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Chapter LX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 2

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The affairs of India occupied considerable attention during the session of 1860. Its finances had got into a state of confusion, the public debt was increasing every year, and it was found impossible, by those charged with the administration, to equalise the income and the expenditure. Under these circumstances, the Home Government had, in the previous year, sent out Mr. James Wilson as financial member of the Legislative Council at Calcutta. This gentleman, the well- known proprietor and editor of the Economist, had established his reputation as one of the ablest financiers in England. In 1848 he was appointed Secretary to the Board of Control, and he subsequently became Financial Secretary to the Treasury; he was, therefore, specially qualified for the task he undertook. On his arrival in India, he devoted himself to the study of Indian finances; and when he had mastered the subject, he matured a plan for the reduction of expenditure, which, in connection with improvements in the system of taxation, would, he hoped, make matters right. He brought this plan before the Council in an able and elaborate speech. It was well received in India, and also most favourably in this country; but it did not meet the approbation of Sir Charles Trevelyan, who had been recently appointed Governor of Madras, and considered himself a very high authority on Indian affairs. He was betrayed into the indiscretion of publicly attacking Mr. Wilson's scheme. The conduct of a great public functionary in India, in thus openly assailing the measures of the Government under which he served, especially in the then critical state of Indian affairs, presented an example of imprudence so dangerous that it could not be tolerated; and, accordingly, the Home Government gave orders for the immediate recall of Sir Charles Trevelyan. In the House of Lords, however, Mr. Wilson's plan was rather severely criticised by the Earl of Ellenborough, who especially condemned the part of his speech that reflected on the Sepoy army, which had contributed to the political tranquillity of that empire, and still amounted to 200,000 men. The Duke of Argyll defended Mr. Wilson, and reminded the House that there was an existing deficit of 9,000,000, and a prospective one for the next year of 6,500,000; remarking that the strictures on the Sepoys applied only to the Bengal portion of the Indian army. In the House of Commons, the recall of Sir Charles Trevelyan became the subject of discussion. Sir Charles Wood, the Indian Secretary, explained that the step was taken quite independently of the merits of the questions at issue, and simply because of his most improper act of publishing his minute - a most valuable document, no doubt, but it was published without the concurrence or knowledge of the other members of the Madras Government, and even against their advice - an act which the ex-Governor had attempted to justify. Much, therefore, as he regretted the loss of so able a man, the Home Government would be wanting in their duty if they overlooked such an act of insubordination; "an act subversive of all authority - the mutiny of one governor against another." Mr. Bright objected to Mr. Wilson's scheme, because he proposed to balance income and expenditure by imposing new taxes. Sir Charles Trevelyan thought this unnecessary, believing that the balance might be effected by reducing expenditure. He wrote a most able minute, which, in Mr. Bright's opinion, showed him to be more of a statesman than the author of the Calcutta scheme. The publication, however, was another question; and as it was most unusual, and contrary to official etiquette, he could not blame Sir Charles Wood for the course adopted. Lord Palmerston, while acknowledging the ability and honesty of Sir Charles Trevelyan, stated, that in the case of such an act of insubordination, such a violation of official duty, attended with so much hazard, the Government had no option; and he could not understand how a man so versed in official duty, and so well aware of the consequences of such an act, could have been blind to its character. Subsequently, in a debate on Indian finance, which occurred on the 13th of August, the Secretary for India stated that the recall of Sir Charles was the most painful duty of his public life. He then went into a discussion of the rival schemes, and came to the conclusion that there must be new taxes. In fact, the classes best able to bear taxation had hitherto, in a great measure, escaped it; merchants and fund-holders could be reached only by means of an income-tax, and this measure was therefore adopted. The result of Mr. Wilson's scheme realised the most sanguine expectations of its supporters. He was unfortunately removed by death in the midst of his labours, being cut off by cholera, at Calcutta, on the 11th of August, after a residence of about a year in India; but the system which he inaugurated was ably carried out by his successor, Mr. Laing; in consequence of which the resources of India were very rapidly developed, and the country entered upon a career of prosperity quite unprecedented in its history. Railways were constructed, irrigation works restored, private enterprise encouraged, and social progress promoted in every direction; a remarkable instance of the good that may be effected by sound economic principles, honestly carried out.

An act was passed this year for the re-organisation of the Indian army, which was one of the consequences of the transfer of the government from the East India Company to the Queen - a benefit to India of immense magnitude, resulting from the late mutiny. The Indian Council was opposed to the change in the army; but the Cabinet sustained Sir Charles Wood, and the Parliament sanctioned the measure. On the 12th of June Sir C. Wood brought in a bill to alter the regulation of Her Majesty's local European forces in India. The East India Company had maintained three armies, one at each presidency, part of which consisted of Europeans, enlisted in this country for local service in India, the proportion of which to the Company's troops was two to one. After the mutiny had been put down, there was much discontent among the European soldiers with reference to the new arrangements; in consequence of which many of them were discharged and sent home. It was resolved, after much consideration, that our military power in India should consist of a uniform force, instead of the anomaly of two European armies. The amalgamation of the two Indian armies in the manner proposed was objected to by Lord Stanley, Colonel Sykes, Sir De Lacy Evans, and others; and Mr. A. Mills moved that the bill be read a second time that day three months. The amendment was seconded by Sir E. Colebrook, who contended that the Government had not shown sufficient grounds for so important a change. Sir J. Elphinstone also opposed the bill. Mr. Buxton argued against it upon financial and sanitary grounds, quoting the authority of Lord Ellenborough, Lord Canning, and Sir John Lawrence, and observing that both the late Government and the present had, until this year, been favourable to a distinct local army. Mr. Horsman was opposed to a measure that would transfer to the Horse Guards a large amount of patronage, and revolutionise the government of India. He charged Sir C. Wood with disingenuousness; he declared that he was ready to prove, from his own knowledge, that there were documents on the subject, produced as complete, which were only extracts, important passages having been taken out of them. He complained of details of the Government scheme which had been kept back, but which were of great constitutional importance. There was the question of the patronage, of the influence, the power, and authority that would be given to the military department; and there was the question of expense. These were points which involved the question whether there should be one supreme head or a double Government in India, and the House was simply asked to repeal an Act of Parliament, without any plan, and against the unanimous protest of the Council of India. Mr. Sidney Herbert denied those charges. The Government had not withheld information, and the Horse Guards would not obtain the vast amount of patronage supposed. After a lengthened debate, Sir Charles Wood replied to the objections which had been made to the bill, and the House divided, when the second reading was carried by a majority of 289 to 53. The bill also encountered some opposition in the Lords, but the second reading was carried nem. con., and it quickly passed through the other stages and became law.

The session was brought to a close on the 28th of August. The Queen had gone to Scotland, and the royal speech was delivered by the Lord Chancellor. It referred to frightful atrocities which had been committed by the Druses on the Christian population of Syria, who had been massacred in great numbers in the most treacherous and barbarous manner. Those atrocities inspired the Queen with the deepest grief and indignation, and Her Majesty had cheerfully concurred with the Emperor of Austria, the Emperor of the French the Prince Regent of Prussia, and the Emperor of Russia, in an engagement with the Sultan to send him military assistance, so long as it would be necessary, to re-establish order in that part of his dominions. The only one of the parties who fulfilled this engagement, however, was the Emperor of the French, whose Syrian expedition accomplished the mission assigned to it in a satisfactory manner. The speech also alluded to a joint expedition of French and English forces sent to the Chinese seas, which were to advance to the northern provinces of the empire, in order to support the just demands of the allied powers, and to give all possible weight to the diplomatic action of Lord Elgin, who had gone out as special ambassador for this service. It was he who had negotiated the Treaty of Tien-tsin, the faithful and full performance of which was now demanded from the Emperor of China.

The massacre of the Maronite Christians in Syria, referred to in the royal speech, was one of the most frightful occurrences of the kind on record. Lord Dufferin, who was appointed British Commissioner in Syria, describes some of those scenes in his despatches to Sir II. Bulwer, the English ambassador at Constantinople. He attributed the massacres, and all the wars, quarrels, and disturbances which had agitated the Lebanon for the last fifteen years, to the dissatisfaction of the Turkish authorities' with the measure f of self-government enjoyed by the Christians. Their policy was to prove the scheme adopted by the great powers in 1845 as impossible. With this object they stimulated, as occasion served, the chronic animosity existing between Maronites and Druses. In proportion as foreign influences exalted the arrogance and fanaticism of the Christians, their independence became more insufferable to the Turks, and a determination was arrived at to inflict on them, through the instrumentality of the Druses, a severer chastisement than they had yet received. But he states also, that the Christians had been long meditating an onslaught on the Druses, which was to end in the overthrow of the Turkish authority in Lebanon. Early in May a monk was found murdered in a convent, and a Druse was killed by the Maronites in retaliation. This led to several assassinations on both sides. On the 28th of May a general attack was made on the Maronite villages in the neighbourhood of Beyrout and Lebanon and they were burned to the ground. Next day Hasbeya, a large town under Mount Hermon, was attacked by the Druses. The Turkish commander told the inhabitants that if they laid down their arms he would protect them. They did so, and were sent under a small escort towards Damascus, and were seized on the way by a body of Druses. Having got rid of the armed men, the treacherous commander abandoned the place; and, on the 5th of June, the Druses rushed in and murdered indiscriminately the whole male population under the most revolting circumstances, the Turkish soldiers assisting in the work of slaughter. Several other towns were treated in the same manner. At Deir el-Kammar the gates were treacherously thrown open, and in rushed the fiends, cutting down and slaughtering every male, the soldiers co-operating. The women who escaped told how, before their very eyes, they had seen husband, father, brothers, and children cut to pieces; how, in trying to save the life of a child, they had been knocked down, and the child torn from them and cut to pieces, and the pieces thrown in their face; how they had been insulted by the Turkish soldiery; and how, on their way down to the sea, the Druses robbed them of everything they possessed. And it must be remembered, that there were people at Deir el-Kammar who were very wealthy, and lived in well-built, comfortable houses - people who had been well-educated and used to luxury, and now had to beg their bread. The number of killed in this horrible massacre has been variously estimated; some say that 900, and some say that 1,800 persons were killed. Beyrout itself was threatened by the infuriated and victorious Druses; and the presence of an English pleasure-yacht in the harbour, with a single gun, is supposed to have had more effect in averting the danger than all the troops of the Turkish Pasha, whose conduct, in fact, showed that he connived at the massacres. On the 9th of July similar outrages began at Damascus. A mob consisting of the lowest order of Moslem fanatics assembled in the streets, and instead of being dispersed by the Turkish troops - of whom there were TOO in the town, under the command of Ahmed Pasha - they were allowed to increase until they began a general attack upon the houses in the Christian quarter, and committed many murders. The soldiers sent to quell the disturbance joined the mob, and next day the work of destruction was renewed with greater violence. On Monday there were about 18,000 or 20,000 Christian inhabitants in the city, and 7,000 or 8,000 poor refugees from other quarters. Between 11,000 and 12,000 were collected in the castle, and fed by the Government.

These deplorable events, of course, caused strong representations to be made to the Sultan by the ambassadors of the Christian powers, in consequence of which he sent Fuad Pasha, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, with a strong force, to Syria, to execute summary justice upon the guilty parties. He did so with a vengeance. At Beyrout he hanged and shot a great number of Moslems; and the following despatch, transmitted by him to Constantinople from Damascus, dated August 4th, will show the vigour with which he executed his task: - "Yesterday I arrested 330 persons guilty of having taken part in the massacres. To-day the number of arrests exceed 400. By the day after to-morrow, at the latest, the principal persons who are seriously compromised will have been apprehended." The French expedition was under the command of General Beaufort d'Hautpoul, and left Marseilles in the beginning of August. It was not to exceed 12,000 men. The Emperor addressed the soldiers on their departure, and told them that they were going to assist the Sultan in bringing back the obedience of his subjects, who were blinded by the fanaticism of a former century. " You do not," he said, "leave in great numbers; but your courage and your prestige will supply the deficiency, because, wherever the French flag is seen to pass, nations know that a great cause precedes it, and a great nation follows it." By a later convention between the great powers, the stay of the French troops was prolonged till the 25th of June, 1861, to enable a plan to be formed for the organisation of the government of the Lebanon, and to secure the tranquillity of Syria. At the end of July, Lord Dufferin was appointed to act as British commissioner, in conjunction with commissioners on the part of France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia. The object of the commission was to inquire into the origin of the disturbances and outbreak, to alleviate the sufferings and losses of the Christians, and make arrangements for the future administration of Syria, so as to prevent, as far as possible, a recurrence of similar calamities.

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