ONE very favourable result of the Anglo-French alliance is that our neighbours across the water have begun to bestow much greater attention on the power and resources of England than has hitherto been the case. We doubt whether any school-geographer could now describe India as a country in which the French had a colony called Pondicherry, and the rising generation is rapidly awakening to a sense of England's position with regard to the world. For the benefit of those who went to school at a period when prejudice was rife, and commercial England was ignored by the French, M. de Valbezen1 has just published an account of his experiences in India, and a description of the Company's government, admirable for its impartiality and correct views. From this work we purpose to select some specimens, which may be welcome to our readers.
The original merchant traders who laid the foundation of our magnificent Eastern empire, could not have foreseen the expansion it was destined to undergo, for we find, in the middle of the last century, a governor stating in his farewell despatch that he and his officers had strictly adhered to the interests of trade, and that the glory of having made good bargains was an ample reward for their ambition. The modest footing on which the Company's government was placed in those days fully explains such limited ideas. It was composed of a governor, at 300 rupees a month; a council of ten officers, receiving smaller salaries; and a body of young merchants, paid wages varying from 19 to 180 rupees a month, for weighing saltpetre and measuring cloth. At the same time, however, each merchant was allowed to trade on his own account, and it is probable that the Company had no share in the best speculations. They were allowed to import goods duty free, and borrowed money to carry on their trade from the Banians. This traffic, however, was found so injurious to the interests of the Company, that attempts were made to put down the abuses, and naturally erred in the other direction. A gentleman, who gained the highest rank of the Indian hierarchy, tells us that when he joined the service, in 1769, his pay of 8 rupees a month was not enough for his lodging, and that he frequently went to bed at eight o'clock, to save candle. These extreme reforms met with transitory success: and the traffic of the agents was not the sole abuse which prevented the success of the Company. The native princes were willing to make any sacrifice, in order to gain the good-will of the European officials. Shore tells us in his private correspondence that, being entrusted with a mission to the Nawab of Lucknow, he was offered 5 lakhs of rupees and 8000 gold mohurs, if he would sell the interests of the Company. The Duke of Wellington, when Sir Arthur Wellesley, had to negotiate a treaty of peace between the Mahratta princes and the Nizam of Hyderabad. He was visited one morning by the prime minister of the latter, who offered him 100,000l. as the price of the secret of his instructions, which he promised to keep entirely to himself. "You can keep a secret, then?" said the young general. And to the urgent protestations of his visitor, he simply replied, "And so can I." Few persons, however, were capable of such instances of probity, and the corruption of the officials was threatening ruin to the rising fortunes of British India, when Lord Cornwallis perceived that the only way of conquering the evil was by making the Indian service the best paid in the world. This was the best mode of attracting to the Company's service young men who had principles of morality instilled into them in their youth; for hitherto, so great had been the perils of the voyage and the evil reputation of the officials, that the Company's officers had only been recruited from the ranks of the adventurers, who wished to gain a fortune, no matter by what means. From the midst of these, great men certainly sprang up at intervals; Clive and Warren Hastings had begun to raise the edifice of British dominion in India; but the methods to which they had recourse were not suited for a country which prided itself on its morality.
When the Marquis of Cornwallis arrived in India, the Company was no longer an association of merchants, and other interests besides commercial transactions were awaiting its immediate representatives. During the last thirty years the victories of Clive and Hastings had secured to England an empire not inferior in riches and extent to the conquests of Cortes and Pizarro. The civil servants of the Company were now expected to render justice to millions of men differing in manners and language; to administer a complicated system of revenue in districts large as European kingdoms; to maintain order and the empire of the laws in the midst of a corrupt population; to be at the same time judge, administrator, financier, diplomatist, and, in many a case, soldier. It was evident that the fortunes of British India depended on the integrity, aptness, and devotion of these men, and Lord Cornwallis hoped to secure them by magnificent salaries. These remained at the same height until Lord W. Bentinck reduced them slightly in 1830. At that period, however, the average annual salary of the civil servants was 17501 . The Marquis of Wellesley, to whose administration the greatest deeds of British India are referrible, completed the reforms instituted by Lord Cornwallis, by founding, in 1800, Fort William College, as a training school for the civil service of India. The expenses which his plan would entail frightened the directors, and they cut down his scheme into the present restricted conditions. Although our French author is inclined to speak highly of the college, Mr. Capper, in his "Three Presidencies," lets in a curious light upon the system pursued there. He tells us that the pupils used to fudge their examination papers, and that when a very strict supervision was ordered, they managed to evade it by having their moonshies introduced into the room, dressed as syces, to pull the punkah. While the pupils attended to the ventilation, the moonshies wrote the paper. In this way everybody was satisfied.
The magistrate, the collector, and the judge are the principal managers of the Company's administration. At the summit of the administrative ladder there are, in each presidency, secretaries of finance, revenue, and foreign affairs, a species of responsible ministers; the members of the Board of Revenue, Control, and Finances, the members of the council of each presidency; lastly, the secretaries of the Indian government, and the members of the Supreme Council residing at Calcutta. Thus organised, the civil service of India is composed of 808 officials; 484 are attached to the Bengal Presidency and the North-West Provinces; 189 belong to the Madras, and 138 to the Bombay Presidencies. Our auther justly says that no long study of English colonial history is required to arrive at the conclusion that India is the only colony which has really prospered during the last fifty years. The reason for this he finds in the fact, that the Court of Directors have always been a strong government, and have remained faithful, in spite of obstacles, to the good old traditions of colonial despotism, beyond which only ruin and anarchy are possible. Thus the Company have always come in for more than their fair share of abuse, and their officials have been equally unpopular. This our author ascribes, partly to the current of democratic ideas so popular in England, and which could not spare a special service, magnificently paid and recruited almost hereditarily from the same families. Another reason, however, we will give in his own words:
Certain slight facts, in themselves insignificant, have served to fan the flame of popular passion against the Indian civil service. We may quote more especially the scandalous iniquities which were the basis of some fortunes made in the first days of the conquest, and the eccentric conduct of certain Anglo-Indans who returned to England three-parts nawabised. After passing some thirty years in savage districts, without any contact with European society, in the exercise of absolute power, the civil servant, returned to his country old and infirm, could not put off the airs of official dignity, the instincts of supreme authority, which had become to him a second nature. In the sick man retired to Cheltenham, or the inhabitant of a modest cottage near town, you could always trace the Don Magnifico of the happy banks of the Ganges, the omnipotent Howdah, Esq., diplomatic agent to the Nawab of Hatterabad, or the equally omnipotent Currie, Esq., collector of the Mirzipore district. Thus the novel, generally the exact reflex of popular ideas and passions, has always represented the retired officer of the East India Company under the form of a skeleton artistically clothed with parchment, a saffron face, a man, in short, whimsical, morose, snappish, living on all sorts of impossible dishes; at one time with a gigantic liver, then again with no liver at all; and if the authors have ever rendered this unpleasant personage good for anything, it has only been to dower a virtuous niece or pay the debts of a scamp of a nephew. So much for the male. As for the female, take a slice of rainbow, which you will decorate suitably with flashing bracelets, multicoloured plumes, and ornaments of silver filagree and glassware: subject all this to a regimen of four meals a day, season by intermezzos of glasses of sherry and oyster-patties, and you have described, physically and morally, according to the formula of the English novel, the Anglo-Indian woman—the Begum, if we may borrow that term from the language of the clubs. We will not gainsay the correctness of the characters of the good old times, as Thackeray and Mrs. Gore have drawn them: we are even much inclined to believe that they are taken from nature; but we may assert that the system of frequent and rapid communication now connecting India and Europe has completely modified the mode of life, the ideas, the plans for the future, and the Anglo-Indians themselves.
In addition to the civil service, properly so called, there are three categories of officials: the officers of the army who have received civil employment, the auxiliary civil service, subdivided into uncovenanted civil service and native agency, and the police. The uncovenanted service is composed of Europeans who have come to India in search of fortune, and have acquired a certain knowledge of the languages and customs of the country. It also admits individuals born in India of European parents. The natives employed in the Company's service are selected from those educated at the government colleges, and amount to 1850 in Bengal, the North-West Provinces, and the Punjab. In addition to these, about 46,000 natives are employed in subordinate offices and as clerks.
The police are divided into two distinct parties: those in the pay of the government and those in the service of the Zemindars. In Bengal, the evils produced by these men have attained the highest pitch, and repeated complaints, hitherto in vain, have been sent in about their extortion and tyranny. The government police, however, are innocent men when compared with the Chowkeedars, or watchmen, employed by the native Zemindars. Their character will be best summed up by quoting Mr. Halliday's opinion of them: "This force of 170,000 men, levied in virtue of a custom imperishable so long as the name of the village Chowkeedar exists, is recruited from the vilest and most despised classes of the population. The Chowkeedars cost the natives legally 110 lakhs per annum, without counting what they obtain by fraudulent means, and yet they are subject to no other authority than that of a weak and ignorant village community, of whom they are at one moment the tyrants, at another the slaves. Thieves by caste, by custom, by relationship, these agents, who are independent of a regular police system, are depraved by instinct; in a word, worse than useless."
Although, then, all the high Indian appointments are in the hands of Europeans, and the natives are carefully excluded, our author does not think it could be otherwise. Even were the natives to be placed in offices of trust, they are utterly deficient in the love of truth and that feeling of honour equally necessary for the magistrate and the officer.
There are other facts, too, which must not be passed over in silence. The events of the last twenty years, years full of trials, of success mingled with reverses, have furnished a just idea of the fragility of the basis on which the English power in India rests. During the disasters of Cabul, and the uncertain campaigns of the Punjab, it was easy to convince oneself that the popular sympathies in India were with the Affghans and the Sikhs, and not on the side of the English. In vain has the English conquest drawn India from the abyss of civil wars and revolutions, that through its influence the public fortune has increased with prodigious proportions; all the blessings of a regular government, individual liberty, security of property, the great public works which intersect the country at the present day, have inspired the people with neither affection nor gratitude. For them the Englishman has been, is, and ever will be, the master, if not the enemy!
But while allowing that the Company has acted wisely in keeping the natives from participation in the government, it should, in its turn, do all in its power to give the peoples subject to its laws an honest police system, and judges whose decrees will bear the strictest investigation. In India, the most fearful abuses of justice have been committed in common cases, which do not prejudice the welfare of the government; confessions have been obtained by means of torture, innocent men left to perish in dungeons. We are aware that it is difficult to suggest any remedy for this deplorable state of things. Our author allows that close inspection has proved to him the fallacy of expecting any improvement in the moral sense of the people by the propagation of the Christian religion. The Indian government, however, boasts so many talented men in its ranks, that they will certainly devise some method to do away with abuses which are a standing disgrace to the great name of England.
The native army must, assuredly, be regarded as one of the most remarkable institutions of British India. Many competent men have been indisposed to recognise the merits of the Sepoy as a soldier, but any one who will impartially study the deeds they have done must allow that the Indian army is admirably adapted both for the enemy it has to contend with and the country whose tranquillity it has to protect. The conquests it has made during the last one hundred years are a testimony of this; for an army defective in organisation, instruction, and courage, as some of the detractors of the Indian troops have asserted, could not have performed those military exploits which have brought beneath the Company's sceptre the immense empire extending from Cape Comorin to Peshawur. The English officer, on arriving in India, is sent for a few weeks to Fort William, and then joins his regiment. What takes place there we had better describe in our author's words:
He is handed over to a sergeant-instructor, and at the end of a year has received all the military instruction the Company demands of its officers. We see at once the defects of such a system; the griffin commences his special studies when already an officer, and under the direction of an inferior, and that in a climate which is suggestive of indolence, surrounded as he is by the temptations of sport, the mess, and the billiard-table, so attractive for a young man. Thus, we do not think we advance an erroneous opinion when we affirm that very few officers of the Indian army, and only those who have a special vocation, attain perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the military art. The government seems to pay little attention to this matter, for the rewards it gives to the studious only draw their studies indirectly to the military sciences. Thus, Oriental languages, topographical studies, and jurisprudence, which lead to lucrative appointments on the staff or in the civil service, are certainly connected with the military art, but only as distant corollaries. It may be asserted, then, that, with the exception of the artillery and engineers, who undergo a very strict examination at Sandhurst, the officers of the Indian army cannot bear comparison with those of any European army. We must observe, however, in justice, that in the hour of combat they have ever displayed a contempt of danger, a devotion to their flag, inscribed in bleeding and glorious letters on the butcher's bill, which, from a military point of view, appears to compensate for their scientific deficiencies.
Promotion in the Indian army takes place entirely by seniority; a lieutenant, after ten year's' service, becomes brevet captain, and after twenty-two years, the captain becomes brevet major. The brevet is, however, only an honorary distinction, conferring no pecuniary advantage. Regimental promotion goes on by seniority up to the lieutenant-colonel, and then still by seniority, but all the general officers of the three presidencies are included in the list. The purchase system is not allowed; but, for all that, officers are openly paid to resign; the tariff for a captain is 25,000 rupees, for a major 30,000. The sums clubbed by the officers to make up the amount are: the senior captain 12,000 rupees; the senior lieutenant, 3500 rupees; the senior ensign, 1200 rupees, &c. The pay of British officers is high:a regimental ensign has 202 rupees per mensem; a lieutenant, 256; a captain, 415; a major, 780; and a colonel, 1032. The command of a regiment secures an increased pay of 400 rupees a month, and that of a company 50. The latter supplement is very important, for the Sepoy regiments are so stripped of their officers, that a lieutenant frequently has the command of several companies, and a captain that of a regiment. The pay of a brigadier in command is 2500 rupees. It is evident, then, that the Anglo-Indian staff is the best paid in the world, and yet the officers find it difficult to live upon it, especially in the lower grades. Early marriages, the facilities of credit offered to every one who wears an epaulette, the considerable sums to be paid for the retirement of a superior officer, &c., are the chief reasons for this. Fortunately for the officers, there are very few of them who do not succeed in obtaining civil employment or staff appointments; but this system has its corresponding defects.
Let us open the Bengal army list hap-hazard, and examine the strength of the 55th Infantry Regiment. Of six captains, two hold civil appointments, one is on leave; of ten lieutenants, four have administrative functions, two are attached to irregular corps; two ensigns are on leave. And it frequently happens that the effective strength of officers present with the corps is below that quoted in the army list. Thus we are assured it is not rare to see ensigns in command of a regiment; and in one case a doctor performed the duties of commandant for several months.
The officers of the Bengal army, below the rank of colonel, amount to 2250; and they have distributed among them 530 civil or staff appoint ments. Hence we must come to the conclusion that the ambition of the officers is not stimulated by the perspective of rapid promotion and mili tary honours. The only reward a good and eminent officer can obtain is an employment which adds 1500 or 2000 rupees to his monthly pay. The great defect of this system is, that it places at the heads of regiments officers who have passed twenty or twenty-five years in the civil service, and who, when they come back, cannot drill half a dozen men without the help of a corporal. Our author declines to enter into any details of the private life of the officers, preferring to tell the following anecdote, which he vouches as authentic:
The scene takes place at the mess of an infantry regiment. It is ten o'clock. Major A. is at the head of the table, and the claret passes freely. Under the excitement of the ruby liquid,. Ensign B. gives way to inordinate talking, and Major A. calls him to order: "Hold your tongue, sir." Immediately Ensign B. thrusts out a red tongue, and holds it between his thumb and forefinger, to the great amusement of the guests and the greater wrath of Major A. At the request of the latter a court-martial was called, and Ensign. B. severely reprimanded for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, without the addition to the sentence which should have been made, "in performing a movement not foreseen in the Manual."
This little scene naturally leads us to the mess of the Indian regiments, which is certainly very comfortable and cheap, compared with Queen's regiments, as the officers supply their own table, and keep their cows for milk and butter, and often enough oxen and sheep. At the end of the month the expenses are divided among the officers. In a well-organised mess the monthly expenses of an officer ought not to amount to more than 100 rupees. In addition to the mess expenses, each officer pays into a common fund 5 rupees a month, for covering rent, subscription to newspapers, &c., and. keeping up the plate and glass.
The East India Company, in basing its power on a native army, took all precautions that the Sepoys should not turn their arms against themselves. How good these precautions have proved the recent lamentable mutinies have shown. The regulation proportions in an infantry regiment are two-thirds Hindus, and one-third Mussulmans. Since the conquest of the Punjab, the Sikhs are admitted in a proportion of one-tenth, or a company per regiment. The infantry belong to the castes of Brahmins, Rajpoots, Choutries, and Gwallahs; the latter being admirable soldiers, and much esteemed for their docility and bravery. The majority of the Bengal Sepoys are obtained from the North-West Provinces and Oude. In the cavalry, the regiments are invariably composed of half Hindus, half Mussulmans. Recruiting is effected without the interference of the government. When an old soldier returns to his regiment from furlough, he generally brings with him one or more young men of his village, who desire to serve in the native army, into which they are admitted after presenting their certificates of caste and passing medical inspection. There is no age limitation, for it would be impossible to verify the age of the recruits among these primitive races. It may generally be taken at from eighteen to twenty-two years. The pay of the Sepoys varies from 7 to 9 rupees a month, according to the number of years they have served. Above the rank and file come the Naik , with 12 rupees; the Havildar , with 14. The Jemadar and the Subadhar receive 40 and 60 rupees. The pay is rather higher in the cavalry. The East India Company only give the soldiers their pay and their huts in cantonments. With his pay the Sepoy is bound to supply his own clothing and nourishment. These cost him about 4 rupees a month on an average, so that he is enabled to send home to his family about 36 rupees a year. With the Mussulmans, however, this is not the case; they are generally less sober and saving than the Hindus, and consequently are, many of them, indebted. In the field, the Company is bound to supply the otta , or flour, to the Sepoys, at 1 rupee per 15 seers. The Sepoy is only enlisted for three years, and he can then retire if he pleases; but has no claim to a pension till he has served fifteen years. Promotion in the native regiments depends entirely on the colonel up to the rank of Havildar. The appointments as Jemadars and Subadhars (native commissioned officers) are conferred by the commander-in-chief, on the recommendation of the colonel. It is very rare for the rule of seniority to be broken through, and the most of the native officers have passed their sixtieth year. There are two military orders to reward good soldiers in the Indian service; the first, the Order of Merit , is only granted for bravery in the field; and though the number of recipients is not limited, this order is very rarely granted. The order is divided into three classes—the insignia of the first being a gold star, with the words "The Reward of Valour;" the other two classes receive silver stars. The first gives double pay, the second and third, two-thirds and one-third; but such is the parsimony with which this order is bestowed, that very few persons in India ever saw a gold star, and it is doubtful whether it has ever been granted.
The Order of British India is divided into two classes of one hundred classes each; the first appropriated to the Subadhars and Resseldars, and giving the title of Sirdar Bahadoor, and 2 rupees a day extra pay; the second, into which all the native officers are admitted, giving the title of Bahadoor, and 1 rupee extra pay. This reward, however, is generally granted according to seniority, and most of those who wear it have retired from the service.
Although we may read in the accounts of the Great Exhibition of the attention the products of India attracted there, any one that has resided in Bengal will agree that the most curious production of this country was missing, and that was the Sepoy. To have given an Indian the appearance of a European soldier is a work of admirable patience only to be appreciated by the person who, by personal daily contact, has recognised the impassable abyss of prejudice separating the Indians from us, from our customs—by the person who has learned by bitter experience that there is in India something more troublesome than the sky of molten lead, the devouring mosquitoes, and the pestilential fevers—I mean the native servants. The military education of the Sepoy requires about nine months, and at the end of that period the metamorphosis is complete: the grub has become a butterfly! It might almost be said that the bearing of the Sepoy leaves nothing to be desired: still it can be easily seen, from a certain awkwardness in his movements, that he is not accustomed to wear shoes. The dress is the same, with but slight modifications, as that of the Queen's troops; but you can see at the first glance that the Sepoy lacks the feeling of dignity in the coat he wears. Humility, the spirit of slavery of the Indian race, peeps through the uniform. Look fixedly at a Sepoy, and you may bet a hundred to one he will cap you or carry arms if he is on sentry duty. The fact is, the Sepoy has lost nothing of his native habits, and to prove this truth, perhaps the reader will have the kindness to accompany us to the tents of an infantry company recently arrived from up-country with an escort of treasury and camped on the glacis of Fort William.
The camp is formed of three large tents. A single man in a red coat, with a ramrod in his hand, guards the approaches. As for the soldiers, they have doffed their uniform, and put on the Indian costume in its most simple form. The majority have only a shirt on! And what fanciful head-dresses! One has his head completely shaved, another has plaits six feet long, a third a monumental front, produced by the razor. This Sikh soldier has even his hair twisted up and fastened in a knot like a Chinese lady. The native officers are distinguished by a collar of gilt wooden balls. There is, however, perfect tranquillity and profound order. Each man is making his little culinary arrangements in his little vessel at his little fire, or attending to the duties of cleanliness. The hand of ages, the civilising influence of discipline, have glided over the immovable nature of the Indian like oil on marble. Three strokes of the ramrod, two words, and these half-nude savages; their percussion muskets in their hand and red coat on their backs will offer very remarkable specimens of soldiers belonging to the Honourable East India. Company; but nothing is changed in their instincts and habits. They are the same men who, under the banners of King Porus, fought two thousand years ago against the warriors of Alexander.
The Bengal Native Infantry is composed of seventy-four regiments and a certain number of local regiments and militia. The Sepoys are armed with the percussion musket, exactly the same pattern as that used by Queen's troops. Six regiments have rifle companies. We must also add the regiments of Khelat-y-Ghizie, Ferozepore, Loodianah, the two infantry battalions of Assam, &c., in which the native element is nearly the same as in the line regiments; but the Europeans are much less numerous, and detached from the line. The word of command is given in English, and there is a regiment in the Punjab formed of old soldiers of Runjeet Singh, where the orders are given in French, for it is one of the most difficult portions of the Sepoy's education to drive a few words of a foreign language into his head. Our author sums up his opinion of the Sepoys as follows:
Strangers as we are to military matters, we still believe we are authorised in stating that the instruction of the native regiments which we saw handled leaves little improvement to be desired. There is certainly a laziness in marching, an indecision in the management of arms, which strikes the most inexpert eye, and reveals that corps so well clothed, so complete on the parade-ground, could not sustain the shock of European bayonets. Thus, then, to sum up our opinion of the efficiency of the Sepoy as a warrior, we will say that discipline, regimental education, and the military art have done their utmost to make the Sepoy what he is, but that neither science nor human patience can create a rival to the European soldier in the Indian Sepoy. Not that traits full of military pride are entirely absent from the annals of the native army: witness those grenadiers who, when condemned to death for rebellion in the last century, rested on their privilege of being the first to mount the breach, to claim the right of being the first to be fastened in the cannon's mouth, and show their companions how to die well. Or again, that Hindu Seaevola, who, holding his arm to protect the face of his officer who was engaged in pointing a gun, begged his superior to make haste when a ball had fractured his hand; but this resignation, this contempt of death, which form one of the characteristic features of the morale of the India., do not compensate for his want of physical force and muscular energy. Thus, while rendering all justice to the good qualities distinguishing the Sepoy, to his gentleness, sobriety, and respect for discipline, his most passionate defenders have never dared to assert that he can be opposed with success to the European soldier.
The cantonments of the native troops are always placed at the extremity of the exercising-ground. The huts, in which the Sepoys live in pairs, are raised in the dense shade of the trees, and are most primitive constructions of bamboo and mud. The interior is simple as the exterior: two cookery places, two clumsy beds, and copper vessels, are the entire furniture of these habitations, worthy the best days of the Spartans. The houses of the native officers can hardly be distinguished from those of the men. At the end of the cantonments and exercising-ground is a row of small brick buildings, in which the Sepoys deposit their arms when off duty. But the visitor is most struck by the mixture of European and native customs he finds. The six- foot grenadier, whose martial discipline you have just been admiring on parade, you will find within five minutes dressed in a pocket- handkerchief and crouching at the door of his hut like a monkey. In each street of cantonments a wrestling-ground may be noticed—a sport which the Sepoys are passionately fond of. The stage is covered in with a roof, and the sole decoration is a figure adorned with many superfluous arms and legs, doubtlessly representing the Indian Hercules. In some regiments the officers encourage the sports by giving prizes of considerable amount. The cantonments of the native troops entail great expenses on the Company; for, each time the Sepoy is removed to another station, he receives an indemnity of two and a half rupees to build a hut.
The Native Bengal Cavalry comprises ten regiments of regular cavalry, armed with sabres and two pistols; in each squadron fifteen men carry a rifle. The average height of the men is five feet nine inches, and their weight, in full marching order, eighteen stone. There are also eighteen regiments of irregular cavalry, of recent formation, but which have already proved their value sufficiently.
The artillery of the Bengal army is composed of three brigades of horse and nine battalions of foot. The equipment and armament are nearly the same as in the Queen's army. The first and third horse brigades are formed of three European and one native batteries, the second of four European batteries. The first six foot battalions are composed of Europeans, the three others of natives. Some of the batteries are still drawn by oxen, which has the advantage that the gunners cannot starve for want of beef, but, otherwise, is very objectionable. The matériel of a horse-battery consists of five 6-pounders, and a 12-pounder howitzer, with six caissons drawn by horses. A portable forge, provision carts, spare caisson, all drawn by oxen, are also attached to each battery, whose regulation complement of draught and carriage animals amounts to 169 horses and 14 oxen. We must add, to furnish an idea of the cumbersome nature of the batteries, that each horse has a syce and a grass-cutter attached to it.
The Bengal army has also three regiments of Europeans, called time 1st, 2nd, and 3rd European Bengal Fusiliers. The last is of a very recent formation, but the first two have played a most brilliant part in all the Indian wars. To show the organisation of the Bengal army in all its detail, we should have still to speak of the engineers, the medical corps, and the commissariat; but we can only spare space for a few remarks. The engineers of the Bengal army are composed of 100 European officers, and a native regiment of 12 companies. Nearly all the European officers hold civil employments, and direct the public roads, works, canals, trigonometrical surveys, &c, which the Company has executed in the presidency. The medical European corps, attached to the Bengal army, comprises 26 senior surgeons, 102 surgeons, 242 assistant-surgeons. All these officers are allowed to hold military or civil posts. The commissariat duties are performed by officers detached from the regiments, whose promotion goes on simultaneously in the regiment and the civil service. Of the Queen's troops employed by the Company, our author speaks thus:
If the Court of Directors had only the native troops to count on for holding in check the population of its vast Asiatic domain, the English power in the East would soon be blotted out. Thus, it is a great and illustrious story in the annals of the royal army, which commences with the battle of Plassey to terminate with that of Chillianwallah; and if a Frenchman cannot subdue a deep feeling of sorrow on thinking that, had it not been for the shameful weakness of the reign of Louis XV., and the wars of the French Revolution, his country would doubtless have shared with England the crown of India, still, a loyal writer must render homage to the discipline and invincible courage which enabled a handful of European bayonets to conquer and keep in subjection the greatest empire in the world. Those are truly noble annals in which is inscribed that terrible battle of Ferozeshah, one of the most decisive and obstinate in the history of India.
The pay of the Queen's soldier in India is 15 rupees a month, with very liberal rations. Hence, the soldiers are enabled to live in a degree of comfort by keeping their own servants. Still, the remark of the Irish soldier is only too true: "India is a fine country, where you are always thirsty; but the deuce of it is, you go to bed in good health, and wake up dead in the morning." In fact, diseases make an awful gap in the European lines. Of every 1000 there are always 129 in hospital, and each soldier is on an average ill thrice a year. The mortality which in England is 15 per thousand, is, in Bengal, 7 per cent. In some cases it is even worse; the 98th Regiment, which on landing had 718 men, at the termination of eight years had only 109 men of the original roster left. The Company, however, is not free from fault in this deplorable mortality, for the barracks are too frequently built in unhealthy sites; and the reader of Sir C. Napier's life will remember how strenuously and fruitlessly he urged on the government the necessity of providing larger barrack accommodation for the European troops. We may conclude our résumé of the Bengal army by giving some idea of the expense it entails on the Company. In 1851, it amounted to 5,300,000l., of which 600,000l. went for the Queen's army. But an estimate will be best formed from the following statistical returns:
|Queen's army Cavalry regiment of 700||80,000|
|[Queen's army] Infantry [regiment of] 1000||60,000|
|European infantry regiment of 814||54,800|
|Native infantry 1000||28,300|
|Native cavalry 500||37,200|
|Native irregular infantry 800||25,800|
|Native irregular cavalry 500||18,000|
It will be easy from these data to form an idea what the suppression of the Indian mutiny will cost the Company.
The earliest efforts to spread education among the population of India were made by St. Francis Xavier, who appeared in the peninsula of Madras at the close of the sixteenth century. After nine years of sterile labour, he quitted the country, never to return. In the seventeenth century, the work was recommenced by a Jesuit, Robert de Nobilibus, who set about his work on the principle that the end justifies the means, by giving himself out to be a Brahmin reformer, and the Jesuits of Madura openly adopted all the practices of the Brahmin religion. These concessions to the native prejudices were forbidden by Pope Clement XI., who sent the Cardinal de Tournon as legate à letere to put a stop to the scandal. But the Jesuits held their ground until the English authorities, fearing the influence of the Jesuits, denounced the imposture to the people, who straightway reverted to their primitive superstitions. The reaction was so complete, that Father Dubois, who travelled in India at the close of the eighteenth century, states that he did not meet a real Christian during twenty-five years' residence. The edifice raised with so much craft, patience, even abnegation and courage, disappeared as if by enchantment from the day when the falsehood which served as its basis was revealed. The Jesuits abandoned the Madura mission in 1765, and their place was taken by the Paris foreign missionaries. In 1705, the first Protestant missionary, Dr. Ziegenbolz, arrived in the Madras Presidency, under the auspices of Frederick IV. of Denmark, who had large establishments on the Coromandel coast. In Bengal, the labours of the Bible Societies commenced with Dr. Kiernander, who was sent to Calcutta in 1756. He was supported by Lord Clive, who supplied the funds for the establishment of the first school, in which the doctor received Hindus of all castes, and taught them the rudiments of the Christian faith.
Warren Hastings was the first Englishman, however, who paid any great attention to the education of the masses. He, too, saw that the only mode of success was by indulging the prejudices of the natives, and the system of the Emperors of Delhi was strictly carried on under his auspices. In 1781, he gave the Company's patronage to the Mahometan College at Calcutta, to which he gave a yearly subvention of 3000l. Once engaged on this road opposed to innovation, the Company resolutely persisted in it, and to display its religious impartiality, admitted on the list of its pensioners the Sanscrit College of Benares, which received an annual subvention of 20,000 rupees. The patronage given to exclusively Oriental education was doubtlessly suggested by policy. In the early days of the conquest, it was indispensable, to calm the sole violent feelings of the natives, and prove to them that the handful of Europeans in whose hands the fate of this immense country was entrusted, had no wish to substitute their religion for that of the natives. But this submission raised a fearful storm in England.
There is in England a secret influence, fatal in more than one case to the public fortunes, but always possessing a great weight in the destinies of the country: it is the influence of that party, half religious, half political, which, from its head-quarters at Exeter Hall, inundates the universe with its missionaries and polyglot Bibles. Skilful in working on the popular passions, the saints, at the outset, became the strenuous opponents of the Company. On the renewal of the charter in 1793, Mr. Wilberforce, as representative of the Bible societies, demanded that parliament should compel the Company to keep up a body of missionaries to spread the Gospel through their dominions. Parliament, however, rejected this bill by an immense majority. This check did not discourage the evangelical missions, and their efforts to gain a footing in India were in some measure crowned with success during the government of the Marquis of Wellesley. That great statesman was the first to allow the distribution of Bibles, saying "that a Christian could not do less, or an English governor more"—words stamped with the triple seal of political sagacity, patriotism, and a true religious feeling.
These concessions were only temporary, and were soon followed by restrictions almost justifying the violent accusations brought by the saints against the timorous policy of the Company's government. A pamphlet, written in Persian, and published at the Danish factory, Serampore, in which the Muhammadan religion was exposed and branded, induced the supreme council to believe India endangered; and it prohibited any publications or preaching calculated to prove the falsehood of the native belief. As if to give more effect to these measures, the government took under its patronage the two Muhammadan colleges at Baugulpore and Juanpore. But these were the last steps in a retrograde system no longer justified by the public interest. Time, successful wars, and wise statesmen, had strengthened the English rule in India, and in the renewal of the charter in 1813, parliament did away with all the restrictions which had hitherto prevented the propagation of Christianity and modern sciences in India. In 1816, several eminent Europeans and enlightened natives collected a sum of 60,000 rupees to found a Hindu college, to teach the natives English and the sciences. This experiment met with no great success, for after six years the college had only sixty pupils. Disputes which broke out in the managing committee had almost ruined the experiment, when the government decided to interfere in its favour; and it was resolved that a Hindu and a Sanscrit college should be united in the same building. But improvements cannot be effected in a day in India, and the united schools could not be opened to the public till 1827. The progress of the Hindu college was rapid and remarkable. At the end of a year it counted four hundred pupils from the richest families of the native community. Still there was much that was defective, and Lord William Bentinck, aided by Macaulay, took in hand the work of reform.
In all the schools established by the Company secular education is strictly adhered to, and no attempts at conversion made. So strict is this regulation, that the Company's chaplains are not allowed to hold any appointment connected with education. The only religious establishment patronised by the Company is the Bishop's College, founded in 1817 for the education of native clergymen. It has, unfortunately, been a failure, rarely averaging more than a dozen pupils; and the care of the propagation of the Gospel in India is left to the English and American societies and private efforts. Twenty-two societies support missionaries in India, at the expense of 187,000l. per annum, and the Christian community has been estimated at more than 103,000 souls.
Must we accept this last amount blindly? Is it less exaggerated than those given in the correspondence of the Madura Jesuits? The testimony of men best acquainted with Indian affairs unfortunately leaves no doubt on the subject. With the exception of a few who have enthusiastically accepted the Christian revelation, you find among the native converts only individuals of the lowest castes, generally the most corrupted of the natives, who are attracted round the missionaries by the assistance generously bestowed on them, or, perhaps, from worse motives. It is with regret that we here endorse this opinion, unanimous among all those who have gained a serious acquaintance with the Hindu character, that the preaching of the missionaries has produced no durable impression on races hardened in idolatry; and if any unforeseen accident were to remove the missionaries from India, of the community of a hundred thousand souls which they say they have led to Christian faith only a very few would not revert to the clumsy superstitions of the native faith.
The result of the college education seems to prove the fallacy of the system hitherto followed: experience has shown that the young students who would rank honourably in European universities, relapse, on leaving college, into the degrading practices of a religion of which their enlightened mind has detected the fallacy. The Indian colleges receive idolatrous fanatics; they turn out hypocrites. The future of Indian civilisation is not in this factitious education, but in the native primary schools, through which a broad system of instruction could be spread over the country, and be able to regenerate it. To effect this, our author suggests that regimental schools should be established, directed by old soldiers who have attained during service not only some slight knowledge, but also principles of honour and personal dignity, which camp life and habits of discipline must give even to an Indian.
The financial history of India is not so brilliant as the military. A deficit in the public finances is frequently the result of the finest campaigns, but it is impossible to say, with any appearance of reason, that the results have not compensated for the sacrifices. Some useless wars have entailed a heavy debt on the Indian treasury, but, on the other hand, the annexation of territory has produced a wonderful increase of revenue. In 1792, the public revenue amounted to 8,000,000l.; but, under the vigorous government of Lord Wellesley, it was raised, in 1805, to 14,000,000l. In 1814 it had increased to 17,000,000l.; in 1832, to 2l,000,000l.; and, in the present day, it maybe estimated at 26,000,000l. Of this revenue, one-half is produced by the ground rent, collected in different methods through the three presidencies, and generally amounting to about one-sixth of the produce of the ground.
A few figures, borrowed from official documents published about the Cawnpore district, one of the richest and best cultivated in India, will furnish an approximative idea of the profit drawn from the land by the agricultural population. It appears that 16,542 proprietors cultivate an estate of 78 acres, on an average. Assuming all this land in cultivation, and the return from each acre at 12 rupees, we get a total of 936 rupees, from which must be deducted the rent, one-fourth of the gross produce, or 234 rupees. The proprietor has then a clear sum of 702 rupees to pay for tillage and the support of his family. But these are the rich men; and on examining into the condition of the small cultivators, we find 61,000 cultivating 6 acres each, and 35,000 only 4 acres. Applying the same figures to these, the former has only 54 rupees a year, the latter but 36, to maintain his family and pay for tillage. Is it rational and just to base on these figures a bitter attack on the rapacity and oppression prevalent in the domains of the Honourable Company, as partisans have too often done? We do not think so. The ground-rent now paid is less oppressive than that exacted by the native governments. And, again, before giving his verdict, the impartial judge is bound to take into account the habits of simplicity and saving, which climate, religious tradition, and even his physical constitution have entailed on the Indian. A bamboo hut, some mats, copper vessels, perchance a box with lock and key, for clothing a piece of calico, each day a plate of rice and some bananas, washed down by pure water—for the Indian, life has no other wants, we might almost say, no other luxury. And the small profit he derives from his labours enables him to satisfy these, just as well as large payment, though purchased by much more painful toil, enables the European workman to supply his wants under a rigorous climate, with his robust appetite. If, then, we examine impartially the problem of artisan existence in both hemispheres, we shall be justified in believing that the ryot has no occasion to envy the lot of the European peasant, or, in a word, that his condition at the present day is better than it has ever been. Not that this argument should put a stop to ameliorating measures; but these will be found, not in giving up the soil, but in making roads, digging canals, and connecting the interior of India with the seaboard. Such is the great task which the English government should accomplish, to render itself worthy of the high civilising mission confided to it by Providence.
The salt-tax, which forms the second most considerable item of the Indian revenue, gave rise to innumerable abuses after the conquest. In 1780, Warren Hastings put an end to this ruinous state of things by regulating the conditions of the salt-tax, and these regulations have remained in force to the present time. In 1782, the salt-tax only amounted to 322,000l., but by 1812 it had advanced to 1,360,000l. In 1834, foreign salt was permitted to enter India under a duty calculated to give the Company the same profit as if it had been manufactured in India. The results of this policy are, that, in 1851, 62,500 tons of salt were imported into India, and while the public revenue experienced no deficit, 135 British vessels were employed in carrying it. The customs duties, which form an important part of the revenue, consist in the main of an ad valorem duty of 4 per cent. on English merchandise, and 10 per cent. on foreign goods, a duty of two rupees a dozen on bottled wines and spirits, and a few slight and varying dues on produce of the soil, when exported. We must also mention among the financial resources of the budget, the monopoly of opium, and the akbarry , or tax on fermented liquors, the sale of which is put up for auction in the various districts. All these items produce the sum of twenty-six millions, from which we must deduct a million and a half for expenses of manufacture, and purchase of salt and opium.
The debt of the Indian government is composed of two items. The first represents the funds of the original Company, amounting to six millions. When the commercial monopoly was withdrawn in 1833, the British parliament decided that this amount should be rated at 10½ per cent. per annum until the year l874, when it is to be paid off at double, or twelve millions. This interest, then, amounts to 650,000l. per annum. The history of the Indian public debt can be easily traced. In the midst of the difficulties of establishment, surrounded by enemies, with a government ignorant of the wants and resources of the country, the colonial Company was obliged to call on the mother country for pecuniary assistance. The Court of Directors supplied their wants by successive loans, which in 1786 had reached eight millions. This debt remained stationary for ten years; but during Wellesley's government the expenses of the war against Tippoo Sahib and the Mahrattas had to be paid, and the debt in 1805 reached twenty-five millions and a half. During the next fifteen years, the incomings and outgoings of the Company were balanced; but in 1825 the Burmese war emptied the treasury, and increased the debt by another ten millions. The peaceful and reforming government of Lord Bentinck raised Indian finances to a high degree of prosperity; but after him, the wars in Affghanistan, China, and the two campaigns of the Punjab, raised the Indian debt in 1849 to forty-seven millions. Since then a new loan of two millions, opened in 1855, has raised the debt to fifty millions in round numbers. But it must be borne in mind that India furnishes employment for more than twelve thousand Englishmen, and that they share among them at least ten millions sterling a year. England owes India a great debt of gratitude, and has now an opportunity of repaying it.
Until very recently, if any unforeseen and terrible accident had put an end to the British rule in India, it would have left behind it but few traces, and the traveller of coming ages—Lord Macaulay's New Zealander, for instance—while finding at every step traces of the splendour of the Mogul emperors, would have scarce found in some dismantled fort a percussion gun, as a remembrance of those Europeans to whom the God of Battles had granted the Indian empire. In truth, continual wars, and a constant deficit in the treasury, justified this apathy to a certain extent. But the Indian government at length opened its eyes to its real interests, and has been engaged, not in erecting sterile monuments, like the splendid palaces and mausolea of the north of India, but in works of irrigation, roads, and railways, which must prepare for this country a prosperity of which no one is competent to fix the limits. The Ganges canal has been completed at an expense of one crore and a half of rupees, and the Great Trunk road, commenced in 1836, has now been finished to a distance of 950 miles, enabling the traveller to go from Calcutta to Kurnaul. When finished, it will be 1450 miles in length, and will cost a million and a half. A road to connect Calcutta and Bombay has been set about, and is finished as far as Ahmednuggur, or 150 miles. Lastly, a macadamised road connects Bombay and Agra, 734 miles in length, at a cost of 245,000l. But the importance of these communications is as nothing when compared with that of the railways now in progress. The North-Western line, from Calcutta to Agra and Delhi, holds the first rank, strategically and commercially.
We have thus gone through the most salient points of M. de Valbezen's truly valuable work, and we cannot do better than conclude our remarks by a quotation:
The impartial observer is bound to allow that Providence took pity on the bleeding wounds of India on the day that the great edifice of English supremacy was raised on the wormeaten ruins of the native governments. But was it sufficient that the conquerors of Asia should have caused years of peace to succeed after years of intestine struggles? No, doubtless not. To justify the favours of that God of Battles, who has entrusted in her hand the fate of more than one hundred and fifty millions of human beings, England has other duties to fulfil. The grand centres of the north and south must be connected by iron ways, roads opened up in all the districts, and canals dug everywhere. A good system of education for the natives must be established, and an honest and vigilant police organised. There is work for ages, in fact! And when this great task is completed, it will be time to think about assuring the emancipation, or at least the political rights of the Indian population.
And we have no fear but that things will take place as our author desires, for the rebellion, however much to be deplored, will have the effect of drawing popular attention to India, and the work of reform will speedily be inaugurated.
Last modified 9 October 2007