ANOTHER month of agonising suspense has passed away; the pulse of the nation has been throbbing for the blessed news that light had at length dawned for our hapless countrywomen in India; we have clung wildly to the hope that every mail would bring us tidings of good cheer, and that the crisis in our fortunes was past; we have been buoyed up by a flickering gleam of success—but it has been extinguished again, and we have still to fear the worst. The only consolation we can draw from recent intelligence is, that our gallant soldiers have kept up the old prestige of the British flag, and if they have been forced to succumb, it was because they had to contend with the Demon Cholera, more fell in his wrath and stubborn of purpose than the human demons who have dared to provoke our vengeance. For the next few weeks it may be that news of evil omen may reach us, and we sadly fear that the atrocities of Cawnpore may be repeated whenever the ruthless Sepoys can wear out the handful of men opposed to them at Agra and Lucknow. But our work of righteous vengeance cannot be delayed for any length of time; the troops are rapidly approaching the Indian shores, and once assembled, they will scatter the rebels before them like chaff. Wonderful, indeed, have been the instances of bravery displayed; our men scattered over an immense tract of country, and taken at a disadvantage, have held their ground with a Titanic courage, and even now relief would have reached them, in spite of the inferiority of our numbers, had it not been that they were checked in their progress, and forced to yield to disease, but not to the enemy. The retreat of the Ten Thousand is thrown into the shade by the heroic actions of Havelock's small band.
The insurrection of the Sepoys is unparalleled in history, and there are circumstances connected with it which appear to defy all attempts at explanation. A disbanded and disarmed regiment has risen against its leader; Sepoys, hitherto staunch, have waited until they were surrounded by British troops ere they raised the standard of revolt, and have proved the utter fallacy of trusting to the Sepoy faith. Hence the governor-general has acted wisely in disarming all those who were still supposed to be faithful, for he has thus withdrawn from them the chief temptation to swell the ranks of the rebels. Theory on theory is propounded, and writers are indefatigable in trying to discover the reasons of the insurrection; but one cause is only rejected, to make room for another equally untenable. For a while, insults to their religion were a favourite reason; then the Muhammadans were the instigators; and now persons best instructed in the matter appear to agree in ascribing it to annexation, which has created a jealousy in the native mind. The last is probably the correct view, but only in so far that annexation has led to a dislocation of the British troops, and left the defences of the country in the hands of mercenaries. We have never gained the affection of the native population; while promising them all due respect for their religion, mistakenly perhaps, we have allowed missionaries to keep the native mind in a constant state of agitation, and government has added to the alarm by seizing on every territory which there was a plausible excuse to annex. The occupation of Oude was the feather which broke the camel's back: the natives felt that the time had arrived to try their strength with the invader, and no more favourable opportunity could have presented itself. Interest alone has hitherto kept the Mussulmans and Hindoos on such friendly terms: they determined to struggle for the supremacy with the British, and sank all religious differences in favour of the common object. The same feeling has, in all probability, led to the manifestation of mutiny in the Bombay Presidency; the annexation of Sattara has not yet been forgotten by the natives, but, fortunately, we are enabled to cope with the rebels there, owing to the smallness of the country, and the possession of all the strong points. In all future dealings with India it behoves us, then, to bear these facts in mind, and undertake no annexation unless we have the appliances at hand to carry out our intentions without fear of revolt.
The interests of the home country are so closely allied with those of India, that we are bound to do all in our power to restore the British rule in that country. This has been the unanimous expression of the country's will since the first news of the lamentable mutinies reached us, but our government did not appear disposed to further them. On the 28th of May last, government was informed of the dangerous symptoms at Barrackpore, and the suspected disaffection existing through the Bengal army. At the same time the governor-general pressed for British reinforcements, and we may feel sure that he would not have urged a measure so antagonistic to the money-making policy of the East India government, which can pardon a governor anything except attacking its coffers, unless he had very grave reasons. The vigorous government, which has been so much applauded, evidenced its knowledge of Indian affairs by sending out a troop-ship on the 18th of June, with 214 men, "reliefs." From that period, up to the 10th of July, the whole amount of men who left our shores for India was 850. All the while, it must be remembered, government was receiving reports from India, but insisted on regarding them as "exaggerated," and confidently expecting with each mail the tidings that the mutiny had been suppressed. At length, when delay was no longer possible-when the whole nation was crying out that instant assistance should be sent to our brethren in the East—when each of us was deploring the loss of some relative or friend—when every person acquainted with Indian affairs was insisting that this was no ordinary mutiny, but the unanimous upheaving of the Indian nation—when Lord Ellenborough was urging on the ministry the results of his own experience and sagacity—the government determined on a display of force. But, even at that moment, ministers could not leave the beaten track of routine; the troops were put on board sailing vessels, and left to beat down the Channel against contrary winds, when we had the finest steam navy in the world idling in our ports: in short" every evil which had been laid bare as connected with our Crimean expedition was in a fair way of being repeated. The route across· the Isthmus of Suez was declared to be inconvenient and expensive, as if money were a consideration when the lives of our countrymen were at stake, and the government waited for the next mail, and then for the next, hoping that the fortune which had hitherto fallen to their lot would tide them over these untoward occurrences, and avert from them a responsibility which they felt themselves unable to assume. In nothing was Lord Palmerston more fortunate than in his accession to power: when the nation, unjust in its wrath, demanded the dismissal of the Duke of Newcastle, because he was unable to extricate himself immediately from the vicious system which encompassed him like Dejanira's robe, and left the ground in a great measure cleared for his successor, Lords Palmerston and Panmure had an easy task in following the direction laid down for them, and did not neglect to take the entire credit of their predecessors' labours. Now Lord Palmerston has a virgin wilderness of routine creepers and red- tape parasitical plants to cleave his way through, and time will tell whether his axe will be sharp enough to fell all the obstacles which neglect and selfishness have allowed to grow up and bar his progress.
It might naturally be supposed that the alarming events in India would not be neglected by those who make" religious capital" of our calamities. The Bishop of Bombay may be taken as an exponent of these views; and in a sermon he recently preached at Brighton, he asserted that" the fearful sufferings to which Europeans were exposed, and the awful bereavements which had fallen on so many families, were to be regarded as the judgments of God." Although religious matters are not the province of the periodical writer, we are bound to protest against the idea that the suppression of the idolatrous customs of heathenism would ensure the peace of India. Such an attempt would be simply impossible; for whatever may be the value of the Hindoo religion, they hold to it with an intense veneration, and prefer death to its abandonment. Much may be effected by time and example. They may gradually be led to see the false and pernicious influences to which their religion subjects them, but any attempt to force them to give up their belief would only add fuel to the fire. And this the Indian government has seen. A petition was recently presented by the native Bombay merchants against the classbooks used in regimental schools. It was signed by about a thousand of the principal Hindoo, Parsee, and Muhammadan inhabitants, who alleged in very temperate language that the government had infringed the principle of religious neutrality, granted on the formation of the Native Education Society in 1824, by introducing religious books calculated to undermine the faith of the native children. The government immediately bowed to the correction and withdrew the obnoxious books. But 'if the opinion of the Bishop of Bombay were correct, and the countenance to the native religion be "a national sin, which Heaven has avenged by letting loose that human devil Nena Sahib and his kindred, to violate, hack, and mutilate Christian women to death," the authorities ought to have rejected the memorial, and insisted on proselytising. What would have been the result we need not stop to inquire.
The greatest security of the British government in India has been the fidelity with which it has adhered to the compact with the natives, that their religion should be unassailed. At the foundation of our Indian empire, such a guarantee was indispensable, or the handful of men who represented England would have been swept from the face of the earth. We will not here enter into the question whether it became a Christian people to enter into such a compact, forgetful of the Divine precepts to teach the Gospel to the heathen; and, perhaps, were we to recommence our conquest of India, as maybe the case yet, we should establish the Christian religion on a very different footing. However this maybe, the government, once bound by such a compact, was forced to recognise it in its integrity, and hold aloof from all attempts at proselytising. But in later years the missionaries have had the field open to them, and the success they have achieved presents but a melancholy picture of the progress of Christianity in the East. Within the last fifty-seven years 360 missionaries have been actively spread over India, assisted by upwards of 500 native preachers. They are attached to twenty-two missionary societies, and have founded 270 churches, which are attended by 15,000 members. Of these members by far the largest portion is found in the Madras Presidency, while within the limits of the Bombay government they are the fewest. The promoters of missionary enterprise ascribe their slight progress to the unchristian antagonism of the government, and say that the Hindoos are so accustomed to look up to the government as the parent of all authority, the dispenser of all patronage, the only motive power in a vast society which literally owns no other public than that of the services, that anything emanating from it receives at once the impress of popular currency; whilst all opposed to it is regarded with, to say the least, suspicion. It may be so. We are disposed to allow that the course forced on the Indian government was bad, and that Christianity should, from the outset, have been held in due reverence; and if the government of India is re-organised, which may be fairly anticipated, we hope that the chief objections of its opponents will be removed. "Brahminism," as a writer recently and justly observed, "is the most impudent and outrageous system of idolatry in the world. There is no religion that has so outraged decency in its audacious representations of the infinite Unseen Being, that has dragged Him so unceremoniously to the very surface of the world of sense, and clothed Him in such outlandish, gross, and fanciful shapes. Brahminism riots and luxuriates in the representation of Deity." In the face of such truths, the Indian government can no longer be lukewarm to the vital interests of Christianity, and probably by government intervention it will be possible to avoid those indiscretions of which our missionaries have too often been guilty. Caution and gentleness will be pre-eminently necessary, and we must not seek the extension of Christianity by means which defeat themselves, or imperil our whole empire for the sake of a single convert.
But whatever differences of opinion may exist with regard to the religious government of India, there can be none as to the fact that the East India Company has not fulfilled its duty towards the natives in its internal administration. It is true that the Company has laid out large sums for irrigation, because the return was steady and immediate, but the votes for roads and bridges have always be ell on the poorest scale. By evidence given before the House of Commons by civil servants of the Company, we find that Bengal possesses but one road worthy of the name, and that chiefly kept for military purposes. During certain seasons of the year this road is for many miles impassable by vehicles; and instances have been known of gentlemen being obliged to leave their carriages embedded in the mud and walk for distances of sixty miles. There are no cross roads at all, while the mail lines, which form so important an item .in .the statistics of India, are mere bullock tracks, only available for the camel-carriers, and dâk runners, who carry the mail bags on their heads from town to town. In the Madras Presidency, where the land is wonderfully fertile producing indigo, cotton, and sugar, the roads are impassable in the rainy season, and a portion of one of them is actually employed by the Madras government as a trial ground for new gun carriages, which are pronounced safe if they pass this severe ordeal. The internal communication being so bad, it might naturally be supposed that the Company would gladly hail the formation of railroads; but they throw every obstacle in the way of the promoters. So far back as 1832, we find a railway projected at Madras to run westward, in the direction of Bangalore. It was not till 1848 that active preparations were made for its commencement. In Bengal, the first railway movement was perceptible in 1843; in 1850, the first sod was turned of the Great Western of Bengal Railway. While the Company was pursuing its policy of annexation, and wasting millions in useless wars, no money could be spared for internal improvements; and now, when their craving for territory appears to be satisfied from the fact of there being little left to annex, the mutinies will entail a frightful expenditure, and commercial energy will be palsied.
The false policy which the Company have hither to pursued will be best understood by a reference it to figures. We find that the revenue of India amounts to twenty-seven millions, and the expenditure has been, for the last three returns, at least two millions more. The returns for the present year, with the Persian expedition—a war for which India furnished a pretext—will probably add another million to the debt. The financial difficulties will be enormously increased by the present rebellion, and the whole of the revenue of the North-West Provinces, amounting to seven millions, will be lost. In addition to this, the rebels have seized on at least two millions of coined silver, and it maybe assumed that the Indian debt will be increased to at least one hundred millions. The debt already incurred by the Company was solely occasioned by territorial aggrandisement, and it is impossible that the cost of the gigantic war in India can be borne by the Indian revenue of the East India Company. We have subjected one hundred and thirty-two millions out of the one hundred and eighty millions of the natives of the Indian peninsula, so no temporary resource can be expected by further annexation. We have done this, too, in defiance of repeated warnings. So far back as 1793, the Court of Directors, alarmed at the extent of territory already annexed, distinctly declared to the governor-general, "If we once pass these bounds, we shall be led from one acquisition to the other till we shall find no security but in the subjection of the whole, which, by dividing the British force, will lose us the whole, and end by our extirpation from Hindostan." It is to be deplored that their success did not entertain the same views; the crisis has at length arrived which was foreseen in l793, and has been produced by the very means which were then shown to act with a debilitating influence on the British empire in India. It is evident that with the suppression of the mutiny we shall have to retrace our steps and strive to consolidate our empire, and render India, as far as possible, independent and self-defensive.
It is generally asserted that the revenue now raised from the Indian territory is the extreme of what can "be wrung from the hard hand of starving peasants by the torture and the chain." This is very possibly the case, and under the present system of adhering to old forms, we can readily believe that the East India Company cannot augment its revenue. But were the country thrown open to British enterprise, were merchants who settled there secure of a just government and protected from the arbitrary conduct of the Company's servants, the result would be very different. At present, there is not the slightest encouragement for a man to invest his savings in a country which is so happily situated that it can grow every description of produce which the world requires. Even under the present imperfect system the commercial interchange between England and India is very large; what would it be if the country were opened up by good roads, and Englishmen encouraged to settle? After all the faults alleged against the Company, it has managed to keep afloat and accumulate a debt only equal to two years' revenue, and this with expenses of collection truly enormous. What would be the case if we proceeded to conquer India commercially, instead of with the sword? We feel surprised at the apathy displayed by the natives in the present crisis, and complain of their ingratitude after all we have done for them; but we ought to bear in mind that the ryot is brought but little into contact with us, and the brutality displayed towards him by the Zemindar could not have been worse under the Mogul rule. We may estimate that two-and-twenty millions are annually raised in the three presidencies, from a population, in round numbers, of one hundred millions. This gives an average of 4s. 6d. a head—a large sum when compared with the average earnings of the people. In England we are taxed to the amount of about 33s. per head; but while the earnings of our labouring classes average 15s. a week, the Hindoo does not earn more than thirty shillings a year. So then, while the Englishman pays about sixteen days' labour for that security under which he lives, the Hindoo contributes fifty-three days' labour for a protection from which he does not derive the slightest benefit. How then can we reasonably expect gratitude from the Indian agriculturist?
Another most unjust impost from which the native suffers, is the salt-tax, which the Company selected because of its universality. This indispensable article is burdened in Calcutta with a tax of four hundred per cent on its cost price, and by the time it has gone up the country, the profit has amounted to a thousand per cent., without taking into account the adulteration the article undergoes. Mr. Aylwin states, that while the average annual quantity of salt manufactured by the Company is only 165,000 tons, it ought, estimating the consumption at 151bs. per head, which is essential to health, to be not less than 979,287 tons. Among those labourers who are best paid, the wages are three rupees a month, or 3£. 12s. a year; but in less favoured districts, which form a large majority, the annual wages do not exceed eighteen rupees. Assuming that each family consists of five persons, and that the average price of salt was eight rupees per maund (of 82lbs.), and the consumption only twelve pounds a head, then it follows that the best-paid labourer must work six weeks in the year to buy the requisite amount of salt for his family, while the worst paid would have to labour for three months. Ought we to expect any gratitude from the ryot for this?
The extortions practised by the native police of India on the hapless Hindoos are unfortunately matter of notoriety. Houses plundered, innocent persons subjected to torture, even men led by bribery to accuse themselves of a capital offence! When a crime is committed in any portion of the Darogah's district, he generally lets off the really guilty person for a pecuniary consideration, but does not return without a victim, who is taken from an adjoining village, and cudgelled into an avowal of his· guilt. The deposition is taken down while they are still smarting from the chastisement; and if they contradict it a few days later, before the magistrate, they are disbelieved, for a Darogah can do no wrong. Civil suitors have equally to suffer, in the shape of a tax levied on stamps; the lowest of these, for claims under 16 rupees, costing 1 rupee, and so on up to the value of 64 rupees. In order to commence a suit to recover a debt of 1000£, the plaintiff is compelled to make a preliminary disbursement of 35£, in addition to all sorts of miscellaneous extortions. The old Hindoo law levied 5 per cent. upon all undefended suits, and double that amount on such as, being defended, were cast-amounts moderate enough, and in no instance falling on the plaintiff. It is not surprising if the Indian preferred the old state of things.
In education, which might be made one of the most potent levers for bringing the natives into contact with Western civilisation, the Company has not displayed the zeal which might have been expected from the representatives of a Christian community. We find that under 70,000l. a year is spent on education in India, which, at the ordinary calculation of five members to a family, gives hardly a penny a year to each household. On this subject Mr. Capper, in his" Three Presidencies," gives some instructive comparisons: " We find that the amount of educational grants for the Bengal Presidencies for one year, viz., 51,0001., is just 2000l. less than the cost of a late governor-general's visit to the Upper Provinces for a few months. We may observe also, that the amount of the Bombay educational disbursements is a trifle above the yearly cost of the governor's office and establishment and his tour to the Deccan, whilst the sum doled out for education in the Madras Presidency, with its 17,000,000 inhabitants, amounts precisely to the allowance of the governor's house-rent, just equals the various emoluments of the pluralist secretary of the India House, and is neither more nor less than the yearly cost of the dinners and refreshments at the large stone house in Leadenhall-street." In education, the missionaries have far outstripped governmental efforts, for they have 1100 day schools, with 94,000 pupils, scattered throughout all parts of India. Madras takes the lead in the number of establishments, which amounts to 920, with 66,300 pupils; and may it not justly be assumed that to the spread of education through that presidency may be ascribed the tranquillity existing through it, and the hopeful instances of obedience and attachment to the English government which distinguish the native population of Madras?
The opium monopoly we will leave to be settled between the Court of Directors and their consciences, but we believe that the few instances, of misrule we have been able to adduce prove that the Company have hitherto neglected the interests of the huge territory entrusted, to their government. We find on all sides instances of callous neglect where the natives are concerned; a selfish grasping after money, defeating itself by the clumsy machinery employed in collection; the country left internally almost in the same condition as when suffering from the Mogul yoke. For one hundred years the Company have carried on wars and annexed millions of natives to their government, but in no instance have they sought to attach, them by conciliation, or spent one shilling from which a speedy and large return might not be anticipated. In the hour of great and, unexpected calamity, in great measure the result of their own shortsighted and impolitic rule, they come to us for assistance, and in the moment of need we do not ask what return they will be disposed to grant. Under its present government, India is but of slight benefit to us; the sole object of our intercourse with India was originally commerce, and by the latest returns, those of 1855, our exports to India, the fruit of two centuries' labour, amounted in round numbers to ten millions in value, this including not only the trade of our own possessions, but also of countries over which we have no control. The amount is less than one-half our average exports to those American colonies that revolted from us eighty years ago. Commercially, then, India is of but small importance to us at present, but our honour demands that we should not hesitate in restoring our supremacy; and, after all, we may be regarded as morally responsible for every engagement, every disaster of the East India Company. It has long been but a branch of the executive, and, if it has proved but clumsy and inefficient, the parliament which, created it is alone to blame.
It should, therefore, be understood that we go forth to the reconquest of India with the determination to inaugurate a different policy. The system pursued by the East India' Company has been weighed in the balance and. found wanting, and, so soon as we have taken vengeance on the mutineers who have defied, us and given up all claim to mercy by their atrocious conduct, it must be our task to strive and: prevent such outbreaks for the future. And this will not be a difficult task if we start on the principle of justice and equity towards, our fellow-men: let the Hindoos be relieved from the oppression which now weighs them down; let them be taught that we take an interest in their welfare, and I not merely regard them as animals from whom a certain amount of revenue has to be wrung; and the rest will follow in an easy and, rapid transition. Up to the present, however, every temptation has been offered the natives to revolt; in a recently published letter of the great Sir Charles Napier, we are told of some of the abuses perpetrated by the Indian government. We read of porters pressed by thousands to carry the governor-general's baggage, and then left for a year and, a half unpaid; of cultivators dragged from their fields along with their carts and bullocks to convey the baggage and stores of an army, and so taken hundreds of miles, often without remuneration, till their bullocks died on the road and their carts had fallen to bits. Or, again, what affection could be felt for a government which has left millions periodically to die of famine, without holding out a hand to help them? And yet that is the way in which the Court of Directors have paved the way for insurrection, and left us to contend at once with a rebellious army and a disaffected population.
We would not be regarded as apologists for the mutineers; on the contrary, the mercenaries have behaved with the deepest ingratitude, for they at any rate had but slight cause of complaint; but we feel for the helpless ryots, and regret that years of oppression and neglect should have hardened in their hearts the detestation for the race· of conquerors. It will probably be found that they have been· more sinned against than sinning, and, had the slightest degree of justice been shown them, they would now have been valuable allies, instead of looking coldly on while the English are being massacred.
The policy of the Court of Directors has ever been to collect money, no care at what cost; no matter what acts of injustice were perpetrated, they would be overlooked in consideration of the money poured into the treasury; and while young Europeans saw their only chance of promotion was in diligently obeying the behests of the Company, they were not disposed to listen to the promptings of mercy, or spare a nation with which they could feel no possible sympathy. Truly, they have sown the storm and reaped the whirlwind. But now, we trust, this state of things will pass away, never to return; the English people, in return for the many sacrifices it will be called upon to make, will demand an account of every man's stewardship, and they will be led to learn that there are other considerations besides money when the welfare· of one hundred and eighty millions of our fellow-beings is at stake. But before this can be effected, the whole of our East Indian policy will have to be reconsidered; and the country, taught by misfortune, will be ready to endorse the views of those whom they have been led to regard as amiable enthusiasts, because they demanded justice for the Hindoo and a fair field for British enterprise.
A splendid opportunity will present itself so soon as India has been tranquillised; and the presence of an immense force will enable the rulers to make those alterations, religious and political, whose value time will display. The compact between us and the natives has been put aside by the rebellion, and it will be for our government to decide how far native prejudices will have to be regarded in future. In the mean while, we sincerely trust no energy will be thought unnecessary in. relieving our distressed countrywomen; for, although the Company will have to make good the losses occasioned by their misgovernment, the poor victims will have to wait a weary time before they obtain compensation, even if the Board of Directors do not seek to evade it altogether. The nation has already responded nobly to the call of the fatherless and the widow, and we have no doubt such a sum will be collected as will place them in temporary comfort, until the necessary steps are taken to force the East India, Company into a recognition of their claims.
With respect to the terrible mutinies, let us hope that by this time the worst has passed away. At any rate, before any lengthened time has elapsed, a force will have landed sufficient to conquer India again from Cape Comorin to Peshawur. The work of vengeance will be terrible; and it is almost difficult to decide whether that vengeance should not be wreaked on the idols which the mutineers worship, that the natives may be taught at one sharp blow how little faith is to be placed in wooden images. But Christianity is no longer inculcated at the edge of the sword. The time has passed when monks marched at the head of an army with a sword in one hand and a cross in the other, and the lessons of our faith are better taught by that gentleness, mercy, and long suffering which its founder ordered for our example. But our religion must no longer be merely tolerated in India: we must avow it openly, and strive to win over the natives by its beautiful precepts; and if the work of education be taken in hand with a willing spirit, not easily discouraged, but patiently awaiting inevitable success, we shall be enabled to produce a. conversion more permanent than that which the Portuguese missionaries effected with the sword and firebrand.
Last modified 10 October 2007