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Chapter LVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3

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The safety of the prisoners diffused universal joy throughout the camps of the two generals; but there was one thing necessary, in their opinion, in which the Government concurred, in order to give the crowning proof of our complete triumph, and to restore the unquestionable supremacy of our power, and compel the respect and fidelity of the neighbouring provinces. This was the signal punishment of Cabul for the atrocities that had been perpetrated there. The hostile chiefs were now as eager to conciliate, as submissive in their tone as they had been cruel and arrogant. Even Akbar Khan professed the greatest friendship for the British, and repudiated the acts that had been done in his name, at the same time restoring to his friends Captain Bygrave, the last prisoner he had in his possession. The Afghans had a maiden fortress in the town of Istaliff, which is built upon two ridges of the spur of Hindoo Koosh, which forms the western boundary of the beautiful valley of Kohistan. There, in its fortified streets and squares, as in a safe asylum, they had collected their treasures and their women. The sagacious Havelock suggested that the capture of this place, believed to be impregnable, would be a great stroke of policy. General M'Caskill, therefore, made a rapid march upon it, and after a desperate struggle, in which Havelock greatly distinguished himself, the place was stormed in gallant style, the Afghans in every direction giving way before our attacking columns. The people, panic-stricken, thought only of saving their property and their women; and when our troops entered the town, the face of the mountain beyond was covered with laden baggage cattle, Whilst long lines of white-veiled women striving to reach a place of safety wound up the hill-side. The general, respecting the honour of the women, would suffer no pursuit, while those who fell into the hands of our soldiers in the town were safely, delivered over to the care of the Kuzzil-Bashas. Much booty, however, was taken, and the town was partially fired.

The fate of Cabul was now to be decided. Some mark of just retribution should be left upon it, and General Pollock determined to destroy the great bazaar, where the mangled remains of our murdered envoy had been exposed to the insults of the inhabitants. The buildings were therefore blown up with gunpowder, the design being to allow the work of destruction to extend no further. But it was impossible to restrain the troops. " The cry went forth that Cabul was given up to plunder. Both camps," wrote Major Rawlinson, "rushed into the city, and the consequence has been the almost total destruction of most parts of the town, except the Gholom-Khana quarter and the Balla-Hissar. Numbers of people - about 4,000 or 5,000 - had returned to Cabul, relying on our promises of protection, rendered confident by the comparative immunity they had enjoyed during the early part of our sojourn here, and by the appearance ostentatiously put forth of an Afghan Government. They had many of them re-opened their shops. These people have been now reduced to utter ruin; their goods have been plundered, and the houses burnt over their heads. The Hindoos in particular, whose numbers amount to some 500 families, have lost everything they possessed, and they will have to beg their way to India in the rear of our columns." Mr. Kaye puts forth the best apology that can be made for this wholesale destruction. "When we consider," he says, "the amount of temptation and provocation - when we remember that the comrades of our soldiers and the brethren of our camp-followers had been foully butchered by thousands in the passes of Afghanistan; that everywhere tokens of our humiliation and of the treachery and cruelty of the enemy rose up before our people, stinging them past all endurance and exasperating them beyond control, we wonder less that, when the guilty city lay at their feet, they should not wholly have reined in their passions, than that in such an hour they should have given them so little head."

Having thus accomplished their mission, the two armies returned in triumph to India. Lord Ellenborough was delighted. He was now at Simla, in the very house whence his predecessor had issued his proclamation for the restoration of the king of Afghanistan - the Charles X. of that country - which had been the cause of all our disasters. On the 1st of October, the anniversary of the day when two years before, he had reversed the policy of Lord Auckland, he issued a proclamation from the same room. It is a well-written State paper, ably reviewing the situation of Indian affairs, and clearly announcing the future policy of our Indian Government. It is historically important and deserves to be permanently recorded in the history of England: - " The Government of India directed its army to pass the Indus, in order to expel from Afghanistan a chief believed to be hostile to British interests, and to replace upon his throne a sovereign represented to be friendly to those interests and popular with his former subjects. The chief believed to be hostile became a prisoner, and the Sovereign represented to be popular was replaced upon his throne; but after events which brought into question his fidelity to the Government by which he was restored, he lost by the hands of an assassin the throne he had only held amidst insurrections, and his death was preceded and followed by still existing anarchy. Disasters unparalleled in their extent, unless by the errors in which they originated, and by the treachery by which they were completed, have in one short campaign been avenged upon every scene of past misfortune; and repeated victories in the field, and the capture of the cities and citadels of Ghiznee and Cabul, have again attached the opinion of invincibility to the British arms. The British armies in possession of Afghanistan will now be withdrawn to the Sutlej. The Governor-General will leave it to the Afghans themselves to create a government, amidst the anarchy which is the consequence of their crimes. To force the sovereign upon a reluctant people would be as inconsistent with the policy as it is with the principles of the British Government, tending to place the arms and resources of that people at the disposal of the first invader, and to impose the burden of supporting a sovereign without the prospect of benefit from his alliance. The Governor- General will willingly recognise any Government approved by the Afghans themselves, which shall appear desirous and capable of maintaining friendly relations with neighbouring states. Content with the limits Nature appears to have assigned to its empire, the Government of India will devote all its efforts to the establishment and maintenance of general peace, to the protection of the sovereigns and chiefs, its allies, and to the prosperity and happiness of its own faithful subjects. The rivers of the Punjab and Indus, and the mountainous passes and the barbarous tribes of Afghanistan, will be placed between the British army, and an enemy approaching from the west, if, indeed, such an enemy there can be, and no longer between the army and its supplies. The enormous expenditure required for the support of a large force, in a false military position, at a distance from its own frontier and its resources, will no longer arrest every measure of improvement of the country and of the people. The combined army of England and of India, superior in equipment, in discipline, in valour, and in the officers by whom it is commanded, to any force which can be opposed to it in Asia, will stand in unassailable strength upon its own soil, and for ever, under the blessing of Providence, preserve the glorious empire it has won in security and in honour. The Governor-General cannot fear the misconstruction of his motives in thus frankly announcing to surrounding states the pacific and conservative policy of his Government. Afghanistan and China have seen at once the forces at his disposal, and the effect with which they can be applied. Sincerely attached to peace for the sake of the benefits it confers upon the people, the Governor- General is resolved that peace shall be observed, and will put forth the whole power of the British Government to coerce the state by which it shall be infringed."

Had Lord Ellenborough rested satisfied with this proclamation, all would have been well; but he issued another proclamation which at once shocked the religious feelings of the people of England by its profanity, and covered him with ridicule by its absurdity. He meant it to be a great stroke of policy; but it was simply a foolish and gratuitous concession to an idolatrous priesthood, while it exasperated the pride and fanaticism of the Mahometans. This was the celebrated Somnauth Proclamation. Its authenticity was at first gravely doubted in India, but when, at length, it was placed beyond doubt, there was an outburst of censure and ridicule such as never before overwhelmed a Governor-General of India. The following is a copy of this famous proclamation: -

" My brothers and my friends, - Our victorious army bears the gates of the Temple of Somnauth in triumph from Afghanistan, and the despoiled tomb of Sultan Mahomed looks upon the ruins of Ghiznee. The insult of 800 years is at last avenged. The gates of the Temple of Somnauth, so long the memorial of your humiliation, are become the proudest record of your national glory, the proof of your superiority in arms over the nations beyond the Indus. To you, princes and chiefs of Sirhind, of Rajwarra, of Moliva, and of Guzerat, I shall commit this glorious trophy of successful war. You will, yourselves with all honour, transmit the gate of sandal wood through your respective territories to the restored Temple of Somnauth. The chiefs of Sirhind shall be informed at what time our victorious army will first deliver the gates of the Temple into their guardianship at the foot of the bridge of the Sutlej. My brothers and my friends, I have ever relied with confidence upon your attachment to the British Government. You see how worthy it proves itself of your love, when, regarding your honour as its own, it exerts the power of its arms to restore to you the gates of the Temple of Somnauth, so long the memorial of your subjection to the Afghans. For myself, identified with you in interest and in feeling, I regard with all your own enthusiasm, the high achievements of that heroic army, reflecting alike immortal honour upon my native and upon my adopted country. To preserve and to improve the happy union of two countries, necessary as it is to the welfare of both, is the constant object of my thoughts. Upon that union depends the security of every ally, as well as of every subject of the British Government, from the miseries whereby in former times India was afflicted. Through that alone, has our army now waved its triumphant standards over the ruins of Ghiznee and planted them upon the Balla-Hissar of Cabul. May that good Providence, which has hitherto so manifestly protected me, still extend to me its favour, that I may so use the power now entrusted to my hands, as to advance your prosperity and secure your happiness by placing the union of our two countries upon foundations which may render it eternal.

One might have supposed that the princes, chiefs, and people of India thus addressed by the supreme representative of a Christian nation were all pure Hindoos; and that the temple from which Sandal-gates had been carried away, 800 years before, was still in their possession; whereas it was in ruins, and the sacred ground on which it stood was trodden by Mahometans. Even if the temple had been standing and occupied by the ancient idols, the Hindoo priests would have regarded the gates as polluted by being so long in the possession of unbelievers. Viewed as the reversal of a national humiliation the act was equally absurd. It could be no gratification to a subjugated race to baye restored to them by a foreign power a trophy that had been carried away 800 years before. The style of Oriental pomp in which the proclamation was written, heightened the folly of the whole proceeding, and made the defence of Lord Ellenborough a very difficult matter with the Home Government. But for this unfortunate escapade, he might have retired with dignity as an enlightened, energetic, and able Governor-General, who had done good service in putting an end to the " political system " by which we were continually entangled in the squabbles of the native states, and had wasted the resources of our empire in fighting the battles of their wicked and worthless dynasties.

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