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Art. VIII.(1.) History of the War in Afghanistan, from unpub
lished 'Letters and Journals of Political and Military Officers employed in Afghanistan throughout the entire period of British Connexion with that Country. By John WILLIAM KAYE.
2 vols. Bentley. (2.) A Year in the Punjab Frontier, in 1848-9. By Major HERBERT
B. EDWARDES, C.B. 2 vols. Bentley. Truly a romance of history, is the history of British dominion in India. A gorgeous dream, as all the fair land of the east' appeared to our forefathers, even from the time of the Crusades, it was toward India more especially that their imaginations turned, and around that land of marvel, and mystery, and untold wealth their wildest fancies clustered. That land from whence, during the middle ages, each most highly-prized luxury came, fruits, and precious spices, and gems more precious still, and the good red gold,—that land of the great Cham, and of Prester John, of Cambalu with its carbuncle-lighted balls, and of Adamah's lost Paradise ; how, even when legend was lessening its hold on the popular mind, and the tale of the traveller succeeded to the romaunt of the minstrel, did the eager fancy still turn to the farthest east, and dwell upon the wondrous narratives-true, though wondrous—of Marco Polo and Mandeville. No wonder was it that when the spirit of discovery was awakened and a new found world rewarded the enterprise of Columbus, men still turned to the east, and crossed the western main to find out some nearer way to the land of Ind,' and even tempted the frozen ocean that by the north-east passage they might sooner reach the great kingdom of Calicut,' and perhaps the Isle of Zeilon, where cinnamon groweth.' So thought worthy Richard Hakluyt, and, therefore, with so much care—and with singular accuracy too--did he draw up his notes of the chiefe
places where sundry sorte of spices doo grow,' and urge the projectors of the East India Company to attempt a settlement in that wondrous land. But obscure in comparison with the other trading corporations of that age, which now have left only a name, were the first beginnings of that company which was to outlive them all; and a small factory on the margin of the Hooghly was the nucleus of our eastern empire.
Still the prestige of India, and her untold wealth, did not relax its hold on the popular mind. Tales of spice-breathing islands and gold-paved cities in the west might be told by the adventurer, but each traveller who returned from the east had
PROGRESS OF OUR INDIAN EMPIRE.
equal marvels to relate, and then, while the marvellous stories of America were ere long found to be but fables, grave and right learned men, Sir Thomas Myddelton, and the Shirleys, and Sir Thomas Roe returned with such glowing descriptions of eastern magnificence and glory,—the Shah with his priceless diamonds, Jehanguire and his peacock throne—that even romance was for once outdone; all thoughts of the golden city faded from men's minds, and India from henceforth became the real El Dorado.
In the steady progress of British trade with India there was still much of the romantic. Reckless adventurers, portionless younger brothers went forth, and after years of absence and silence returned with wealth so vast, that our sober, plodding great grandfathers were absolutely bewildered in computing it. India still was the El Dorado; and in the very fictions of the day Indian wealth was ever resorted to as the talisman that set all things right; and the nabob uncle who returned home laden with rupees and jewels, or, better still, died and left them to the hero, was the never failing resource of the novelist and the playwright. The progress of British power in India was, however, , slow, and we cannot repress our astonishment to perceive how completely on mere sufferance, not a hundred years ago, were the representatives of that power which now rules from Cape Cormorin to the Himalayas. To Clive we certainly owe the foundation of our mighty empire in the east, and there was much of romance in his career. Romantic incidents, often of the wildest kind, have marked alınost every subsequent event in the history of British India; and now, in the episode of the disastrous war in Afghanistan, we have a romance of war and intrigue, of massacre and stern retribution, strange and exciting as the wildest tale, but soleinn and complete as a Greek tragedy.
Ten years have passed since the report of the defeat of regular British troops by hordes of barbarians, and the utter annihilation of an army in the terrible Koord Caubul Pass, astounded the whole nation, and though we perhaps stand at scarcely a sufficient distance from the events to view them in all their bearings, still the conflicting statements which have appeared, and the opposing verdicts which have been pronounced - in many instances upon those who are no longer living to correct them— have rendered it very desirable that some history of that disastrous war in Afghanistan, based on official documents, should be undertaken. This task it has fallen to the lot of Mr. Kaye to perform, and very ably and impartially has he performed it;
circumstances, as he tells us, having placed at his disposal a number of very interesting and important illustrative letters;
these, together with the official documents, civil and military, have supplied materials for the valuable work to which we now proceed to direct the reader's attention.
At the beginning of the present century, while India within the Ganges was subdued to British sway, and India beyond the Ganges was tranquil, on the north-west, the Douranee empireconsisting of Afghanistan, part of Khorassan, Cashmere, and the Derajât, still boasted its native rulers, and in Zemaun Shah, beheld a monarch, who at the head of a powerful army nienacing the northern frontier, was able not only to alarm the British authorities in India, but the directors at home. We, who remember Zemaun Shah,' as Mr. Kaye justly says, 'only as the old blind pensioner of Loodianah, can hardly estimate aright the real importance of his threatened movement. But French diplomacy was then active in Persia, and “an offensive alliance • between France, Persia, and Caubul, might have rendered the dangers which only seemed to threaten us from the north-west, • at once real and imminent.' To counteract this, Captain Malcolm was despatched on his mission to Persia, which ended in a treaty of alliance with the King of Persia, which was kept, as such treaties mostly are, just so long as Persia found it convenient to do so. Ere long, however, the vicissitudes of eastern affairs effected for British India what her rulers had sought through diplomacy. Shah Zemaun played the tyrant after the ancient and most approved oriental manner, and having capriciously disgraced a gallant officer of the tribe only second to royalty-the Barukzyes—he revolted, and as the head of a powerful family, bound together by a feeling as strong as that of Highland clanship, became a formidable enemy. He was, however, seized and executed, and Poyndah Khan left to his twentyone sons, as their sole inheritance, the duty-and to the Afghan it is most sacred-of revenge. The eldest of these sons was Futteeh Khan, he fled into Persia, and proffered to Prince Mahmoud the sceptre of the Douranee empire. Supported by his valiant brothers and his tribe, the offer of Futteeh Khan proved no idle boast, he defeated Shah Zemaun in the field, he sowed dissension and treason among his followers, and at length led Mahmoud in triumph into Caubul, while Shah Zemaun, deposed and blinded, sought refuge with his younger brother, Soojah-ool-Moolk.
As the son of the same mother-a bond stronger in the east than aught beside, the younger brother took up the cause of the helpless Zemaun Shah as his own, and for three years carried on war with varying success against the usurper. At length he triumphed, and entered Caubul; but neglecting to propitiate the
loyalty of their king-maker, Futteeh Khan, he found him active against him, and the following years were passed in incessant warfare. At length Shah Soojah was taken prisoner and carried to Cashmere, where he was offered his liberty at the price of that gem which attracted such eager notice last year—the Koh-i-Noor; but he refused, for it was viewed as a talisman of empire. On obtaining his freedom by another revolution, the Shah proceeded to Runjeet Singh, who in his turn demanded the precious jewel as the price of his protection. Again Shah Soojah refused; but the old lion of the Sikhs was not to be baulked of his prey, so he put his
guest in prison, and on short allowance, hinting from time to time that lacs of rupees might be easily obtained. At length Shah Soojah yielded, when the superadded bribe of aid in recovering his throne was offered, so Runjeet Singh, after ' friendly protestations, stained a paper with safflower, and swearing by the Grunth of Baba Nanuck, (the sacred book of the Sikhs,) and his own sword, he wrote the security. We then exchanged turbans, which is among the Sikhs a pledge of
eternal friendship, and then we gave him the Koh-i-Noor.' Such is Shah Soojah's account of the transfer of that precious gem; but he further tells us that all Runjeet Singh's oaths and promises were vain; he placed the hapless monarch in stricter confinement, and plundered him of everything. After long imprisonment he escaped, and through many perils reached Loodianah, placing himself under British protection, and from thence, well had it been for himself, but emphatically so for British India, had Shah Soojah never gone forth again.
Meanwhile, in the midst of the wars, and intrigues, and fierce struggles for power among the legitimates' of the Douranee empire, a 'spirit giant born,' as Schiller says, arose just fitted for the crisis: this was Dost Mohammed, one of the youngest sons of Poyndah Khan. Scarcely acknowledged by his brothers, who boasted mothers of high Douranee race, the young son of a woman of the Kuzzilbash tribe grew up almost unnoticed: but to him eventually they were compelled to look up as the prop and stay, not of them
alone, but of the Douranee empire. The warlike character of Dost Mohammed was early developed; for when only fourteen, in the crowded streets of Peshawur, in broad day, he slew one of the enemies of his brother, Futteeh Khan, and galloped home to report the achievement; from henceforth he became the favourite of that powerful Wuzeer, and soon rose to be his able military coadjutor.
· Nature,' says Mr. Kaye, seems to have designed him for a hero of the true Afghan stamp. Of a bold and graceful person, a prepossessing countenance, a bold frank manner, he was outwardly endowed
with all those gifts which most inspire confidence and attract affection; whilst undoubted courage, enterprise, activity, somewhat of the recklessness and unscrupulousness of his race, combined with a more than common measure of intelligence and sagacity, gave him a command over his fellows, and a mastery over circumstances, which raised him at length to the chief seat in the empire. His youth was stained with many crimes which he lived to deplore. It is the glory of Dost Mohammed that in the vigour of his years he looked back with contrition on the excesses of his early life, and lived down many of the besetting infirmities which had overshadowed the dawn of his career. The waste of a deserted childhood, and the deficiencies of a neglected education, he struggled manfully to remedy and repair. At the zenith of his reputation, there was not, perhaps, in all central Asia a chief so remarkable for the exercise of self-discipline and self-control; but he emerged out of a cloudy morn of vice and sunk into a gloomy night of folly.'--Vol. i. p. 105.
Meanwhile, Futteeh Khan having engaged in plots against the sovereign whom he had placed on the throne of Caubul, fell into his hands and was murdered,—not by common executioners, but by high-born men, who literally cut him in pieces with more than common oriental cruelty. Dost Mohammed, who had now a brother as well as patron to avenge, marched into Caubul, the Shah retreating at the one gate, as he entered at the other; and from this time (1826), to the day on which • his followers deserted him at Urgbandi, after the capture of
Ghuznee by the British troops, Dost Mohammed was supreme in Caubul.'
And now it was that he began to understand the responsibilities of high command. He taught himself to read and write, accomplishments which he had, if at all before, but scantily possessed. He studied the Koran, abandoned the use of strong liquors, became scrupulously abstemious, assiduous in his attention to business, and courteous to all. . . . Ever ready to listen to complaints, he seldom rode abroad without being accosted in the public streets or highways by citizen or by peasant waiting to lay before the Sirdar a history of his grievances. And he never passed the petitioner, never rode on, but would rein in his horse and listen patiently to the complaint of the meanest. . . . He is even said to have been kind and humane-an assertion which many who have read the history of his early career will receive with an incredulous smile. But no one who fairly estimates the character of Afghan history and Afghan morals, and the necessities, personal and political, of all who take part in such stirring scenes, can fail to perceive that his vices were rather the growth of circumstances than of any extraordinary badness of heart. Dost Mohammed was not by nature cruel; but once embarked in the strife of Afghan politics, a man must either fight it out or die. . . . That Dost Mohammed, during the twelve years' supremacy he enjoyed at