NOTHING could be more gratifying than the tone assumed by nearly all the ministers of our religion on that solemn day set apart for the humiliation of the nation before an offended Creator. It had been urged by some of the organs of public opinion that advantage should be taken of this day to promote the efforts of the recruiting- sergeant, and rouse the nation by that Moloch cry for vengeance which has so strangely perverted the judgment of some of our greatest men, causing them to forget for a while the precepts of that mild and merciful religion which we reverence, and bidding us assume to ourselves that right of punishment of which we are but the humble and appointed instruments. But this advice was only followed in isolated instances; here and there we regret to find a few "Tupperisms," as they have been called, but generally the ministers of God's Holy Word took a loftier and more noble view of their mission. As the spiritual leaders of a nation which is justly regarded as the most civilised in the world, they shrank from any appeal to the worse passions, and earnestly strove to teach a lesson of mercy and forgiveness, which we trust will bear ample fruit. Englishmen will ever be found ready to defend the honour of their country; they will make sacrifices when required, ungrudgingly and unrepiningly; but no persuasion will induce them to be guilty of acts of cruelty and barbarity, which can only emanate from latent cowardice, and thus place themselves on a parallel with the miscreant traitors whose wanton horrors have caused us such deep sorrow and regret. In the words of Mr. Disraeli, "we are bound to protest against meeting atrocities by atrocities. I have heard things said and seen things written of late which would make me almost suppose that the religious opinions of the people of England had undergone some great change, and that we were preparing to revive the worship of Moloch. I cannot believe that it is our duty to indulge in such a spirit. I think that what has happened in India is a great providential lesson, by which we may profit; and if we meet it like brave and inquiring men, we may assert our dominion and establish for the future in India a government which may prove at once lasting and honourable to the country." And to these magnificent sentiments we cordially respond Amen!
Equally gratifying has been the conduct of the Opposition during the whole of this momentous crisis; instead of striving to make political capital of the many grievous sins of omission and commission which the government has displayed, they have united with one heart and one mind to strengthen the hands of the ministers. In every speech they utter, whenever they have an opportunity of expressing their views, they carefully evade any channel which might add to the embarrassments by which Lord Palmerston is beset, and strenuously urge on the nation the necessity of combining to put down the insurrection which has so tarnished our flag. They have offered their advice, which has been received with an unwilling ear; but, brave hearts, they do not despond: they know the infinite vigour and dauntless courage animating our nation, and they employ their most strenuous exertions in fanning it into flame.
Turning to the government, we must confess our extreme disappointment; for if there were any one quality for which Lord Palmerston was supposed to be distinguished, it was energy. An entire nation demanded, in the crisis of the Last war, that he should assume the helm, and confidence was restored so soon as it was supposed that vigorous measures would be undertaken. We will not stop here to inquire what peculiar advantages were derived from Lord Palmerston's administration, or whether any better terms of peace were obtained in consequence; but so much is certain, that all Lord Palmerston's energy has evaporated, or was expended during the last war, leaving none with which to meet the emergencies of the present awful crisis. He has slowly drifted in what may be called "the kid-glove school of politics," and appears to be constantly hesitating between the two great principles of laissez faire and laissez aller. We have already expressed our opinion as to the suicidal policy which has distinguished the whole of the Indian crisis; every paper, every letter from the East, urged the instantaneous transmission of troops through Egypt; but the government preferred the old system, and deferred the experiment until the first reinforcements were almost in sight of port. Even so late as the 16th of July, or two months nearly after the news the insurrection had arrived, and while every mail was bringing tidings of fresh disasters, Lord Palmerston deliberately refused to take any steps for providing substitutes, or reserves, for the line. He saw no reason why the intelligence from India should cause any change in the government policy. This refusal was repeated in still more arrogant language by Lord Panmure in the House of Lords, and it was not till some weeks afterwards that government gave way to the incessant pressure, and called out ten thousand of the militia. The mere fact that this amount was not sufficient, and that fifteen thousand more men are now being slowly collected, speaks volumes for the foresight of the governmental policy.
We are ready to grant that any government stands in a very awkward position as regards the nation when it finds itself compelled to demand large expenditure. The exertions of the peace-at-any-price party have not been thrown away, and there is something extremely fascinating in those theories which suggest national economy. But the present is an isolated case; there is no war to satisfy the arrogance of emperors or the punctilios of diplomats, but a stern reality, in which the lives of thousands of our countrymen are at stake. All parties have combined in the general demand that England's honour should be retrieved, and no sacrifice would have been thought too great for such a consummation. The government needed not to feel alarmed that the nation would not go along with it in any expenditure calculated to bring about the result in the shortest possible space of time, and we are naturally now not disposed to accept any excuses about "expense and inconvenience," which the government allege as the reason of their short-comings in connexion with the overland route. Besides, the deprecation comes a little too late, for it notorious that any reputation Lord Palmerston has acquired has disregard of expenditure, and by cajoling the House of Commons into overlooking his immense outlay. So long as success accompanied the profuse demand for money, the nation accepted that as a species of panacea; but now that the government is doing nothing to respond to our demand for action, we feel that the anxious wish to save our pockets, so suddenly enunciated, is but an arrière pensée to divert our attention from graver faults.
We are told, however, now, that the government is proceeding with unexampled vigour, and carefully tabulated forms are periodically published to prove that every exertion has been made to relieve our afflicted countrymen in the East. The villagers are drawn from their employment by the unusual sound of fife and drum, and the sergeant is incessant in his magnificent appeals that they should follow him where glory waits them. Unfortunately, the result has hitherto proved a barren one, and it seems as if greater embarrassments await us in England than in India. The last war read our country a bitter lesson of ingratitude; the militia were hurriedly disbanded, and treated with an ignominy which is now bearing its fruits; and, as it has been justly said, "men will no longer join for a bounty too small to be a boon, for pay which a beggar would despise, and a pension which leaves them to the workhouse." But these probably, are defects inherent in our military system, and can hardly be charged to the government; still, we are obliged to take theta into account, as they further embarrass a ministry that has already sufficient burdens on its shoulders, and which hitherto it has evinced but slight disposition to shake off. Fortunate are we that in this emergency we have an ally so chivalrous and loyal as Napoleon III., and if it be true, as asserted, that at Stuttgard he intimated that any aggressive act on the part of Russia would set the armies of France in motion, and the Continent, in all probability, in a flame, we are almost disposed to forgive Lord Palmerston all, in consideration of the appreciation he displayed for that great ruler's talents, and the staunchness with which he adhered to him through evil and good report.
We have delayed writing about India, for, in truth, any subject is more grateful to us at the present moment through the impossibility of predicting good under the existing system, and a reluctance to say anything which may increase the general despondency. Still we must not shrink from our task; we are bound to draw attention to the untoward events obtaining in that hapless country, believing it to be the duty of every writer to do his utmost, at the present awful crisis, in rousing England to a sense of her position. We find there all that we have to blame in England intensified; with every mail arrive fresh appeals for the removal of the incompetents to whom the destinies of the country are entrusted, and assurances that, unless speedy measures be taken, the policy of Lord Canning must neutralise the efforts of our gallant soldiers. The governor-general has evinced a marvellous capacity for being great in little things, and, unhappily, the converse is equally true. Precious time has been spent in unseemly squabbles about personal dignity, and when union was of paramount importance he has sedulously striven to promote dissension. He has displayed his bias and his ambition to share in those disputes which have always hampered the movements of the Indian government, by sending to Allahabad a gentleman notorious for the exaggerated notions he entertains about civilian supremacy, and he is striving every nerve to encompass Sir Colin Campbell in the adamantine fetters of red tape. In the mean while, the government of India is losing its prestige; things are hourly taking place which confirm the natives in their impression that our raj must be doomed, or the government could not be so inexplicably weak, and in the face of this Lord Canning is sending home bulletin after bulletin painted in the most roseate hues of sanguine success, and deceiving no one but himself.
As one of the most unfortunate efforts made by the governor- general, we may allude to the practical supersession of Havelock by Sir James Outram. If there were any reviving interlude in the whole of the Indian business, or one which served to convince us of the certainty of eventual success, it was the heroic struggle carried on by Havelock at the head of his small band, and the titanic efforts he made to relieve the beleaguered of Lucknow. He has gained for himself a name which will live for ever; has raised a monument ære perennius in the hearts of his countrymen; the deeds done by him and his wondrous handful of men will form the theme for the poet and the painter, and gain them a niche in history by the side of Leonidas and his three hundred of Thermopyhæ: and his reward for all this is, that he is superseded. We have no knowledge of Outram; he has been called the Bayard of India; but another Bayard, equally sans peur et sans reproche , Sir Charles Napier, has done much to strip the laurels from his brow. At any rate, however this may be, we feel assured that Havelock was equal to any emergency; a gallant soldier and truly Christian gentleman, he has fought the good fight undauntingly, and we regret that the victor's reward he reserved for himself in the relief of Lucknow should be torn from him by the fiat of the governor-general.
Although the telegraphic despatches tell the old sad story of Delhi uncaptured and Lucknow unrelieved, we have much to be thankful for in the fact that the incompetency of the government has produced no worse results. But we cannot disguise the truth that great perils are still impending over us before our troops can be sent up to the scene of danger after they have been landed at Calcutta. In invoking the assistance of Jung Bahadoor, we sincerely hope that due precautions have been taken against any intrigue on his part, but we fear that the destiny of India has been in great measure entrusted to his good pleasure. We all know the unscrupulous manner in which he waded to a throne through a sea of blood; that he allowed no pricks of conscience to interfere between him and the attainment of his sanguinary ends; and into the hands of such a man we delegate an authority which he might turn to the very worst of purposes. In Central India, Scindiah and Holkar are stated to be staunch allies of the English, but history has taught us what confidence is to be placed in Mahratta princes. Wherever a Mahratta or a Rajpoot chieftain rules we may expect danger: their contingents are joined together; and, we are urged to derive hope from this fact, because Scindiah is enabled to keep them in check. It appears to us that he is following out the good old-fashioned plan among the Mahratta chiefs of waiting to see on which side the balance turns, and that his neutrality may be ascribed rather to a doubt of the result than to any affection he bears the English. And, in fact, what have we done to cause the native princes to feel any gratitude or affection towards us? The lessons we have taught them are well described in a pamphlet called the "Mutiny of the Bengal Army." "It is impossible to describe the mixed feelings of indignation and hatred which pervaded the whole Mussulman population of India when they heard of this deed (the annexation of Oude). Naturally treacherous themselves, they yet had an instinctive admiration for honest and truthful dealing, and they had hitherto placed implicit confidence in the word of an Englishman. When, however, they learned the story of the annexation, and the juggle by which the King of Oude had been done out of his dominions, their hearts filled with rage and a desire for revenge. Our Muhammadan Sepoys were by that act alienated at once and for ever, and the Hindoos began to reflect that the kingly power which could condescend to kick a king out of his dominions, might, by a similar manœuvre, cheat them out of their religion."
It is curious to notice, also, that persons writing home from India place the most implicit confidence in the Sikhs, of whom we are raising a further force of twenty thousand, and giving commissions to chieftains who have, hitherto, been under the strictest surveillance. It is true that there is an intense hatred between the Sikhs and Sepoys, aggravated, probably, by the proclamation of the King of Delhi, ordering them to be massacred when caught; but that does not prove that the Sikhs bear any love for us. They were the most formidable and most recent foes we have had; and it seems to us that the government are putting weapons into their hands, with which they may reassert their independence. If they prove staunch to us, they will be invaluable allies, but the temptation is almost too great for them, and we may yet find ourselves beset by a new body of foemen, entailing fresh expenditure of blood and treasure, both of which will be heavily taxed under existing circumstances. By the end of November, 50,000 of the bravest men in the world will be assembled in India to reassert our supremacy; against them we find in arms at least 120,000 men, without taking into calculation the disbanded Oude levies, and the swarm of cut-throats and vagabonds now marauding about the country. In Delhi there are of these probably 30,000; and in any assault of that city we must also take into account the 150,000 inhabitants, one-half of whom are Mussulmans, fighting with the courage of despair, for they well know no quarter will be shown on that fearful day of reckoning. From Bombay and Madras we can expect no assistance; on the contrary, we fancy that several of the newly-arrived regiments will be kept back to ensure the tranquillity of those presidencies; and disease and intemperance will reduce the number we shall have at our command. Another cause of delay will be found in the concentration of so many troops in Calcutta, where the means for their transport are most inadequate; and the very fact of the Indus route having been so strongly recommended, is in itself sufficient to prevent troops being sent by that practicable method, and sweeping the rebels before them on their downward march through the North-Western Provinces. We must not be misunderstood we have not the least doubt as to the ultimate tranquillity of India, but we wish to impress upon our readers that the mere fact of the army of retribution being landed will not suffice for the immediate suppression of the insurrection. Months, in all probability, will elapse before the last spark of mutiny has been extinguished; years, before the traces it has left on the minds of the Indians are eradicated.
But until those two months between the latest news we have and the landing of the forces have passed away, our gallant brethren in India have a terrible ordeal to undergo; and who can guarantee that the next mail may not bring us tidings fraught with disaster? The dreadful mismanagement at Dinapore—of that system which places men physically weakened, in positions where the exercise of the most active judgment is required—delayed the march of reinforcements so much needed and gave fresh impetus to the mutineers. The retreat of Havelock, unavoidable, but still most unfortunate, has inspired the whole of Oude with confidence, and anarchy reigns supreme throughout that territory which we annexed, because, as Lord Dalhousie told us in his minute, no dynasty had ever performed towards us more faithfully the obligations which they had pledged themselves to fulfil. With every check upon our progress, the number of our opponents is indefinitely increased, and the consequences of past neglect will be bitterly repaid in the increased difficulties which will have to be overcome ere the gallant garrison of Lucknow can be saved from its dangerous position. All the Indian news that has hitherto reached us has borne a marvellous resemblance ; we hear with each mail of isolated acts of gallantry, of wonderful deeds achieved by small bodies of men, as, for instance, the defence of Arrah ; but, unfortunately the results are almost barren, and while Englishmen are proving true to themselves, the very object for which we are fighting—the suppression of the insurrection—appears as remote as ever. When the campaign is over, and we have time to think over the marvellous deeds which have been done, we shall probably come to the conclusion that the siege of Delhi was a mistake under existing circumstances, and that it would have been better to employ such a concentration of force in relieving those who have been left to perish. The expansion which the insurrection assumed was sufficient proof that, even with the fall of Delhi, the campaign would not be over; and it would have been more satisfactory to have seen that body of men moving from point to point and ensuring the safety of our countrymen, than to be doomed to what appears a second siege of Sebastopol, in which it is difficult to decide who are the besiegers, who the besieged.
We need not here allude to the stories current in India about Lord Canning's administration, for the fiat has in all probability gone forth ere now by which his misrule will be ended, and with him will fall that selfish system which has hampered the energies of the military commanders, and of which he has been the worst exponent. The interval which will elapse between his resignation and the arrival of his successor will be turned to good account by Sir Colin Campbell, and his unfettered action for a season will be invaluable. And who will that successor be? In India one cry is raised: "Send us Lord Ellenborough; he knows our country; he has had experience of the system by which we have so long been overridden, and he will take the best measures to remove it." Sir Colin has been estimated at the value of ten thousand men, so deplorable has been the lack of men in India; and with Lord Ellenborough to back him, years may be saved in effecting the regeneration of India. We fear, though, that Lord Palmerston's government, in the consciousness that power is slipping from its grasp, will not bestow such a prize on an opponent; for the Whigs have always regarded the governor-generalship as a reward for services rendered, and they are beset by a swarm of hungry lords who desire place, without much caring to analyse their competency. The only hope is that few may be disposed to accept such a post of danger, and such a touchstone of talent as the Indian governorship must prove in the present crisis.
Rumours, appearing to have more than usual consistency, have been recently afloat as to an early meeting of parliament, but we are still strongly disposed to doubt the fact. Lord Palmerston may be a very clever man—there is no doubt of his being a daring man—but even his iron nerves must quiver at the thought of what he will have to face when parliament assembles. Quips and jests will avail him little in the face of the stern reality. The case of India is not one which can be turned off by a ready repartee, nor will the threat of a dissolution browbeat those who are eager searchers after the truth. For it must be borne in mind that Lord Palmerston's government has accepted the responsibilities of the present crisis, and by it must stand and fall. It is now almost universally allowed that the annexation of Oude was the feather that broke the camel's back, as far as it entailed the confiscation of the king's private property and the resumption of the lands held by his former nobles. On the 21st of July, 1856, Mr. Vernon Smith, in his annual Indian budget, officially announced the annexation of Oude, and expressed an opinion (on behalf of government) that it was a very reasonable thing for Lord Dalhousie to do. He then added that he was "perfectly indifferent whether the transaction were called an annexation, acquisition, or a cession," and, concluded his remarks by making the hazardous statement, "I am perfectly prepared, therefore, whenever it is to be questioned, to defend the acquisition of Oude." The next question that arises is, when the government had accepted the responsibility, what steps it took to secure its newly acquired property from the possible dissatisfaction such an arbitrary course must entail. The answer is, that they drifted headlong into a Persian war, of which the beginning and the end are equally shrouded us mystery, and denuded India of every available European in pursuit of that brilliant chimera which could only be realised on Persian territory. And here occurred the only redeeming point of the long list of blunders committed by Lord Canning during his short reign. He wrote home to state that he could not answer for the safety of the country when so denuded of troops. To what extent this was carried may be seen from the fact that we had, to overawe a territory extending from Calcutta to the Sutlej, just ten thousand Europeans. But Lord Palmerston was in the first flush of his triumph over an "unprincipled Opposition." He had been sent into the House by the united efforts of the whole nation, and a trifle more responsibility sat like a feather-weight upon his shoulders. In spite of his age, there is a good deal of the rollicking, jaunty Irishman about the premier. He has great faith in his luck, and fancied that his triumph ensured him a long lease of prosperity. Aprè s moi le déluge might be said by Lord Palmerston, without any risk of being accused of plagiarism, for all his acts have tended to foster that opinion of his policy.
So far back as the 24th January last, insurrectionary movements had commenced in India; incendiary fires took place, and, before long, Brigadier-General Hearsey became cognizant of an immense conspiracy, which had for its object the destruction of Calcutta and the annihilation of the British. Warning after warning was given to the apathetic governor-general, but he could not be roused until the mutiny at Meerut and the loss of Delhi showed the ramifications of the mutiny which had commenced at Berhampore, on the 26th February, by the disobedience of the 19th Native Infantry. The extract we now quote from Lord Canning's despatch to the Court of Directors is equally humiliating to both: "The necessity for an increase of the substantial strength of the troops on the Bengal establishment—that is to say, of the European troops upon the establishment—has been long apparent to us; but the necessity of refraining from any material increase to the charges of the military department, in the present state of our finances, has prevented us hitherto from moving your Honourable Court in this matter." When an empire is at stake, it is not the moment to haggle about money; and this penny-wise and pound- foolish policy of the directors will have cost oceans of blood, and something very like an Indian bankruptcy. But before this letter was written, government had received intimation of the dangerous state of things in Bengal, and the urgent necessity of reinforcements, in addition to any efforts the Court of Directors might be disposed to make. But the government were pleased to regard it as the mere bugbear of a few frightened officials, and Lord Panmure expressed their opinion in his usual haughty language on the evening of the 19th May, in reply to an earnest inquiry of Lord Ellenborough's: "The accounts from India are not such as to create on the minds of the government a belief that there is any necessity for special measures." By this decision, humanly speaking, Lord Panmure sealed the fate of the victims we now have to deplore. The government having made up its mind on the matter, fruitless were all the appeals to it to display a little energy; and Mr. Vernon Smith, in referring to the mutiny at Meerut and the murder of the British officers, begged to quiet the public mind by stating that the disaffection had been completely put an end to through the promptitude and vigour displayed by "my noble friend," Lord Canning.
On the 29th June, the mail brought the news of the seizure of Delhi, and disproved the statement that the outbreak was partial and temporary. Lord Granville politely told Lord Ellenborough that his proposal to call out the militia was the result of "exaggerated alarm;" while Mr. Vernon Smith, in the other house, displayed his prophetic powers, by expressing his regret that the mail had left a day too soon to apprise us of the razing of Delhi to the ground. Still, as "a measure of security," 14,000 men would be sent out during the course of July; and that eminent statesman and great Indian authority clenched his argument by expressing his belief that the Indian Empire was not imperilled by the present outbreak, and that the disaffection would be effectually suppressed by the force then in the country. On the 14th July, Lord Granville repeated the assertion that the mutiny was confined to the army; and Lord Palmerston evinced the universality of his knowledge by explaining that Delhi was not regularly fortified—the very thing which cost us so much trouble before Sebastopol.
On the 27th July, Mr. Vernon Smith enunciated some new, but equally startling, theories about the insurrection: he observed that "a rising of this kind which does not spread like a conflagration, may be regarded as having already failed," and considered it a most consolatory circumstance that not one of the native princes, our gallant allies, had sullied their glory by betraying us at this juncture. An awkward reference being made to Oude, Mr. V. Smith could not see the connexion, and he felt assured that the Oude Sepoys "were as satisfied with the annexation as the rest of the Sepoys undoubtedly are." On the 12th August, a new actor appeared on the scene, the Chancellor of the Exchequer expressing his perfect satisfaction with the monetary resources of the East India Company, and an assurance that they suffered from no difficulty of a financial kind. On the same evening, Mr. V. Smith gave a fresh reason for not availing themselves of the Suez route, because of its injurious effects in that season on European health, and ended by saying that the "government were acquitted in their own consciences of any neglect to avail themselves of the best means of pouring troops into India." And all this while a fleet of transports was beating about in the chops of the Channel, and our magnificent fleet could not supply a single screw steamer to serve the purpose of a tug.
Such, then, are the heads of the accusations which, in all probability, will be brought against Lord Palmerston's government on the assembling of parliament: we charge them with culpable neglect, for, as Sir Lytton Bulwer justly said, "the man who tells us that a revolt which must have taken months, if not years, to organise, no prudence could have foreseen, and no energy averted, simply asks us to believe that policy is an accident, and government a farce." But a heavier charge remains behind, of indifference to the sufferings of our countrymen in the East, and a deliberate neglect of the only measures which could have averted so awful a sacrifice. The Aberdeen ministry was overthrown for much slighter faults than these: the errors of judgment they displayed produced no such fatal results as those which have accompanied Lord Palmerston's policy, nor were such mighty interests at stake. But the nation, acting as judge, condemned that ministry irrevocably, and, such being the case, we have no doubt but that Lord Palmerston, so recently the favourite of the people, will undergo the fate of all favourites, and experience a day of humiliation, which he was far from anticipating in the moment of triumph.
Last modified 10 October 2007