Lapas attēli

urgent demand that all the resources of the nation should be put forth to maintain our authority and inflict condign punishment on the perpetrators of the crimes that had been committed. These feelings were rendered all the more intense, and these demands all the more loud and imperious, by the terrors and anxieties of the numerous families having relatives or friends in India, who did not know whether they had not already fallen, or might not be the next victims of the ferocity of the revolted sepoys.

While this excitement of the public mind was at its height, the subject of the Indian rebellion was brought before the House of Commons by Mr. Disraeli. It was on Monday the 25th of July that his motion was made, and the interest with which the debate was regarded was intensified by the circumstance that the public mind was in a state of feverish impatience for the arrival of the Indian mail, which was already several days overdue. Mr. Disraeli's motion was for papers; but he delivered a three-hours' speech, which he concluded by recommending that a royal commission should instantly be sent to India to examine into the grievances of the natives; that a proclamation should be issued declaring that the Queen would not sanction the violation of treaties, or the disturbance of property, and that she would respect the laws, customs, and usages of the natives of India. Mr. Disraeli's motion gave an opportunity of entering into as full a discussion of the Indian question as was desirable at a moment when the whole energies of the government were, or should have been, concentrated on the object of suppressing the revolt as speedily as possible. Having served this purpose, the motion was not pressed to a division; and an amendment brought forward by Lord J. Russell for an address to her Majesty, assuring her of the cordial support of the house in any measure that might be necessary for the suppression of the disturbances, was unanimously adopted.

Although a motion, which was no doubt brought forward in a spirit of hostility to the government, ended in obtaining for it a unanimous vote, if not of confidence, at least of support, it cannot be denied that the government was chargeable with a very culpable disregard of the state of feeling that existed in India, and especially among the native troops. It might, indeed, be urged that the




ignorance and indifference under which they laboured with regard to the most important concerns of our vast Indiau empire only too faithfully represented the still greater ignorance and still profounder indifference with which almost all parties in the legislature and in the nation at large regarded the concerns of that vast empire which we had undertaken to govern; and that if our rulers were careless and ill-informed, the houses of parliament and the people generally were still more careless and still more uninformed. All the debates relating to this, the largest and most valuable portion of our possessions, up to the time of which we are now writing, had been carried on in the most languid and indifferent manner, in thin houses, and amidst manifold indications of the ignorance which prevailed on the subject, and the careless disregard, and even impatience, with which everything relating to India was received. It was indeed alleged, and alleged by some of the ministers themselves, that the mutiny was an occurrence which none could have foreseen, and against which, therefore, no provision could have been made. To show how far this was from being the case to show that the mutiny was no sudden and accidental outbreak, but an event which had for some time past been coming on, to which the attention of the government of India had been drawn, and which it might have anticipated and prepared for-we need only refer to a pamphlet published by Colonel Hodgson at Meerut, the very cradle of the mutiny, in 1851, that is, full six years before the revolt broke out. In that pamphlet the writer proved that the admission of the priestly caste of Brahmins into the ranks of our Indian army, in spite of the positive prohibitions limiting their employment, was the occasion of engendering and fomenting discord and sedition among the native troops. Another source of discord and danger to which he referred was the promotion of native officers, which, as he pointed out, failed to animate them to a more zealous and conscientious execution of their professional obligations to the state. 'On all occasions of discontent and insubordinate caballing,' wrote the colonel, 'how very rare it is to see a native officer come forward in a firm and unequivocal manner to disclose what has come to his knowledge, and thereby to evince a becoming consciousness of the duty he owes to his own rank and to the government



which conferred it. It would be the height of credulity to imagine the possibility of evil intention existing in the lines. without his most entire cognition; and therefore, by failing in moral energy, he virtually becomes an accomplice, shrinking from the manly performance of his duty as a commissioned officer, which imperatively requires a prompt disclosure of such seditious designs. It is lamentable to know that, with his increased rank, he acquires not the slightest perception of his increased responsibility. He still remains in all his feelings and sentiments a common soldier, and seldom assumes the moral tone of a commissioned officer.'

Nor was this the only warning which had been given. The late General Sir Charles Napier, whose high and deserved military reputation gave great weight to his representations, had again and again vainly complained of the inferior character of many of the English officers by whom the native regiments were commanded. The remonstrances of this great soldier and general were thus supported and enforced by Colonel Hodgson:

It is chiefly upon the zeal, loyalty, competency, and conciliatory deportment of the European officers that the efficiency and allegiance of the Sepahees must depend. The British officer of the native army must always look upon himself as a very closely-connected part of it; should he in the smallest degree alienate himself from the men, or in any way evince by his demeanour that their interests and professional honour are something distinct from his, or superciliously neglect to become acquainted with all the circumstances of those under his command, he is deficient in a most essential portion of his official qualifications. Unless he is familiar with all their habits and peculiarities, and properly mindful of their just rights and requirements, it is impossible that he can exercise any personal influence amidst trials and dangers, or prove capable of animating them during the arduous and trying scenes of war.'

How far many among them were from possessing these essential qualifications for command the colonel thus pointed


The European subaltern officer of the native army too generally looks upon the performance of regimental duties as a task irksome, if not humiliating. He has very little ambition to acquire the character of a good regimental




officer. He has scarcely joined the corps when his every effort is strained to quit it, so as to escape from what he is apt to pronounce drudgery and thraldom.

A wide chasm separates the European officer from his native comrade-a gulf in which the dearest interests of the army may be entombed, unless a radical change of relations between the parties is introduced.'

But the causes of this terrible revolt were not military only; they were also religious. There can be no doubt that, whether it arose from carelessness and folly, or from a studied intention to insult the religious prejudices of the Indian soldiery, the suspicions entertained by the sepoys with regard to the greased cartridges were not altogether without foundation; and farther, that the efforts which were being made-with the sanction, or at least the apparent sanction, of the Indian government-to convert the natives to Christianity had produced a strong feeling among the Indian people, and especially among the Indian soldiers. The danger of these well-meant but often ill-judged attempts to proselytise had long before been pointed out by Sydney Smith, and they had not escaped the notice of Colonel Hodgson, but had been adverted to in the pamphlet which we have already cited, published six years before the mutiny broke out, or before there was any general suspicion of the slightest danger of such an occurrence.

It is very clear,' wrote the colonel, 'that the great secret of our success has been a most judicious and careful avoidance of every act that would greatly alarm the religious and conventional prejudices of the natives of India, or call in question our national good faith.'

And so too the great cause of the present misfortune had been the impression-that there was an intention to use the influence which belonged to the government to force the English religion, as well as the English rule, on the natives, and especially on the native soldiers.

But however much the Indian and the English governments might be blamed for not having given their attention to the danger that existed before the storm arose, they at all events showed no want of energy or activity in meeting it now that it had at length burst forth. We have seen the promptitude with which Sir Colin Campbell was dispatched to the scene of action, and troops were sent after him; not

indeed, with sufficient speed to satisfy the unreasonable impatience of the public, or to silence the complaints of the press, but as rapidly as the circumstances of the case and the suddenness of the emergency would allow. The French emperor at this time evinced his fidelity to the alliance he had formed with England, and the sincerity of his desire to maintain a cordial understanding with our government, not only by abstaining from any attempt to take advantage of the embarrassment caused to us by the necessity of sending off every disposable soldier to India, but by offering a passage through France to our troops, in order that they might more speedily arrive at their destination; an offer which, though not accepted by the English government, entitled him who made it to the grateful remembrance of the English people, and all the more so because, in making it, he sacrificed no small amount of popularity in the country which he governed, and in which at that moment there was a very strong desire to take advantage of the state of momentary defencelessness to which we were reduced by the Indian insurrection.

The Indian rebellion was certain to draw after it a very large measure of those internal evils which every great war produces. And these evils were the more acutely felt, because the country had scarcely recovered from the effects of the Crimean war. There was much depression of trade and manufactures, and great derangement of our monetary system-so great, in fact, as to threaten the stability of the Bank of England itself, and to render it necessary to take extraordinary measures in order to enable it to meet tho demands made on it. The government, having been appealed to by the governors of the Bank, and made acquainted with the critical position in which they were placed, resolved, as the only means of avoiding a suspension of payment on the part of that establishment, to authorise a temporary violation of the bank charter as settled by the act of 1844, and to summon parliament in order to obtain an indemnity. The announcement of this decision took the country by surprise, and the more so as parliament had a short time before been prorogued to a period which indicated an intention on the part of the government not to summon it for business before the usual time. The session was opened on the 3d of December, the Queen attending in

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »