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Our Indian Empire page 3

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During the three months of agony through which the imprisoned British passed they looked continually for help from without, and they were sustained by occasional intimations that Havelock was fighting his way to their deliverance. At length there came a day when in the streets of the city people were seen thronging about in visible excitement - some with bundles in their hands, as if in contemplation of immediate flight. And then, too, it was seen, with joy beyond expression, that the fire of the besiegers was in part turned against an enemy approaching from without. Finally, British soldiers were seen fighting their way towards the Residency, and Havelock's relieving army was hailed with tears and shouts of welcome by the men and women whom it came to save. Havelock secured the safety of his besieged countrymen, but he could not yet secure their escape. The rebels, through whose swarms he had cleft a path, closed again around the Residency, and the siege continued. Two months later Sir Colin Campbell reached Lucknow with a force of five thousand men. Many of his soldiers had seen the well of Cawnpore, and the just wrath which its horrors kindled nerved every arm and steeled every heart. Sir Colin forced his way to the Residency with fearful slaughter of rebels, and removed in safety all the females and children who had been so long shut up there. He had scarcely left when Havelock was seized with dysentery, and died - worn out by the labours of those five terrible months during which he had served his country so well.

After the massacre at Meerut the mutinous sepoys fled at once to Delhi, as if fearing instant retribution for their crime. Delhi was the capital of the Mogul empire, and the feeble old man. who was nominally the successor of Timour had his residence there. The native troops of Delhi sympathized with those who came from Meerut. All the English resident in the city, civilians and soldiers alike, were murdered, or fled for their lives out into the jungle. The king was prevailed upon to raise the standard of his house, and the outbreak which at Meerut was only a mutiny assumed at Delhi the immeasurably graver aspect of a rebellion headed by the king.

The flight of the mutineers from Meerut left available for service elsewhere a small force of British infantry and dragoons. After some delay this brigade was marched on Delhi. A week later it was joined by a force sent from Umballah. The sepoys came out from the city to meet the advancing enemy, and twice sustained bloody defeat. And then the British took firm hold of a ridge which commanded Delhi, where they made for themselves a position impregnable to any force the king could send against it. They were yet too weak to attack the city. Indeed, they were themselves subjected to the continual attack of greatly superior forces during the three months which passed while they waited for additional strength. It was not till August closed that they had guns to breach the walls and men to storm the city. The artillery quickly opened access to British troops burning to meet the despised and abhorred enemy. All the lamentable occurrences of a storm in the indiscriminate slaughter of the guilty and the innocent together - darkened, inevitably, the great triumph. The defence ceased, and the enemy fled. The old king was taken prisoner. Three princes of his house after being captured were shot dead by a bold captain of English cavalry. The British flag waved once more over the city of the Mogul. The rebellion was beaten down in the very centre of its power, and a great fear of the terrible British now filled the minds of those who but a little -while ago had been rejoicing in the expectation of our final overthrow.

Lucknow was still in rebel hands, although a strong English force held securely the Residency. Once more Sir Colin Campbell advanced with a force sufficient to quell resistance and complete his conquest of the revolted capital. This time the work was done thoroughly and with enormous bloodshed. Oude was forced back to her subjection.

In central India the rebels still held their ground. But the force of the insurrection was now well-nigh expended, and the troops which England eagerly supplied found employment in trampling out the disheartened and hopeless resistance which was still on foot. Sir Hugh Rose besieged Jhansi, and took it by a storm which cost many rebel lives. Some weeks later Gwalior fell, and the war was over. There was no longer an enemy in the field. Here and there small bands of mutineers wandered over the country, but these were quickly exterminated or chased over the frontier into Nepaul, and order was finally restored.

From the first outburst of the mutiny the English determined upon a policy of merciless retribution towards the offenders. The governor-general telegraphed to his commander-in-chief to make a terrible example of Delhi. "No amount of severity can be too great," were his words. "I will support you in any degree of it." These stern instructions expressed the universal feeling. The slaughter by mutinous soldiers of so many unoffending persons filled every heart with wrath unutterable. The English, rejoicing in their conscious superiority, had been habitually arrogant, overbearing, contemptuous. Now, when the despised natives turned upon them, their rage knew no bounds. As the relieving forces passed northwards, the soldiers made strict search for guilty persons, on whom they might express the wrath which burned within them. A native suspected of cruelty to a British fugitive was hanged without formality of trial. The soldiers did not scruple to prick with the bayonet the wretches whom they were about to execute. It was gravely proposed by officers high in command that torture should be inflicted on natives guilty of murder; and there is no reason to doubt that to some extent, although not largely, this was actually done. Power was given to civil officers to inflict death without judicial procedure. Mutinied sepoys, when captured, were hung in groups upon any convenient tree, or were fastened to the muzzles of cannon whose discharge shattered their bodies into fragments. A proclamation of the governor-general confiscated all lands in Oude whose proprietors had not aided the British.

While India was still in process of being reconquered, Lord Palmerston introduced into the House of Commons a bill vesting in the crown the government of our great dependency. Hitherto the East India Company had shared in the exercise of political functions for which, by its origin and character, it was wholly unqualified. This inconvenient partition was now to cease, and the government of India was in future to be conducted by a minister responsible to public opinion and to Parliament. A further change was made in 1876, when an Act was passed adding to the Queen's titles that of Empress of India.

When the restoration of order was complete, and punishment, which did not err on. the side of leniency, had been inflicted on its violators, England resumed her efforts for the elevation of the Indian people and the development of the boundless resources amidst which they lived. Much as there had been to regret and to blame in her administration, England had always sought the good of the subject races. Her zeal grew warmer now after she was so fearfully reminded of the errors of her government. She applied herself with a noble earnestness to the vast and fruitful labour of raising the condition of the Indian, people. Her efforts have been sustained and their scope widened as the years have passed. She has striven to educate, to afford adequate protection to life and property, to save from the ravages of disease a people helpless for their own defence; to draw out the vast wealth of the soil, to open up the country by the construction of railways and roads, to lay the foundations of a system of self-government under which the India of the future may become capable of guiding her own destinies.

Government fosters "every kind of education, from the highest to the lowest." In especial it aims to bring the whole of the poorest classes under instruction. The gigantic enterprise is yet only at its beginning. In Bengal, for example, the government expenditure on schools is only 400,000 pounds, and the attendance, composed wholly of boys, is no more than twelve in every thousand of the population. But year after year marks a steady if not a very rapid increase. The education of females is at length receiving some attention. The great majority of the people still see more harm than good in the education of women, but among the higher classes the education of girls is eagerly desired. In this new and delicate task the missionaries and their wives achieve greater success than it is possible for the government to reach. The desire for an English education is universally prevalent among the better class. The universities are attended by increasing numbers. Schools of art, medical and engineering colleges are largely resorted to. The supply of teachers in the primary schools is of course utterly inadequate, and the quality of the teaching is often very inferior. The establishment of normal schools will gradually alleviate this evil. In literature the native mind shows some activity. The press of Bombay sends forth annually four hundred to five hundred original works and sixty to seventy newspapers.

A commencement has been made in preparing the people of India, by municipal self-government, for those larger political functions which ultimately they will be called to exercise. As yet the experiment is new, and it extends to a very inconsiderable number of persons. In the capitals of the three presidencies, and in a few hundred towns and cities besides, the people elect their own rulers. In the capitals a moderate degree of interest is evinced; elsewhere the privilege is little understood or regarded. In Lucknow, at a recent election, only seven votes were recorded. The initiation of an Oriental people in the exercise of governing functions is exceedingly slow. But the desire will grow with the fitness which increasing intelligence confers.

A large and reasonably efficient police force gives increasing security to life and property. The police-officers are wofully ignorant. In Bengal more than one-half of the men are wholly without any pretext of education, and they blunder vexatiously in the discharge of their duties. But year by year this evil diminishes under the encouragement which government affords to the educated policeman. Local gentlemen are admitted to participate in the administration of justice - a distinction which is eagerly desired. The care of youthful criminals is being provided for by the establishment of reformatories and industrial schools. In the Punjab a steady increase of civil actions is observed - an appeal to law coming now in place of the violence by which sufferers formerly righted their own wrong, or of the despairing silence in which they submitted to it. Crime is gradually decreasing over the larger portion of India. The traditional crime of the Hindu races, the slaughter of female infants, lingers tenaciously in some districts, notwithstanding the watchfulness of the magistrates. But the extent to which it is now practised is very limited and constantly lessening.

Government is owner of the greater portion of Indian soil, and one-third of its revenue is rent of land. Many embarrassing questions have arisen out of this relationship. It is needful to provide for the cultivator a tenure which he shall deem secure, along with a rent which he shall not deem oppressive or inequitable. This has not been found an easy work, and a perpetually recurring controversy rages between landlord and tenants as to the proportion which the former ought to receive of the gross produce of the land. But the desire of the government is sincere, - to foster the prosperity of the people and secure their good-will, and their efforts in that direction have met with a reasonable amount of success. Rents are collected promptly and with little pressure. It is obvious that a large increase of prosperity has been experienced by the classes who are engaged in agriculture. "Very much has been done by the government to stimulate the intelligent cultivation of the soil. Model farms, schools of agriculture, and agricultural shows have been established, and are fairly successful. Selected seeds have been liberally distributed to all who applied for them. Experiments are constantly in progress with the purpose of ascertaining by what methods of sowing and manuring the amplest yield may be extracted from the soil. The agricultural implements of India are still strangely rude, and the efforts of government to introduce more effective appliances have not yet produced very marked results. The gigantic work of a first survey of all India has been in progress for many years, and now approaches completion. Year by year the area under cultivation increases, and live stock continues to multiply and to improve in quality.

In central India something is being done in the mining of coal. But here the labour difficulty has proved to be very serious. The work is too severe for the liking of the natives, who, moreover, have not yet overcome their timid reluctance to descend into the bowels of the earth.

The foreign trade of India, including both imports and exports, exceeds one hundred and fifty million annually. The amount is steadily, although not rapidly, increasing. The chief increase in exports is in grain, tea, and tobacco, all of which articles are rising to importance. The prosaic trade returns which the government furnishes tell, in regard to many of the provinces, a tale of most impressive and romantic interest. Twenty years ago Oude was wasted by evil government, till the miserable inhabitants fled away into other states, and the country was lapsing into wilderness. To-day Oude supplies liberally her own wants, and conducts a foreign trade of three million sterling. Scinde, equally oppressed and impoverished, has a foreign trade of two million. The warlike Sikhs have laid down their arms and betaken them to more profitable employment. The annual dealings of the Punjab with the outside world amount to twenty million; those of British Burinah to nine million. The vast and beneficent revolutions which these figures express stand alone in the rapidity of the steps by which great populations have been raised from the extremity of wretchedness to the enjoyment of solid although humble well-being.

The Indian government has expended large sums on works fitted to quicken the development of the country. In seasons of drought only copious irrigation can save the thirsty soil from barrenness and the population from famine. Large canals and reservoirs are being constantly constructed, in which the superfluous water of the rainy season is stored against the day of need. India is Toeing opened up by means of communication hitherto unknown. Stately bridges span her great rivers. New roads cut through pathless jungles connect districts whose separation had been absolute. Above all, seven thousand miles of railway have been opened for traffic, and India is aided in rising out of her barbarism by an agency which other nations gained only as the result of years of civilization. The people avail themselves of the railways in sufficient numbers to yield a net revenue of three or four per cent, although the fares go down as low as to one farthing per mile.

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