« PreviousContinue »
AFFGHANISTAN AND INDIA.
The events of the last six months of a non-intervention war more comhave at length reduced the question of pletely carried out than in this inour Affghan policy into something stance. All this time, every rupee of like a definite form. From the day revenue extracted from the country when our columns first crossed the in the name of Shah-Shoojah cost at Indus in hostile array, we never ceased least ten in the collecting; and as the to proclaim that any permanent occu- restored monarch was bound by treaty pation of the country, as a conquest to keep up a subsidiary force, the made on our behalf, could never be expense of supporting which would for an instant contemplated; and that have considerably exceeded the inthe sole object of the expedition was come he had ever been able, even in the restoration of the friendly dynasty his former days of prosperity, to levy of the Suddozyes, to whom we were in his dominions,t the slender rebound by the ties of ancient alliance, sources of Affghanistan must, in the to the throne from which they were natural course of things, have been excluded by an usurping chief, the utterly exhausted in a few years continuance of whose rule was incom- while the current outlay could only patible equally with our interests and be met by incessant draughts on the with the welfare of his own country. Calcutta treasury, which was forced On this avowed principle, Affghanis- to make constant advances, and to tan was laid waste with fire and sword, contract heavy loans for the sake of the castles of its independent nobles maintaining its grasp of a territory besieged and stormed, and the chiefs already mortgaged far beyond the themselves slaughtered while fighting fee simple of its value. It appears in defence of their thresholds; and all difficult to conjecture how this blissful this was carried on (“with a view," state of things would have terminated as stated by a writer in the Asiatic - whether by the bankruptcy of the Journal, “to the reconstruction of Indian exchequer, or by the converthe social edifice !'') in the name of a sion of Affghanistan into a desertmonarch who, as was notorious to if we had been less unmolested in our every one, was in effect as much a
philanthropic efforts to make a soli. state prisoner of the English at Cabul tude and call it peace," and Shahas his unfortunate competitor, Dost Shoojah had been still suffered by his Mohammed," was in Hindostan, and affectionate subjects to slumber, undiswho exercised less real power, beyond turbed by cares of state, within the the precincts of his own palace, than screens of his well-stocked zenana. the youngest subaltern of the invading But the recent catastrophe has given army. Herat in the meanwhile, the us a chance of extrication from the securing which against attack was dilemma. Of the country we are now the original pretext of the war, was no longer in possession; and if the intel. almost the only corner of Affghanistan ligence brought by the last mail is to into which our intrusive arms did not be relied on, both our protegé Shahpenetrate; and its vizier, Yar. Moham. Shoojah,and his nephew and rival Kammed, was suffered with perfect impu- ran, have closed their career in death; pity to insult and expel our envoy, thus virtually terminating the Suddozye to levy war against his own nominal dynasty, as the sons of the late Shah sovereign Shah-Kamran, and to open are utterly powerless and insignificant correspondence with all the enemies among the crowd of chiefs, and one of England, avowed or secret. Never, at least of them (Seifdar-Jung) is acin fact, was the notable Whig process tually in arms against us. It now re
* For the honour of our national character, we hope that the accounts which have appeared from the Delhi Gazette, of the degrading restrictions to which this illustrious captive is said to be now subjected, may be either unfounded or exaggerated. He has already experienced sufficient of unmerited evil at our hands ; and it is next to impossible that he can be in any way cognizant of the proceedings of his son.
of See our August No., last year, page 173.
mains to be seen whether we shall awaken so much as a sense of perconsider it incumbent upon us, for the sonal insecurity in the mind of the vindication (as the phrase is) of our destined victim; and he continued to military honour, to perpetrate a second live as before in the midst of the naact of violence and national injustice tive town, instead of placing himself by reconquering Affghanistan, and in comparative safety within the Engholding it without disguise as a pro- lish lines. The military commanders vince of our empire: or whether, mak- emulated the supineness of the diploing the best of a bad bargain, we shall matists; the stores and commissariat, content ourselves with occupying a far from being placed in the fortified few posts on its frontier, and leaving camp, or even in the Bala- Hissart or its unhappy natives to recover, with citadel, were left in a situation which out foreign interference, from the is naïvely described in one of the acdreadful state of anarchy into which counts as exposed to the first attack our irruption has thrown them. of an enemy!”—and all the letters
In the hurried and confused ac- written by the mail which left Cabul counts which have been received of only the day before the revolt, dethe opening of the bloody drama, but scribe every thing as being “quiet little mention is made of the indica. and peaceable" in the capital. tions which immediately preceded the On the 2d of November, however, outbreak; but even if we put the most (the anniversary of the final defeat of favourable construction on the conduct Dost-Mohammed at Purwan-Durrah,) of the officials both at Cabul and in the storm burst forth. At the mothe Bengal Presidency, their blind in- ment of the breaking-up of the durbar fatuation and want of foresight seem or levee, the war.cry of Islamism was almost to have surpassed the bounds raised throughout the city, and the of belief. We have been informed, streets were instantly thronged with on authority which we cannot ques- thousands of armed and furious Afftion, that as long ago as August last, ghans. Burnes, cut off by his own information had been received by the unhappy rashness from either defence Cabinet of Calcutta, of the existence or escape, perished at the first onset; of a widely - ramified conspiracy the greater part of the ammunition throughout Affghanistan; but so far and provisions, exposed as we menwere Lord Auckland and his advisers tioned above, fell into the hands of from deeming it necessary to reinforce the assailants; and numbers of offithe inadequate and overworked army cers and men were promiscuously of occupation, that orders were actual slaughtered, before they could sucly given for the return of Sale's bri- ceed in rallying within the defences gade to Hindostan; and they were of the cantonments and the Balaaccordingly on their march from Ca- Hissar. The latter position was bul to Peshawer, when they were at- eventually abandoned, (though the tacked by the insurgents, and with Shah continued to reside there, and difficulty fought their way to Jellala- Sir William Macnaghten, with Conbad, where they have ever since been olly and others, strongly recomblockaded. Even the warning re- mended the concentration of the troops ceived in October, by Sir Alexander within its walls, rather than in the Burnes, from Captain Gray of the cantonments, and the whole of our 44th, (to whom the plot had been re. force, amounting to between 5000 and vealed by an Affghan chief,*) failed to 6000 bayonets, Europeans and sepoys,
* “ He (Mohammed Uzeen Khan) told me, that he was much alarmed for our safety—that the whole of Affghanistan was determined to make common cause, and to drive out or murder every Feringhi in the country—and that Cabul itself was ready to break out." This was forthwith communicated by letter to Sir A. Burnes, whom it reached October 15, or seventeen clear days before the explosion-" The bearer brought a letter to the chief, acknowledging the receipt, but I never heard a line from Sir Alexander Burnes !” Letter of Captain Gray, Bengal Hurkaru, January 3, quoted in Times, March 10.
† This phrase has not a little perplexed some of the periodical press, it implies merely the
upper town or castle,” (as bala-khaneh, balcony, means room,") in which the royal palace is situated, and which commands the lower and more extensive portion, divided in two by the Cabul river.
with at least an equal number of camp season, and the determined opposifollowers, was drawn together within tion of the intervening tribes ; and it the intrenched camp. The assailants speedily became evident that the troops had at first consisted principally of in the capital, almost destitute as they the tribes near Cabul, and the Kohis- were of provisions and ammunition, tanis,* or inhabitants of the mountain could not continue much longer to tract immediately north of the city; hold out. On the 23d of December, I but their ranks were daily swollen by accordingly, a conference for arranthe accession of numerous Ghazis, or ging terms of capitulation took place religious enthusiasts, who, stimulated between Akhbar Khan and Sir W. by the preaching of their moollahs, Macnaghten; but the interview was flocked from all parts of the country, broken in upon by a band of armed and even (as it is reported) from Uzbek fanatics, who murdered the British Tartary, to join the holy war, and aid envoy, with one of his attendant offiin the extermination of the infidels. cers, on the spot, treating his remains The original leader of the movement with every circumstance of brutal inis believed to have been Zemaun dignity. But notwithstanding this Khan,ť a nephew of Dost Mohammed; fearful proof of the treacherous ferobut he was soon superseded by the city of the enemy, the necessities of arrival of the second son of the Dost, the troops compelled Sir H. Pottinger Mohammed Akhbar Khan, who had (who succeeded as political chief) to escaped from detention at Bokhara. attempt a renewal of the negotiation; This young chief had formerly been and on January 6th, a convention havgovernor of Jellalabad for his father, ing been concluded for an unmolested and had attained a high military re- passage to the frontier, the whole Briputation among his countrymen, by tish force moved out of their cantonthe signal victory which, in 1837, he ments, and took the road through the had gained over a Sikh army at Jum. passes of the Suffeid. Koh (white rood.
mountain) towards Jellalabad-a disMeanwhile, a rising simultaneous tance of 105 miles, over tracks with that at Cabul had taken place in rising at the highest point to an ele. every part of the country: the British vation of 8200 feet above the level of detached posts had been either cut off the sea. “ At this point" (Tazeen)or driven in; and the four fortresses (we quote the notes to Wyld's excelof Candahar, Ghazni, Jellalabad, and lent map of Affghanistan and the PunCabul, were all that remained in the jab,) " the thermometer, on the 8th of hands of the Feringhi invaders. An October, was 19° at sunrise, and the attempt to push forward a column hill streams were frozen over with a from Candahar for the relief of Cabul, thin coating of ice. The road across failed from the advanced period of the this mountainous district, is such as
* These Kohistanis are a branch of the Eusofzye tribe, and have long been noted as the most turbulent and bigoted of the Affghan population. At the battle of Noushehra against the Sikhs in 1823, the Eusofzyes, according to information collected on the spot by Dr Lord, “ were so blinded by religious frenzy, that they fought more like devils than men. Though repeatedly driven back, they were as often rallied by the shrieks end curses of their women, who mingled unveiled in the fight, and by the Allah-ho-akbars of their maddened moollahs. After the action, dead Eusofzyes were found on dead Sikhs, their teeth still clutching the throats of their adversaries." On our first entrance into the country, the hill Eusofzyes (Kohistanis) were among the warmest supporters of the Shah ; but had been alienated by the renewal of obsolete and oppressive taxes.
† The name of this leader probably gåve rise to the statement, (which, from subsequent accounts, would seem to be unfounded,) that a son of Shah-Zemaun (the blind elder brother of Shah-Shoojah) had been set up by the insurgents as king.
† Sir W. Macnaghten, in a letter published since his death by the Hon. Mr Erskine, states that this measure had been pressed upon him more than a fortnight previously by the military chiefs, and complains bitterly of “ the cowardice of the troops, and incapacity of the commanders," as having led to the triumph of a contemptible enemy.” It cannot yet be ascertained how far these grave charges are capable of substantiation--but the latest advices from India (by the Juné mail) state, that the supreme government has referred both the conduct of General Elphinstone at Cabul, and the recent surrender of Ghazni, to the decision of courts-martial.
has seldom been crossed the cele
pears to have been complete, only a brated Bolan Pass is a trifle to it.” few stragglers having been spared by
At the time of the capitulation, the the capricious mercy of individual total number was about 5000 soldiers, chiefs ; so that of 11,000 who quitted including one Queen's regiment, (the Cabul on January 6, certainly not moro 44th,) and more than 6000 suttlers than a few hundreds remained alive on and other attendants on an eastern the 14th ! camp. But no sooner had the dis- (It will be observed that we have spirited columns quitted the shelter of refrained from imputing to Akhbar their lines, than they were assailed on Khan personally any share either in all sides by swarms of furious Ghazis, the murder of Sir William Macnaghwho darted on their prey with all the ten, or the violation of the convention; eagerness of religious and national looking upon him rather as the unwilhatred. For the first two days the ling spectator of outrages which he troops succeeded in keeping the Aff- had not the power of preventing. From glans at bay ; but the unfortunate the former charge we consider him to sepoys, benumbed by the intense cold, have been amply vindicated by the and unable to struggle through the personal evidence of Captains Lawsnow, became alınost incapable of rence and Mackenzie, the two officers handling their arms: and as the army who escaped from the fatal interview; advanced deeper into these tremen- and during the disasters of the retreat, dous defiles, which had probably never he appears to have endeavoured as far before been traversed by an armed as possible to check the assailants, force at such a season, its demoraliza. (who, it should be remembered, were tion became complete. Akhbar Khan, not of his own tribe the Dooraunis, who accompanied the march, pro- but Ghiljis and Eusofzyes,* over whom fessed his utter inability to restrain he had little influence,) and to have the attacks of his fanatic followers; but displayed a degree of humanity very proposed to ensure the personal safety unusual in an Asiatic conqueror in the of the commander-in-chief, General moment of victory.] Elphinstone, with other superior offi- Never was the extermination of any cers, and the ladies accompanying the civilized force more complete and disarmy, if they would place themselves astrous; and never, since the disgrace. in his hands as hostages. It is difficult ful capitulations in the first American to conceive that any circumstances war, had so signal and calamitous a could justify the acceptance of this reverse befallen the British arms; furproposition—it was, however, acceded ther aggravated, also, by the miserable to; and the fate of the main body, weakness and indecision of the genethus abandoned by their leaders, was rals, and the indiscipline of the Engnot long deferred. The route became lish part of the troops ; for the sepoys a scene of continual and almost unre- alone appear to have behaved steadily sisted carnage ; the sepoys perished to the last. But whatever allowance's helplessly ; the 44th held out for some may be made for want of caution in time longer ; but the soldiers, infu- the first instance, and subsequent misriated by their sufferings, at length management, it is sufficiently clear broke out into mutiny. All semblance that the rapidity of our original sucof order or discipline was now lost- cesses against a foe taken almost by the officers, quitting their men, at- surprise, had led our commanders tempted to push forward on horseback greatly to underrate the prowess and to Jellalabad; but only one (Dr Bry- military character of the Affghans; don) succeeded in reaching it; the and that the descendants of the conremainder fell into the hands of the
of Persia and Hindostan, when Affghans, and were either slain on the banded together by any feeling strong spot or male prisoners. The exter- enough to obliterate for the time the mination of the rest of the army ap- remembrance of their eternal feuds,
* A letter from Jellalabad, quoted in the Asiatic Journal for April, says :-" The attacking party appear to have been the eastern Gbiljis, who did not form a portion of Mohammed Akhbar's army, He told our officers that neither he nor Meer Musjedee, who bad both signed the treaty, had any influence over the eastern chiefs. As long as Mohammed Akhbar Khan remained with our party, all seemed to go on well."
still maintain their hereditary claim The suddenness and magnitude of to be held as the bravest and most the disaster seem at first utterly to warlike of the Asiatic nations. Not have paralysed the minds of the Inthe least remarkable feature* in this dian authorities. Not only was no memorable insurrection, is the good attempt made to raise the leaguer of faith which the conspirators observed Cabul, (for which omission, indeed, to each other prior to the explosion. the shortness of the time, and the seIn spite of the endless dissensions verity of the season, was perhaps sufwhich keep every tribe and every vil- ficient excuse,) but the gallant band at lage of the Affghans almost constantly Jellalabad were left throughout the in arms against their neighbours, not winter, and almost up to the date of the one was found, among the thousands last advices, to maintain themselves to whom the plot must have been not only unsupported by esficient aid, known, who would betray his brethren but even without any communication of the faith for the incentive of Fe. or promise of succour to encourage ringhi gold.t Deep and deadly must them in the desperate struggle for have been the feeling of exasperation existence. An attempt was indeed against us which could not only made about the middle of January, by prompt such an union of discordant
division under Colonel Wild, elements, but maintain it unbroken to advance through the formidable through all the toils and losses of the Khyber Pass for their relief; but subsequent warfare: for Mohammed this force, though it succeeded in ocAkhbar, as we have already observed, cupying the Ali-Musjid fort in the seems to have exercised command centre of the defiles, was not only inonly over his own clansmen, the adequate in strength to the enterprise, Dooraunis, while the great body of but wholly unprovided with artillery the insurgents obeyed no leader but -an oversight or neglect scarcely the impulses of their own fanatic zeal. credible—and it was consequenuly reEven in this furious burst of national pulsed with loss in an action at Jumindignation, the republican spirit rood, (the scene of Akhbar Khan's which eminently distinguishes the victory over the Sikhs,) and with difAffghans from all other Asiatics, was ficulty made good its retreat, with so unequivocally apparent, as forcibly drawing the garrison from Ali-Musjid. to recall the language (worthy of a The Sikhs, I however, continued petty Polish noble under the old rée friendly, both from the inveterate gime) in which the aged chief of the hatred which they bear the Affyhans, Meeankhail tribe replied to Mr El- and from the necessity of our alliance phinstone's eulogy on the blessings to their monarch Shere Singh for his of a firm and established government support on his tottering throne; and under a powerful monarch, “ We are by their efficient aid in supplying content with discord, we are content stores and munitions, the corps under with alarms, we
are content with General Pollock was put in a condiblood, but we will never be content tion to renew the attack on the pass: with a master!"
and the lately-received mail informs
* A similar long-continued secrecy marked the revolt of the Ghiljis against Persia in 1708- -see Hanway and Malcolm—when the governor, Goorgeen-Khan, (a Georgian by birth, and grand-uncle of the famous Russian general Prince Bagrathion,) was murdered in the citadel of Candahar. His Georgian cavalry, however, though only 600 in number, cut their way through the enemy to their own country.
+ The answer of the Khyberees and Afreedees to the proposals recently made them for an unmolested passage through their defiles was, This is not a war of gold, but of religion."
Our relations with the Sikhs appear not unlikely, from recent accounts, to lead to a curious complication of our eastern hostilities, In the anarchy following the accession of Shere Singh, a chief named Zorawur Singh, with a few thousand followers, made an incursion (without authority from Lahore) on the Chinese frontier in Tibet, where at first be gained extraordinary successes, but was eventually defeated and killed by a Tartar-Chinese army sent against him. In the prosecution of their victory, the Chinese have attached the hill Rajahs about Ladakh, who are subject to Lahore; and as we are bound by treaty to aid the Sikhs if called upon, the result may be an AngloSikh invasion of China on the west !