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India. page 3


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Under Lord Amherst (1823-1828) British arms were carried beyond the Bay of Bengal. The Burmese, a warlike people of Mongolian race, had founded, before the middle of the 18th century, the kingdoms of Siam, Pegu, Ava, Aracan, and others, on the peninsula between the Bengal and China seas. The modern empire of Burma was established by an able warrior named Alompra at the time when Clive was winning his victories in Bengal. Many years later, the British and Burmese frontiers, ever advancing, the one from the Ganges, the other from the Irawaddi, came into contact, and war ensued in 1823 owing to Burmese insolence and aggression. In April, 1824, the Bengal army embarked for and captured Rangoon, and for three months, in the great pagoda and the smaller temples, the captors repulsed all attacks made by a vast Burmese force. In December the enemy were finally driven off into the jungle after a week's severe fighting. In February, 1825, General Campbell proceeded, by land and water, up the Irawaddi, and the British shells and rockets soon gave command of the whole river. Prome was occupied in April, and then came rest during the rainy season. More battles, with rout to the Burmese, followed, and early in 1826, after further fighting on our march to Ava, the arrogant "Lord of the White Elephant" succumbed. A treaty gave us possession of Assam, Aracan, Tenasserim, and other territory; conceded the residence of a British minister at Ava, the capital; and opened the Burmese dominions to trading British subjects. The contest was remarkable for the courage and endurance displayed by the British troops and their Sipahi comrades under the most formidable difficulties and dangers due to climate, country, and hosts of brave well-armed foes. In this war steam-ships were for the first time employed.

In January, 1826, the capture of Bhurtpore by Lord Combermere, formerly Sir Stapleton Cotton, a famous cavalry-officer in the Peninsular War, atoned for the failures of Lord Lake, and made a great impression on the native mind. The siege-guns made some breaches in the thick mud-walls, and an angle of the fortress was blown out by the explosion of an enormous mine. The place was then stormed in the usual way, and the destruction of the works once more showed the natives of India that nothing could resist the countrymen of Coote and Clive. The rule of Lord William Bentinck (1828-1835) was ennobled by successful efforts in the cause of humanity. During a wise, upright, and paternal administration, the custom of sati (suttee), or widow-burning, was abolished; the secret society of robbers and assassins known as Thugs was suppressed; European education, with the aid of Macaulay, a member of Council at Calcutta, was introduced; the freedom of the press was maintained; and many judicial, financial, and administrative reforms were effected. It was at this time that Macaulay - orator, essayist, poet, historian, jurist in one - had the chief part in framing the Criminal Code adopted 30 years later with eminent success in the whole of our Indian dominions. In 1833 the renewal of the Company's charter for 20 years was attended by the opening of the China trade. Their commercial monopoly in the East thus came to an end. At the same time, Europeans were freely admitted to India, and no native, or subject of the Crown in the country, was excluded from office by religion, colour, descent, or place of birth. Slavery was at once mitigated, and very soon abolished. The North-Western Provinces were separated from Bengal, and placed in charge of a lieutenant-governor.

The administration of Lord Auckland (1836-1842) was marked by the great disaster and disgrace in Afghanistan due to unwise interference in the internal affairs of that turbulent country, and then to the imbecility and positive cowardice of some of the civil officials and military commanders. Few particulars can here be given After an occupation of Kabul from August, 1839, to the end of 1841 the place was evacuated in the depth of winter, and during the retreat towards India, in the early days of January, 1842, the military force of 4,500 British and Sipahi troops, with 12 coo camp-followers all perished (save a small party of officers, ladies, and children who became prisoners and were afterwards rescued) from the enemy's attacks, fatigue, and cold in the Khoord-Kabul and Jugdulluck passes. On January 13th Dr. Brydon, the sole survivor except the above, reached Jelalabad, clinging exhausted to his staggering pony's neck. Under competent leadership, both at the outset and the close of this first Afghan war, our arms won due credit. Ghazni was stormed in July, 1839, Havelock and Outram being among the officers in the invading army. Jelalabad, during the last months of 1841, was gallantly held by Sir Robert Sale. Ghazni was retaken by the Afghans after the retreat from Kabul, but Kandahar was well maintained against all attacks by General Nott. Early in 1842 Lord Auckland was replaced by Lord Ellen-borough, and then General Pollock, forcing his way through the Khyber Pass, with the storming of the heights on both sides, reached Kabul, along with Nott's army from Kandahar, in September, 1842, and left his mark there in the utter destruction of the great bazaar, a splendid building. Ghazni had been retaken, and the troops evacuated the country after so far vindicating the honour of our arms. The annexation of the province of Sind (Scinde) in 1843, after brilliant victories at Meanee and Hyderabad, was due to Sir Charles Napier, a Peninsular veteran. In a governorship of four years' duration the conqueror did something to make amends for our somewhat lawless aggression by the development of the resources of the country, the construction of great public works, and the establishment of a beneficial system of rule. A revival of Mahratta power was finally crushed in December, 1843, by Sir Hugh Gough, accompanied by Lord Ellenborough, in the great battle of Maharaj-poor, near Gwalior, and by the rout of another Mahratta force, on the same day, at Punniar. A British governor ruled in Gwalior, and the Mahrattas never again broke the peace in India.

Under the rule of Sir Henry (Viscount) Hardinge (1844-1848), a Peninsular veteran, occurred the first Sikh war, a contest with the bravest and best-trained soldiers ever encountered by our forces in India, men whose descendants are now the most loyal and efficient supporters of our rule in their own country and in our East African territories. The Sikhs are almost a unique instance of a nation sprung from a religious sect, one founded early in the 16th century by a pious Hindoo named Nanak Shah, a native of the province of Lahore. His faith was monotheistic, his life pure, his teaching benevolent, elevating, and free from fanaticism. After his death Nanak's writings were collected into a Sikh "Bible," and persecution by Brahmanical Hindus and by Mohammedans soon turned his followers into warriors defending their creed, their honour, and their lives. A great ruler, legislator, and commander named Govind Singh, who died in 1708, was the founder of the Sikh state, with abolition of caste, and equality of rights for all subjects. After his death the Mohammedans in the Punjab prevailed for a time, but the Sikhs, refusing to renounce their faith and practice, made their way to mountain-refuges, and in the middle of the 18th century, during the anarchy which followed Nadir Shah's invasion, they came forth from their seclusion in conquering strength, and subdued the province of Lahore. They were ultimately united, after an interval of civil strife, under the rule of the famous Ranjit Singh, whose realm was the one great power in India beyond the range of British sway and influence. On his death in 1839 the court of Lahore became a scene of strife between rival ministers, generals, and queens. The one solid centre of power in the Punjab was the army of 125,000 men, a truly formidable force, full of warlike ardour and religious zeal, drilled by French officers, and provided with some hundreds of heavy cannon, cast in British foundries, and served by steady, well-trained gunners. This body of soldiers, in a fit of arrogance, got rid of their French generals, Court and Avitabile, and appointed officers under the control of small committees of privates. The Sikh minister at Lahore, Lai Singh, and the commander, Tej Singh, in regard for their own safety, turned the arms of these fierce warriors against the British dominions, which were thought to be an easy prey after the disaster in Afghanistan. In December, 1845, a Sikh army of 50,000 men, with 100 guns of large calibre, crossed the Sutlej into British territory. The campaign of eight weeks' duration included four battles, all severe, and in one instance, that of Ferozeshah, perilously near a defeat for our forces. On December 18th the enemy were repulsed at Mudki, south-east of Lahore, where the British commander, Sir Robert Sale, to the great grief of his comrades and his country's loss, received a mortal wound. On the 21st, Hardinge, serving as a volunteer second-in-command under Sir Hugh Gough, took part in the fearful struggle at Ferozeshah, where the enemy's strong lines of works were, with great loss, only partly captured on the first day. On the second day, at the bayonet's point, the work was being finished, when a fresh Sikh army appeared on the field, and destruction seemed imminent for our men. A flank movement of our cavalry fortunately caused a panic and the retreat of the enemy. A few days later, at Aliwal, near Mudki, in another fortified position, the Sikhs were smartly beaten by Sir Harry Smith, who stormed their camp, took all the guns and stores, and drove the enemy beyond the Sutlej. At Sobraon, on that river, on February 10th, 1846, the united forces of Gough and Smith, with heavy guns from the Delhi arsenal, won a decisive victory. The Sikh works were stormed, and the breaking of the boat-bridge in the enemy's rear, during their retreat, caused heavy loss. Their army was lessened by 13,000 men, and about 70 guns were taken. Ten days later the Sikh capital, Lahore, was entered by the victors, and the young Raja, Dhulip Singh, made peace with the cession of the eastern Punjab, and admitted a British Resident to Lahore.

Lord Dalhousie (1848-1856) was one of the greatest of Indian rulers, a man full of energy, insight, courage, and power to influence his subordinates in carrying out his policy. His great career in the East was marked by a series of enforced and peaceful annexations; by the execution of great public works; and by administrative changes which amounted to the construction of a new Indian empire. He really laid down his life in the work, and left behind him an India started on a new path of progress towards a higher degree of civilisation. A second Sikh war arose through troubles due to mutinous Sikh troops at the fortress-town of Mooltan. In November, 1848, Lord Gough took the field with 20,000 men and nearly 100 guns, and his rash generalship, which ever trusted to the "cold steel" rather than to cautious tactics and the use of artillery to save the lives of brave infantry, caused severe and needless loss. A check was incurred at Ramnuggur, on the Chenab, in an attack on strong entrenchments, on November 22nd, but renewed efforts drove away the Sikhs, and they were defeated ten days later in a battle of some detached forces. In January, 1849, Mooltan, after severe bombardment and the explosion of the chief magazine, was stormed by the British troops under General Whish, and then, on January 13th, came our virtual defeat at Chillianwallah, on the left bank of the Jhelum, near the scene of Alexander's battle. The whole Sikh army was strongly entrenched, and Gough, annoyed by the Sikh guns when his troops arrived before the works after a long march, made an immediate attack. Our men were driven back in confusion, and two cavalry-regiments, one British, one of Bengal, fairly " bolted," the former, it is believed, through a mistaken bugle-sound, the latter in sheer panic. The whole loss to our forces exceeded 2,000 men; the Sikhs, on the following day, retired unmolested. On February 2oth, after Gough, unknown to himself, had been superseded by orders issued in London, the hot-headed Irish hero, become prudent from sharp lessons, redeemed his fame and ended the war. Strongly reinforced by Whish from Mooltan, and provided with an ample artillery, Gough attacked the Sikhs at Goojerat, east of Chillianwallah, and won a splendid victory in "the battle of the guns." The British cannon first crushed the enemy's fire, and then the Europeans and Sipahis advanced with the bayonet, and, showing heroic courage in a fight of seven hours, drove 40,000 Sikhs from every position. The cavalry made a rout of the foe, and 53 guns out of 60 were captured, with all the ammunition and baggage. The British loss, on this occasion, was but 100 slain and a few hundreds wounded. A close pursuit broke up the military power of the Sikhs, and those brave men, recognising stern facts, made a complete submission, piling arms at Rawal Pindi and surrendering all remaining cannon on March i2th. The whole Punjab then became an integral part of British-Indian territory. The young Raja, Dhulip Singh, was brought to England for education; adopted the Christian faith; received an ample pension from the Government, and took his place in society as a Norfolk "squire." The spoils of Lahore included the famous diamond styled "Koh-i-noor," or Mountain of Light, which was an attractive object in the Great Exhibition of 1851, and has now, much reduced in size by cutting, been worn as a brooch for many years, on state-occasions, by Queen Victoria. The conquered territory was placed in charge of Sir Henry Lawrence, his brother John (the late Lord) Lawrence, and other able officials, and an excellent system of government was established. The best of the Sikh soldiers freely entered our service, with results honourable to both parties concerned.

In 1852 a second Burmese war was caused by a long series of injurious and insulting acts towards British merchants in Burma. Our Resident at Ava had long been withdrawn, under Burmese bad treatment, and Lord Dalhousie, exactly the man for the time, resolyed to administer a sharp lesson. In April, 1852, a naval and military force, well equipped in every respect for the climate and the scene of action, entered the Irawaddi. Martaban was soon taken, and Rangoon was stormed, against vast odds, in the most heroic style, with the rout of the Burmese "Immortals," picked warriors sworn to die at their posts. In the autumn Prome was seized, and the way up the river to Ava lay open. The Burmese king would make no terms, and in December Lord Dalhousie annexed the province of Pegu or Lower Burma, with the best results for the people. In 40 years from that time the population of Rangoon had grown fifteen-fold, and the annual value of the trade had risen from 2,000,000 to 14,000,000 pounds. A great territory, ruined by its sovereign's misrule, has thus been changed into a very prosperous and progressive dominion. One of Lord Dalhousie's last acts, in February, 1856, was the annexation of the province of Oudh, after many fruitless warnings, spread over many years, to the worthless sovereign who had made the country a scene of misery and disorder. In 1853 the last renewal of the East India Company's charter was attended by an arrangement which placed Bengal under a Lieutenant-Governor, for the relief of the Governor-General. The British dominions had so greatly increased towards the north-west that the chief military force was moved from Calcutta and Bengal towards the northern and central provinces, and Simla became, for a great. part of the year, the centre of power as the residence of the Governor-General and his council. It was Dalhousie who devised the system of railways and telegraphs which now cover the country, with the virtual tripling of our military strength in rapidity of news and movement, and to the great advantage of trade and the people. New roads, canals, and public offices in every province; cheap (halfpenny) postage; and a complete graduated system of public instruction, were among the many benefits of civilisation conferred upon India by the great man who returned to England in the spring of 1856.

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The British Indian Empire, 1898.
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