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Chapter LII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8


England does her Duty - The East India Company's Dominion ceases - Proclamation of the Queen - Lord Clyde's Campaign in Oude - Takes Amethie, Shunkerpore, and Dhondiakera - Drives the Rebels over the Gogra - Crosses that River - Defeats the Begum - Night March on Mejidiah - Surprise of the Enemy - The Hussars on the Raptee - Flight of Nana Sahib - The Enemy driven into the Terai - Close of the Campaign - Central India: Remarkable Career of Tantia Topee - His Rapid Marches - His Capture and Death - End of the Struggle - Its Effects on the Government and Policy of India - Local Europeans Mutiny - Local Europeans absorbed in the Queen's Army - British and Native Force in India - Great Changes of Policy - Reflections and Conclusion.
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England had not forgotten India. In 1857 she sent out thousands of troops, as in duty bound, to suppress the mutiny, and her patriot sons and daughters subscribed tens of thousands of pounds to relieve the sufferings of those who had fallen a prey to the merciless Sepoys. For the dead nothing could be done; for the living much - and much was done. England had been filled with horror, and her horror was succeeded by a rage which, for a time, overpowered every other feeling. In 1858 she sent more troops - nearly 30,000; but she did more. Her Legislature effected a great reform in the government of India. An Act was passed which abolished the rule of the East India Company, and transferred the government of India to the Crown. Thenceforth, instead of a Board of Directors and a Board of Control, there were to be a Council of India, and a responsible Minister - a Secretary of State for India - through whom and by whom all business was to be transacted. The Company, which had endured so long, and had been so mighty, ceased to have any political power, and continued to exist solely because its machinery was required to look after certain pecuniary interests, and distribute dividends upon East India stock. As a matter of course, the local European army was absorbed into and amalgamated with the Queen's army, and the civil and military servants in India became servants of the Crown. This was an immense change, not only in name, but in principle; for thus India became virtually a part of England, and directly under the control of English Governments. On the passing of the Act, a proclamation by the Queen an Council was addressed to the princes, chiefs, and people of India, and sent to Lord Canning, who was appointed "first Viceroy and Governor-General," to administer the Government in the name and on behalf of Queen Victoria. This proclamation was received in the autumn of 1858, when Oude alone remained to be reconquered; and when Colin Campbell, then just raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Clyde, was preparing to overthrow the rebel hosts of the Begum and Nana Sahib. It was determined that before he marched into Oude the Queen's proclamation should be published; and Lord Clyde - all being in readiness on his part for action, went to Allahabad, at the end of October, to be present when the Governor-General solemnly published the proclamation. This was done on the 1st of November. A platform was erected near the fort. Lord Clyde and General Mansfield accompanied Lord Canning to this appointed spot, and there the first Viceroy read the document which created a revolution in the fundamental principles of Indian government. The ceremony, we are told, was tame and spiritless; but the fact behind it was one of the most solid and substantial in India. The pith of the proclamation was the transfer of power - the extinction of the Company Bahadoor. But it also went on to describe the spirit in which the Queen, through her Viceroy, would rule in the land.

" We hereby announce," said the Queen, "to the native princes of India, that all treaties and engagements made with them by or under the authority of the Honourable East India Company are by us accepted, and will be scrupulously maintained; and we look for the like observance on their part.

"We desire no extension of our present territorial possessions; and while we will permit no aggression upon our dominions or our rights to be attempted with impunity, we shall sanction no encroachment on those of others. We shall respect the rights, dignity, and honour of native princes as our own, and we desire that they, as well as our own subjects, should enjoy that prosperity and that social advancement which can only be secured by internal peace and good government.

"We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects; and those obligations, by the blessing of Almighty God, we shall faithfully and conscientiously fulfil.

"Firmly relying ourselves on the truth of Christianity, and acknowledging with gratitude the solace of religion, we disclaim alike the right and the desire to impose our convictions on any of our subjects. We declare it to be our royal will and pleasure that none be in any wise favoured, none be molested or disquieted, by reason of their religious faith or observances; but that all shall alike enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law; and we do strictly charge and enjoin all those who may be in authority under us, that they abstain from all interference with the religious belief or worship of any of our subjects, on pain of our highest displeasure.

"And it is our further will that, so far as may be, our subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to offices in our service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability, and integrity duly to discharge.

"We know and respect the feelings of attachment with which the natives of India regard the lands inherited by them from their ancestors; and we desire to protect them in all rights connected therewith, subject to the equitable demands of the state; and we will that generally, in framing and administering the law, due regard be paid to the ancient rights, usages, and customs of India.

"We deeply lament the evils and misery which have been brought upon India by the acts of ambitious men, who have deceived their countrymen by false reports, and led them into open rebellion. Our power has been shown by the suppression of that rebellion in the field; we desire to show our mercy by pardoning the offences of those who desire to return to the path of duty.

"Already in our province, with a view to stop the further effusion of blood, and to hasten the pacification of our Indian dominions, our Viceroy and Governor- General has held out the expectation of pardon on certain terms to the great majority of those who in the /ate unhappy disturbances have been guilty of offences against our Government, and has declared the punishment which will be inflicted on those whose crimes place them beyond the reach of forgiveness.

"We approve and confirm the said act of our Viceroy and Governor-General, and do further announce and proclaim as follows: -

"Our clemency will be extended to all offenders, save and except those who have been, or shall be, convicted of having directly taken part in the murder of British subjects. With regard to such the demands of justice forbid the exercise of mercy.

"To those who have willingly given asylum to murderers, knowing them to be such, or who may have acted as leaders or instigators in revolt, their lives alone can be guaranteed; but, in apportioning the penalty due to such persons, full consideration will be given to the circumstances under which they have been induced to throw off their allegiance, and large indulgence will be shown to those whose crimes may appear to have originated in too credulous acceptance of the false reports circulated by designing men.

"To all others in arms against the Government, we hereby promise unconditional pardon, amnesty, and oblivion of all offence against ourselves, our crown and dignity, on their return to their homes and peaceful pursuits. It is our royal pleasure that these terms of grace and amnesty should be extended to all those who comply with their conditions before the first day of January next.

"When, by the blessing of Providence, internal tranquillity shall be restored, it is our earnest desire to stimulate the peaceful industry of India, to promote works of public utility and improvement, and to administer its Government for the benefit of all our subjects resident therein. In their prosperity will be our strength, in their contentment our security, and in their gratitude our best reward. And may the God of all power grant to us and to those in authority under us strength to carry out these our wishes for the good of our people."

Such are the principles upon which the future government of India was to rest. Armed with this proclamation, and one issued in his own name, in which he promised protection to all who submitted, Lord Clyde, that same night, crossed the Ganges and entered Oude to enforce the law, and reduce the last remaining rebels to obedience. We have already stated that one great body of rebels, led by Bainie Madho, held the forts and jungles between the Goomtee and the Ganges. It was against him that the Commander-in-Chief directed his first efforts. His own camp was near Pertabghur on the Sye, and his troops formed the main central column. On the right was Sir Hope Grant, near Sultanpore; on the left Colonel Wetherall, near the Ganges. These columns were to sweep the country before them, and concentrate on Amethie, a strong mud fort, held by the rajah of that ilk, and garrisoned by 20,000 men of all sorts, with thirty guns. These forts abounded in the country. There were upwards of a thousand. They were mud entrenchments, having deep ditches ail around, with more or less flanking bastions, and gateways so placed in re-entering angles as to be under flanking fires. They usually stood in the midst of dense jungle, and were hidden from view until you came close upon them.

Amethie stands in one of these jungles between the Sye and the Goomtee. The army marched up the left bank of the Sye, and the roads were so bad that the column was frequently obliged to go straight over the corn-fields. On the 9th Lord Clyde arrived within sight of the fort, and as he came up in front Sir Hope Grant marched in on the right, and Wetherall's column joined the main body on the left. The latter in his progress had met with a small fort which he had taken by storm, but with the loss of a hundred men. It was what is called a brilliant exploit, but Lord Clyde did not quite approve of that mode of proceeding. He always preferred using guns, and pounding the enemy out of his strong places. The movement of these three columns was so well timed that, as we have said, they all came together at the appointed time and place. Here then was the force for the work. Guns to batter; infantry, if need were, to storm; cavalry in considerable numbers to pursue; all eager to close with the enemy.

But the Rajah of Amethie thought discretion the better part of valour. He had seen the proclamation of the Queen, and that of Lord Clyde. He had long been parleying with Major Barrow, civil commissioner at head-quarters, with a view to submission. He wanted to make terms, whereas the Governor-General would not accept anything except unconditional surrender. Lord Clyde was ready to give him plenty of time, and he promised not to approach near to the fort until that time expired. It so happened that Sir Hope Grant, ignorant of the promise, went out to reconnoitre. The fort guns opened on him. The rajah was in a great fright. He immediately sent an agent to apologise. It was the Sepoys who had fired, not the rajah; and over these he had no influence. If he could manage it, he said, he would surrender with all his guns and followers; but over the Sepoys he had no power. Lord Clyde, in reply, demanded the immediate surrender of the fort. The rajah was alarmed; and on the night of the 9th he stole out, and surrendered in the morning to Major Barrow. On the 10th nothing was done, and on the 11th it was found that, instead of surrendering like the rajah, the garrison had gone off through the jungle in the night. The troops went in, and found it full of stores, but the guns were nowhere visible. Lord Clyde rode in, accompanied by the rajah. The former was angry; the latter terrified at the countenance and language of the Lord Sahib, upon whom he had played a trick. The rajah was told to consider himself a prisoner, liable to any punishment, because he had not kept his word. After a strict search sixteen guns were discovered, leaving fourteen unaccounted for.

Dismantling the fort, Lord Clyde dispatched three columns in pursuit of the fugitives; and conjecturing rightly that they would in the main make for Shunkerpore, the stronghold of Bainie Madho, the columns marched towards that place, halting at Oodeypore. Here an agent from the rebel chief reached the camp. His object was to know what terms his master could obtain. The answer was, unconditional surrender. "While the agent hurried back, the army moved onward, arriving on the 14th three miles from Shunkerpore. The troops were posted so that the escape of the garrison might be difficult. Pickets and patrols were supposed to encircle it; but the forts were numerous, and covered a great deal of ground, and, as the event proved, could not be surrounded. Bainie Madho reopened negotiations, but unable to gain anything by it, he directed his son to adopt the device so often and successfully practised by the landowners in our own civil wars. The son of Bainie Madho informed Lord Clyde that he did not approve of his father's conduct; his father was for the Begum and her son, while he was for the British. If Lord Clyde would promise him the property, he would help to dispossess his father. No notice was taken of this, and the chief was preparing to attack Shunkerpore, when word came in from the outposts that the enemy had fled. So it was. They had gone off in the night, evading our pickets, and marching southwest, over the Sye, upon Poorwah.

Here was another disappointment; yet it had its consolations. It showed that the rebels had lost heart - a fact confirmed by the numerous submissions of petty chiefs. As the troops advanced, Oude police, newly raised, were placed in fortified posts, while here and there bodies of Europeans and Punjabees occupied small entrenched camps; so that, as the country was conquered, it was held down and order restored. Nothing in this great calamity and strife for empire is more remarkable than the ease with which we could, in any district, raise a native army. Here in Oude, as in the Punjab and in the Doab, our officers were enlisting men as fast as they wanted them; and these newly-raised men did good service against their countrymen.

Prom Shunkerpore Lord Clyde continued the pursuit of the enemy; but, as intelligence of the whereabouts of Bainie Madho was contradictory, he halted a few hours near Boy Bareilly, in order to obtain exact information. It did not come, but some information came, which warranted a move, and the army defiled through Boy Bareilly and went up the Sye. Colonel Evelegh, commanding a light column, was ordered to follow and not lose sight of Bainie Madho, while the army crossed the Sye above Boy Bareilly. Then in came a courier from Evelegh, with certain news that he had tracked the foe to Dhondiakera, on the Ganges. Here it was that Bam Bux had dwelt, and he it was whose name was infamous, for he had caught and massacred some of the fugitives from Cawnpore.

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