Yet a terrible wreck will remain to be repaired, in the restoration of civil order and the reign of law in provinces as large as all France, throughout which they have been both temporarily destroyed. It is hardly too much to say, that the work of half a century has been struck down by this insurrection, and Lord Canning will find, in the arduous task of restoring it, abundant employment for all the troops that can be sent to his assistance. He will have decided, and trust with proper vigour, the question, idly and weakly argued in some of the English journals, of the retribution to be inflicted on the rebels. We are sick of the maudlin interference of humanitarians in the administration of criminal justice; and it is a great act of justice which England has now to performs in the sight of India and the world. Lord Canning, who saw his duty in the crisis of danger, when no less a man than Mr. Colvin seemed to waver for a moment, will not sink under its dread responsibility in the day of doom. Treason, murder, highway robbery, and rape, are offences not lightly dealt with by any code of civil law: they are not to be more leniently regarded by military tribunals, when committed, with every unimaginable atrocity, soldiers against the Government which they served, and upon the officers they were sworn to obey. Death is the certain penalty of every native who has imbrued his hands in British blood, or outraged British chastity. We only hope that no misplaced tenderness for a royalty always usurped, and long righteously abolished, will exempt the descendant of the Great Mogul from suffering on the same gallows as his vile confederates. If there be any reverence for his name and lineage yet lingering in the native mind, its extinction in the infamous but well-merited doom of treason and murder will be the best way of writing up on the sight of all the nations who attend the portals of British justice,—"If thou do evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
Proceeding now to examine into the moving causes of the revolt, of which we have thus sketched the progress and present state, we dismiss at the outset all idea of Russian instigation. Though suggested in some of the Indian journals, and insinuated in Parliament by no less an authority than the Chairman of the East India Company, we can find no warrant for this suggestions in any of the facts or papers before us. The natives who once thought European and English synonymous terms, have doubtless become more aware of the extent and resources of the Shah-i-Roos; and much as we pride ourselves at home on the victories of Alma, Inkermannm and Sebastopol, we doubt if the spectacle of Russia's prolonged resistance to the armies of Europe, with their final withdrawal from her territory, have tended in the native mind to exalt our reputation in comparison with the Northern power. To that quarter, then, every Asiatic schemer will doubtless turn a hopeful eye on each disturbance; but there is no evidence of Russian agency, or of other interference from without, in the present outbreak. Neither do we connect this outbreak with the independent labours of the missionaries; in support of which view, it is almost enough to point to the fact, that the disaffection is limited to Bengal, where those labours are recent; while it is not experienced at Madras, where missionary efforts have been prosecuted for more than a century, and have already effected the evangelisation of large provinces. Yet in Madras also the mutiny of Vellore sufficiently indicates that an interference of Government with the customs of caste would not be received with the same toleration. It was well observed in the recent debate, both by Mr Vernon Smith and the right honourable member for Busks, that the Hindu (the Mahommedan is not always so forbearing) exhibits no animosity to missionary enterprise. He is rather fond, they thought, of theological inquiry; we should rather say he is perfectly indifferent on points of theology, and absolutely careless of the honour of his gods, but, at the same time, passionately jealous for his own custom and caste. A great mistake is committed at home in considering the complex mass of usage properly termed caste, as implying that attachment to theological tenets, which we should call a creed. In its origin caste is doubtless a religious distinction springing directly out of the Brahmin theology. But at this day it is practically far more of a social than a theological institution. It is everywhere safer to attack an article of the faith than a popular usage; and the Hindu, so unalterably wedded to "custom," is of all men the most tolerant in respect of creed. His creed was matter of speculation, which we were welcome to question; his caste was a tangible advantage, of which he would not be robbed with impunity.
It is "custom" (as we have already observed), more than the strict doctrines of religion, which consecrate the usages called caste. We knew a Hindu rajah, whose mother chose to die of a cancer rather than expose her bosom to the English surgeon, who felt her pulse from behind a curtain, though it was urged by the rajah himself, that the seclusion of females is a practice only introduced by the Mussulman invasion, and never observe by the Brahmins. In the south of India, again, some of the Mahommedan festivals have been adopted by the Hindu population; while not Moslems, who are there comparatively few in number, permit the customs of idolatry to intermingle in their celebration. These hybrid ceremonies are equally, with others, entitled to the sanctions of "custom."
There is more to be said in respect to the system of education introduced by the Indian Government and the ameliorations of the law effected under the enlightened spirit which has lately prevailed in its councils. These have been censured by the more ardent missionaries as undermining the traditions of caste, without proposing the Christian creed in return. On the other hand, it is certain they have provoked a feeling among the more bigoted of the natives, which was not exhibited towards the missionaries. The acts of Government are naturally regarded with more suspicion than the efforts of private individuals. It was the spirit supposed to animate the Government which called the Dhurma Sobha into existence, and when its efforts proved ineffectual to review the rite of Suttee, or prevent the remarriage of widows, that institution, we doubt not, was quite capable of tampering with the allegiance of the Sepoy.
Still we cannot attribute the insurrection to a premeditated conspiracy among the princes or people of India. The people have, indeed, but little interest in the princes, and scarcely more in the Sepoys, or the Sepoys in them. We write in ignorance of the latest discoveries at Calcutta; but while every villainy may be concocted by the baboos of that enlightened metropolis, we doubt if the brains or the heart anywhere else exist in India for a general conspiracy. Of the native princes, none are suspected but the deposed King of Oude and the pensioned puppet at Delhi. The dominions of which the former was most righteously deprived are no doubt the very focus of the rebellion. The Brahmin Sepoys were drawn from them in considerable numbers, and from their position in the British army were allowed sundry unjust privileges by the native authorities, which British administration has abolished. It appears, moreover, that two- thirds of the king's army were disbanded on the annexation, and these would, of course, be ripe for revolt. Still we doubt the power of the deposed monarch to undermine the allegiance of our Sepoys. Annexation has uniformly been attended with so many blessings to the country annexed, through the increased protection of life and property, and the consequent development of internal resources, that it would be strange indeed if the natives just emancipated from his ex-majesty's reign were to conspire for his restoration. It is the fact, however, that the late king has been arrested by Lord Canning in evidence of his complicity in the treason. We nothing doubt the justice of the arrest, yet the presence his wife and heir in England may be accepted as proof, on the other hand, that no such conspiracy was premeditated when they left India. He has only struck in with a movement which he could never have originated; "rebellion lay in his way, and he found it."
The case against the Mogul prince wears a feature of graver suspicion. The Hindostanee papers Doorbin and Sultan ul Akbar have published a proclamation in his name, stating that orders had been given by the Governor-General to serve out cartridges made of pigs' fat and beef fat; that if there be 10,000 who refuse to use them, they are to be blown away from cannon; and that if there are 50,000, they are to be disbanded. It further states that hundreds of cannon and immense treasure have come to hand, and concludes with offering thirty rupees a-month to every mounted soldier, and ten to a foot-soldier. The date of this proclamation is not given; internal evidence proves it subsequent to the seizure of Delhi by the insurgent Sepoys; and it is nothing but the old story put out after the rising. We would hang the Mogul high as Haman for his subsequent treason and murders, but we acquit him of a conspiracy to which he was wholly unequal. The rush to Delhi appears the sudden resolve of mutineers who had passed the rubicon at Meerut; the proclamation of a king was an after-thought suggested by their temporary success; and all that ensued was the natural result of the apparent impotence of the British Government to maintain its cause.
The revolt, in short, appears to us to have been really occasioned by the cartridge grievance. We nothing doubt the previous existence of disaffection through a large part of the army. The Dhurma Sobha and the native press have played an important part in exciting the jealousy of the Sepoys. The whole story of the cartridges was probably devised and circulated by their agency—as many similar falsehoods have doubtless been before. During the progress of this revolt the most seditious and exasperating statements appeared in the native journals; and though it may be said their circulation is but small, this is not to be judged of by the number of copies issued, since it is well known that agents are employed to read them to the native regiments in their lines. The devotees, Mussulman and Hindu, constantly passing up and down the country, furnish such agents in abundance.
On this account we entirely approve of Lord Cannings act in subjecting the Indian press to a censorship. This proceeding has, of course, given deadly offence to the editors, and in their eyes has tarnished all the glory which they attributed to the Governor-General for his previous measures. If the Emperor Louis-Napoleon finds a free press incompatible with the preservation of order among a people so excitable as the French, when deprived of the traditions of legitimacy and inured to revolution, who can wonder that it has proved intolerable to a Government like the Anglo-Indian, contending with the prejudices of another race and creed. The result is what Sir Thomas Munro uniformly predicted. The language held by native editors, and the half-educated East Indians who affect to form public opinion in Calcutta, would be innocuous in this country from its inflated absurdity. Among Sepoys it is proved to be full of danger. There are doubtless journals of a superior character, conducted by Europeans, in Calcutta; such ought not to feel aggrieved at the censorship established by Lord Canning: the conditions are eminently reasonable. Government requires only that nothing be published to excite disaffection among its native subjects—nothing to create suspicion of any interference by Government with the Mussulman or Hindu religions—finally, nothing which tends to weaken its relations with the princes and states in alliance with the British Government.
Instead of complaining of these restrictions, we heartily wish that the same amount of restraint were imposed on the proceedings of the besotted society which calls itself the Dhurma Sobha. It is a caricature of constitutional government to allow a nest of ignorant and malicious traitors to slander its intentions under its very nose, and hamper every design for the improvement of the country by an incessant appeal to the darkest and wildest passions of human nature. These appeals, however untrue, find easy admission tot he prejudices of natives who know no better. It is impossible to eradicate them, and the consequences are written under our eyes in letters of fire and blood. No scruple should be felt in putting down by force an association having such objects in view.
Reverting, however, to the position that we have a military mutiny, not a national revolt, to deal with, the first question after the restoration of order must be that of Army Reform. It may be taken for granted that Government will not again commit the fatal mistake of placing unlimited confidence in Sepoy regiments. There will be a much larger proportion of European troops in the armies of all three Presidencies. At present the European infantry in the army of Bombay is to the native as 1 to 9 2/3, in that of Madras as 1 to 16 2/3, while in the Bengal army it was as low as 1 to 24 2/3. Lord Canning has already advised the raising of three European regiments for the Company's service, in place of the six native corps disbanded and revolted up to the 12 th May; and we cannot doubt that this policy will be carried further after what has since occurred. The native regular cavalry might well be entirely abolished, being neither so efficient at the charge as the dragoons, nor equal in skirmishing to the irregular horse. The artillery will probably be augmented, and made exclusively European; while regiments of Sepoy infantry will be quartered in due proximity to more reliable forces. It would be idle to suppose that Sepoy regiments can be altogether dispensed with.11 There is accordingly no lack of scheme for the reform of native discipline in future. We cannot now pretend to examine into their merits, but we will briefly note the principle suggestions.
First, to make the Sepoy, it is said, more dependent on his commanding officer. It has long been complained by regimental officers that the power and patronage attached to the command of a native regiment in former days have been gradually withdrawn to headquarters. This is to some extent the inevitable consequence of the organisation of those regiments into a regular army. Each improvement of military system necessarily draws to the fountain of command much of the authority which in looser times was exercised by local commandants. Years of tranquillity increase the centralising tendency, nay, even tend to absorb the Commander-in-Chief in the civil government, and the regimental officer is absorbed at headquarters. This process is to some extent unavoidable in India; nor until we know how to insure regimental commandants who understand something more of the their duty than appears to have been a frequent case in the Bengal army, will the suggestions to increase their influence obtain the consideration to which, in connection with other reforms, it would undoubtedly be entitled.
Another and more general complaint is the absence of regimental officers from their corps in staff emply. Nothing certainly could be more objectionable than the system, or want of system, observed in this respect in all three armies. There is no staff corps in either. Every officer in the Company's service is borne on the effective strength of some regiment, and is simply "absent" when appointed to other duty. Not only the army staff, properly so called, is thus supplied by regimental officers, but a variety of situations under Government, analogous to our civil departments of the army, are filled from the same quarter. Then there is the Commissariat, wholly officered from the line, as the Ordnance Commissariat is from the artillery. Lastly, political and civil appointments of power and emolument are the high prizes held out to military officers of tact and talent. The working of the system is this: Every cadet is posted, on landing, to a regiment, where he is drilled and polished for the first two years. If in this period he passes in the languages, and is possessed of talent or interest, the prize he is invited to aspire to is a "staff appointment." If successful, he quits his regiment to return to it no more, save under one of these exception—he may be remitted to his corps as the punishment of stupidity or misconduct; he may be obliged to rejoin from having risen to military rank too high for his staff situation (in which case he naturally expects ere long another appointment); or lastly, if the regiment be ordered into the field, all its officers are required to accompany it.
The regiment, then, is the home of the least capable, the disappointed, and discontented portion of the service. The ambition of the talented and aspiring is to quit it. It holds out but two prizes for subaltern officers—the quartermastership and the adjutancy. The command is its only attraction to older officers, and that is attained by seniority. If, under these discouraging circumstances, there be still with the regiment a senior captain or major acquainted with his duty, and anxious to do it—one who has won the confidence of the native in cantonment, and might lead them with honour in the field—he finds himself superseded, in the moment of ambition, by the return of an old field-officer, who has been sitting at a desk in Calcutta for twenty years, but must now take his regiment into action. The regiment is, in short, a mere conveniency. The staff-officer escapes its burdens, to return at pleasure when there is a chance of honour or emolument; and the effect is discouraging in the extreme to the due performance of regimental duty.
Undoubtedly the Commissariat and Government departments ought to constitute a staff corps by themselves, and not continue a drain on the effective strength of regiments. The army staff, properly so called, and the political prizes, might still be open to regimental officers. When it is urged that every such officer ought to be with his corps, it is forgotten how greatly their present number exceeds the establishment of a Sepoy regiment in the palmy days of old, and which is still judged sufficient for the irregular corps. One of the greatest evils under the present system is the idleness of Sepoy officers. After morning parade there is literally nothing to employ them, with the exception of the commanding officer, the regimental staff, and the officer of the day. The remainder, if not inclined to improve themselves, find little in their professional life to improve them. Simply to increase the number of such idlers would not be the way to improve discipline, or elevate the native ideas of European superiority.
Along, therefore, with the formation of a staff corps, the more thoughtful suggest some reduction in the number of regimental officers, together with an entire revision of the system of discipline. The command of a company should be attended with greater emolument and responsibility, and not be attainable without proof of proficiency in regimental duties. The regimental staff should be paid more on a par with the general. And, finally, the command of the regiment must no longer be the perquisite of seniority, but be made the award of regimental service and efficiency.12
In any such revision of regimental economy, the situation of the native officers cannot escape extensive alteration. They are at present promoted from the ranks by seniority. Many of them are stupid and incapable; others are excellent soldiers, upon whom the discipline of the regiment often greatly depends. These cannot but feel their influence with the men, and contrast it with the slight regard in which they are often held by the Europeans. Certain it is that, in the present mutiny, whether from incapacity or disappointed ambition, the native officers have been altogether useless to the side of duty. In no single instance do you find them restraining the disaffected. In some they have incited and headed the revolt.13 The number of native commissions might be reduced, and means must be devised to perpetuate the confidence established between the European and the native officer, by the promotion of the latter on the recommendation of the other. Native officers also should be liable to exchange into other regiments, to guard against their falling under the influence of the men.
We forebear to enter on further details. One great and paramount reform must be effected, or nothing else can prosper. We allude to the bestowal of the highest offices in India as a matter of patronage between the Government, the Horse Guards, and the Court of Directors. The only defeat sustained in our time by the British arms in India was occasioned by the imbecile policy of an amiable nobleman, whom the Whigs, having tried in high office at home and found wanted, thought fit to make Governor-General of India. The disasters in Affghanistan were precipitated by the Horse Guards choosing to convert a gentlemanly officer of high character and good family, but unfortunately no soldier, into the general of an India division. Twice in the last few years we have seen the Government go on its knees to a General, who had been passed over at the proper times, to go out and save India. The merits of Sir Charles Napier and of Sir Colin Campbell were as well known when the command which they were felt to deserve was given to others, as when the country was reduced to the humiliating necessity of imploring their forgiveness and aid. Unless the home authorities can be persuaded, or compelled, into virtue enough to allow India to be withdrawn from the field of patronage and favour, we see little hope for its armies or inhabitants. We are ourselves inclined to think that the offices of governor and commander-in-chief should be united at each Presidency, and that both seats in Council and Divisional commands throughout Indian should be in the responsible patronage of the Governor-General. All that should be done at home is to select for that high and commanding position—without regard to politics, interest, or court favour—the officer whom the voice of India and of the army at large pronounces the best qualified for its duties. We never remember the time when more than two or three competitors could have been found to fulfil this condition. Shall we ever see the day when the Constitutional Government which has already struggled out of the pecuniary phase of political corruption, will so purify itself from the secondary pollutions of patronage as to undertake the arbitration?
Last modified 23 September 2007