Слике страница
PDF
ePub

and it is probable that the works which come first in the list at the head of our article have been more generally read in the year 1843 than they were at the date of their publication. We do not name them with the purpose of criticising to any great extent their literary claims to attention.

To those who feel any historical interest in the subject, any wish to know what really happened, and how, they will all be more or less interesting ; though going to a certain extent over the same ground, they present the variety of incident and character which is to be expected from Journals; and the general impression derived from the comparison of three or four will be nearer historical truth than would be that arising from any one.

Captain Havelock’s is, we believe, the generally received military history of Lord Keane's campaign in Affghanistan. In addition to a clear and spirited account of the campaign, it contains sundry interspersed observations on its conduct, and these seem to be written with honesty and freedom. Captain Havelock is a decided admirer of the policy which dictated the invasion of Affghanistan; and, we presume that he includes in . his estimate of the duties vt. an aide-de-camp to the general commanding a division of the invading force, a pretty thoroughgoing partjianship: on the side of the king whose cause we embraced. He believes entirely in the dangerous approach, grasping.djbitior; anid injustice of Russia, and draws from his belief carios inferences to guide the conduct of England. Apparently, the best way to encounter injustice and ambition is to imitate them. He frankly asserts the propriety of subjecting to our influence, that is subduing, all states lying between our Indian frontier and the Russian empire. “I'hose who are not decidedly for us,” he says, “ may be justly assumed to be unequivocally against us," and may, of course, be treated accordingly.

Dr. Atkinson carries even farther than Captain Havelock the view of the case which we presume was then the fashionable one among the employés of the Indian government. He is, what a writer in the Bombay Times somewhere calls him, the “courtly” historian of Shah Soojah; he is indeed an enthusiast in his favour, and, on the occasion of taking Ghuznec, becomes his self-elected poet laureate, putting into the mouth of Mahomed of Ghuznee a series of verses, descriptive of the coming golden age of Affghanistan, as bad as if they had proceeded from a genuine Mahometan Whitehead or Pye; singularly unpoetic, and, alas ! even more inauspiciously unprophetic. We might, if we pleased, give our readers some specimens, which, compared with the subsequent facts, are so curiously and literally contradictory that they are as amusing as anything ludicrous on such a subject can be; but we abstain, merely recommending Dr. Atkinson, whose beautiful lithographed sketches of the scenery of the

march are certainly more attractive than his poetry, to express his enthusiasm hereafter by the pencil only.

It is curious, as illustrative of the careless ignorance of the feelings of the Affghan nation, which prevailed even after the conclusion of Lord Keane's expedition, to compare the views given by these two writers of the popularity of the English and Shah Soojah in Affghanistan, with each other and with the event. In Captain Havelock's opinion, the Affghans disliked the Shah, but were delighted with the prospect of living under the just and settled rule of the English. În Dr. Atkinson's but we must give in his own words his exhibition of the mutual feelings of the English and Affghans :

“ The power which raised him (the Shah) to the throne is the principal drawback on his popularity. It is difficult for the people rightly to comprehend the policy which influenced that measure. They can see nothing in our advance to Cabul but a scheme of conquest. . .” (What extraordinary dulness on their part!) The Affghans are the most bigoted, arrogant, and intolerant people imaginable, and they equally detest our interference, our customs, and our creed. They look upon us at once with dread and contempt; subdued and prostrate as they are by our power, they yet despise us as a race of infidels, and, without one quality to warrant their being numbered generally among the class of civilized beings, they have, nevertheless, vanity enough to suppose that we have not sufficient penetration to detect and suspect their subterfuges and cunning, their doublings and deceit."

Subsequent events may, perhaps, be thought to have shown that this canity, at least, was not ill founded. “Odisse quem læseris,” is a proverbially common feeling; and if Dr. Atkinson is to be regarded as the exponent of English feeling towards the Affghans, here is as strong an example of it as we recollect to have met with. The Affghans have saved us the trouble of solving the intricate knot of these contradictions--by cutting it asunder.

If there are any of our readers to whom Captain, now Major, Outram's name has not become familiar by the recent despatches of the Indian mail, we can only tell them these “Rough Notes" contribute to vindicate for him the reputation he enjoys of being a judicious, active, and daring soldier ; that he appears throughout the campaign in Affghanistan, to have been the officer on all occasions selected for any service which might seem more peculiarly to require these qualities; that he has chased more refractory chiefs, captured more strongholds, and, in a rough way, for the time, pacified a greater extent of rough country than any one on record; and, finally, that he has the credit of having, in the character of Resident at Hyderabad, done all that could be done by a moderate, prudent, and humane servant of his government to prevent or defer the destructive crisis of conflict to which, ever since the great aggressive move of Lord Auckland, things in Scinde have been constantly tending--a reputation, if equally merited with the rest of his honours, how infinitely preferable to them all!

The last on our list of works relating to the carly campaigns

in Affghanistan is Dr. Kennedy's, and to us it is the most pleasing, partly as echoing our own feelings on the policy of the war, though generally in a light and satirical tone. It contains, however, the following remarkable passage, which is very striking when we consider that it appeared before any facts or surmises could have been thought to justify it. But there is no wonder that the spirit of indignant denunciation of wrong should for once be one with the spirit of prophecy.

“ The day of reckoning is not come yet; but it will come, and bring with it results at which the ear of him that heareth of them shall tingle."

We are not able to refer at this moment to the passage, but these are, we think, nearly the exact expressions. Did not the tidings of the winter of 1841 make the ear of every hearer throughout Europe to tingle?

For the rest, Dr. Kennedy is a pleasant and lively writer, a bit of a humorist, a bit of a philosopher, and as humorist and philosopher should be, a kind-hearted man. He loses his baggage by thieves, in the Bolan Pass,—it is very annoying; but it does not make him approve of the wholesale executions by which Sir J. Keane thought it right to terrify the plunderers: his natural inclination is to laugh at the follies of men, but he can express just and earnest indignation when the crime predominates over the folly. His last visit at Cabool is to the tomb of Baber, his last at Ghuznee to the tomb of Mahmoud, where the Superintending Surgeon to the Bombay Column of the Army of the Indus meditates on the transitory nature of human grandeur.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,' repeated I to myself, as I wondered what had become of the Sultan's Chief of the medical department."

The “Outline of Operations,” in the monthly Bombay Times, is, in fact, a history of the Affghan war,-a history which we should gladly see rescued from the perishable (and often illegible) columns of an Indian newspaper, and transformed into a more permanent shape. The number published on the 1st of February contains the account of Lord Keane's campaign. The inquiry into the causes of the war appears in the March number, and is illustrated by many despatches and parts of despatches which were never laid before Parliament, and of some of which we gratefully availed ourselves in our recent article. The last, which we have just received, carries the history to the end of 1840. The writer is no friend of the originators of the war, but the grounds on which his view is supported are such as hardly admit of misrepresentation, and lie open to the judgment of every one. In the history of the war itself, his facts are apparently collected with care, and generally supported by the military memoir-writers of the campaign; and his estimate of the characters and conduct of individuals has every appearance of im partiality,

Such are the principal sources from which a knowledge of the earlier progress of the war may be sought. Mr. Masson's work, to which we shall hereafter refer, contains an account by an eye-witness and actor in many of the scenes he describes, of the Khelât insurrection in 1840; “ an episode merely,” as he says, “of the great political drama enacted west of the Indus,” but not the least interesting, nor the least painful part of the drama. Upon works which, like Lady Sale's and Lieutenant Eyre's Journals, are in every one's hands, it is almost superfluous to offer any general remarks. Though, of course, indebted for the avidity with which they have been read, mainly, to the curiosity felt in reference to their subject, they are yet intrinsically entitled to much praise: they are most interesting records of events which no record could make quite uninteresting: Written by eye-witnesses, and without affectation, they have the one surpassing merit of reality; and the consequence is, that they make, what seemed when we first heard it the incredible story of the Cabool catastrophe, not only credible but intelligible. They coincide with each other to a degree which speaks well for their mutual accuracy, the main difference being, that the one is written by an actor in the scenes described, the other by a deeply-interested observer. There is indeed another not uncharacteristic distinction. The honourable caution of the military man, the anxious desire not to blame unjustly, the not unfrequent statement of facts from which the reader cannot but infer a severe censure, without the direct suggestion of any,--all this contrasts strikingly with the honest unreserve, the feminine vehemence, with which Lady Sale utters, from her whole heart, her well-merited praise or blame. Each book is in this respect just what it ought to be. Lieutenant Eyre's position as an officer doubtless strengthens, in this respect, his manly instinct of cool judgment and fairness; and the result is highly honourable to him. Perhaps the most remarkable feature in his book is the fair, calm, and unexaggerating tone with which he relates the long catalogue of errors, and misconduct. He never blames without stating his reasons; and he gives praise or blame, in opposition to his confessed personal predilections. Towards all on his own side--the English side-Lieutenant Eyre is uniformly and scrupulously just. If in his estimate of their opponents he appears to us occasionally partial and inconsistent,-if he deals a little too freely with words like “rebels,” and “treason,”—if he sometimes seems to attribute to the whole nation the atrocities committed by a part,—we can, in his circumstances, excuse such an error without being misled by it. No one can read the work without receiving on the whole a most favourable impression of the writer.

Passing from the consideration of these works to offer some remarks on the course of the war, we feel that we cannot begin more appropriately than with a quotation from the proclamation of Simla. What actually has been, we shall see afterwards ; it was thus that, in October, 1838, the Indian Government announced what was to be :

“ His Majesty Shah Sooja-ool-Moolk will enter Affghanistan surrounded by his own troops, and will be supported against foreign interference and factious opposition by a British army. The Governor-General confidently hopes that the Shah will be speedily replaced on his throne by his own subjects and adherents, and when once he shall be secured in power, and the independence and integrity of Affghanistan established, the British army will be withdrawn.”

We place this passage here as a text, upon which any outline of the history of the next four years will be found to furnish an impressive comment. Contradicted in almost every particular by the subsequent facts, it received its first, and perhaps its most emphatic, contradiction from the government who proclaimed it.

“His Majesty Shah Sooja-ool-Moolk will enter Affghanistan surrounded by his own troops.”

What was the composition of the troops here described as his Majesty's own? They were Shah Soojah-ool-Moolk's own, in a sense rather less strong than that in which the Eleventh Hussars is “ Prince Albert's Own." The Eleventh Hussars is not more dependent on the Horse Guards than these troops were on the Indian Government. They were levies raised partially from the camp-followers of the Company's regiments. They were Hindostanees, subjects of the Company, officered by British officers, paid by British gold, at the entire disposal of the British authorities; “it was notorious,” says Colonel Dennie, who had the agreeable occupation of drilling these undisciplined levics, “that there was not a single Affghan among them.”

“ His Majesty will enter Affghanistan surrounded by his own troops.”

This statement was deliberately made; apparently it was not true. What was it then ?

Lord Palmerston's attempted defence (for this, like every other step in the business, Lord Palmerston is ready to defend,) amounts to saying that it was an erroneous conjecture; that the statement was made six months before the actual advance of the army; and might therefore have been intended to be true, though contradicted by subsequent events. It is a new thing to be told that state papers are not declaratory, but rather prophetic or conjectural; that the principle,

“O Laertiade, quicquid dicam aut erit-aut non," is to guide us in interpreting the public declarations of the intentions of a government. But the defence, such as it is, will not stand ; if the march began only six months later than the declaration, the raising of the levies did not-and at the time at which Lord Auckland thus mistakenly prophesied that his

« ПретходнаНастави »