The Political History of England - Vol XI - From Addington's Administration to the close of William - IV.'s Reign (1801-1837)
by George Brodrick
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The conference had in fact found it necessary to join in measures of coercion. On the first news of the outbreak of hostilities it severely reproached Holland for the breach of the armistice, and ordered the Dutch forces to retire. By a protocol of the 6th it accepted and justified the French expedition, which, it knew, could not safely be recalled, and tried to minimise the danger by forbidding the French to cross the Dutch frontier and requiring them to return to France as soon as the Dutch should return to Holland. At the same time a semblance of joint action was created by the despatch of a British fleet to the Downs. If the Dutch invasion of Belgium created excitement in France, the French expedition had a similar effect in England, and Palmerston found it necessary to insist sternly on the immediate evacuation of Belgium upon the withdrawal of the Dutch troops. The French government naturally desired to point to some tangible triumph of French arms, and requested that the troops should be allowed to remain till the frontier fortresses should have been demolished in accordance with the protocol of April 17. In a somewhat insulting message Palmerston threatened a general war sooner than allow the French troops to remain. The most that France could obtain was that 12,000 men might remain a fortnight longer than the rest and that a number of French officers might enlist in the Belgian service.

The conference now returned to the task of effecting a settlement in accordance with the terms of the protocol of June 26. On October 15 it provided for the partition of the grand duchy of Luxemburg between Holland and Belgium and for the indemnification of Holland with a larger portion of Limburg than had belonged to her in 1790. At the same time provision was made for the freedom of the Scheldt, and the debt was reassessed, 8,400,000 florins of rentes[136] being assigned to Belgium and 19,300,000 to Holland. Along with this protocol a letter was sent to the Belgian plenipotentiary, promising that if Belgium accepted it, the powers would undertake to obtain the consent of Holland. The protocol was converted into a treaty by the adhesion of Belgium on November 15. Meanwhile the King of the Netherlands had appealed to the tsar against the action of the western powers and of the Russian plenipotentiaries at London, and the tsar had in consequence refused to ratify the treaty till the King of the Netherlands should have given his consent. That consent was slow in coming. It was only on June 30, 1832, that Holland agreed to the exchange of territories and the reduction of Belgium's share of the debt, and even then questions remained as to the dues on the Scheldt and the transit of goods through Dutch Limburg. The Belgians refused to negotiate further until the citadel of Antwerp should be surrendered; the Dutch on the other hand refused to surrender it till a definite treaty should be signed and ratified. On October 1 France, with the approval of the British government, proposed to suspend the payment of the Belgian share of the interest on the debt until the citadel of Antwerp should be surrendered, and to deduct from the share of the principal payable by Belgium, 500,000 florins of rentes for each week that should elapse before the surrender. The three eastern powers refused to agree to any coercion of Holland, and, in consequence, Great Britain and France determined to act alone.

On the 22nd they signed a convention providing for the coercion of Holland by an embargo and by the despatch of a squadron to the Dutch coast. If any Dutch troops should be still in Belgium on November 15, a French force was empowered, subject to the consent of the Belgian government, to advance into Belgium and expel the Dutch troops from the country. The French were, however, to retire as soon as the Dutch evacuation was complete. The first result of this convention was the suspension of the conference. On the 29th the two powers made their demand. As the Dutch refused compliance, a joint French and British fleet sailed on November 4 to blockade the Scheldt, and the embargo was proclaimed on the 6th. On the 15th a French army of 56,000 men, commanded by Gerard, entered Belgium. On December 4 it opened fire on the citadel of Antwerp, which surrendered after a nineteen days' bombardment on the 23rd. The French army returned to its own country before the end of the year, leaving the Dutch in possession of two small forts on the Belgian side of the frontier, which were more than compensated by the positions held by the Belgians in Dutch Limburg. Even the fall of the citadel of Antwerp did not induce Holland to accept the settlement proposed by the powers, and Great Britain and France now attempted to effect a working agreement pending negotiations on the details of the treaty. It was in vain that Holland asked that Belgium should evacuate the Dutch provinces of Limburg and Luxemburg and pay her share of the interest on the Dutch debt. Palmerston and Talleyrand refused to include these provisions in a preliminary convention. Finally on March 21, 1833, a convention was signed between Great Britain, France, and Holland, which terminated the embargo and provided for the free navigation of the Scheldt and Maas. A similar convention was signed between Holland and Belgium on November 18. Six years, however, were to elapse before the Dutch government would consent to the conditions drawn up by the powers in 1831. Meanwhile the Belgians were free from their share of debt, held the greater part of Limburg and Luxemburg, and enjoyed the free navigation of the Maas and the Scheldt, over and above the terms granted them in 1831.

[Pageheading: POLISH REBELLION.]

It is inconceivable that the Belgian question should have been left so entirely in the hands of the two western powers, and that the settlement should have taken the form of a foreign coercion of a legitimate king for his unreadiness to make concessions to his revolted subjects, had not the attention of the three absolutist powers of eastern and central Europe been directed to another quarter. Just as the revolution of 1820 had spread through southern Europe in spite of Castlereagh's attempt to maintain that it was not of a contagious order, so that of 1830 awakened similar outbursts not only at Brussels but in various German states, in Switzerland, in Poland, and in Italy. The Polish insurrection was, like the Belgian, a national revolt, and the consequent military operations were of the nature of a war between Poland and Russia. The revolt broke out at Warsaw on November 29, 1830, and on January 25, 1831, the Polish diet proclaimed the independence of Poland. On February 5 a Russian army crossed the Polish frontier. In France there was a loud popular demand for intervention. But even the Laffitte ministry would not move without the co-operation of Great Britain, though the French ambassador at Constantinople tried to stir up the Porte to hostilities. The ministry of Casimir-Perier, which came into office in March, proposed a joint mediation of France and Great Britain, but to this Palmerston would not assent. He remonstrated with Russia on her violations of the Polish constitution, which Great Britain, along with the other powers, had guaranteed at the congress of Vienna, but he could not support the Polish claim to independence, since Great Britain had made herself a party to the union of the two countries. As it happened, the remonstrance was simply a cause of annoyance, which subsequent events were destined to intensify. It was only on September 8, 1831, that the Russians under Paskievitch captured Warsaw, an event which was followed on February 26, 1832, by the abolition of the Polish constitution. Palmerston protested again but with no more success than in the previous year.


In the Portuguese, as in the Belgian question, Palmerston drifted from the position of a neutral into that of a partisan. Ever since the year 1828, British subjects accused of political offences had been brutally ill-treated in Portugal, and as time went on the excesses increased. By despatching six British warships to the Tagus Palmerston succeeded in obtaining a pecuniary indemnity and a public apology on May 2, 1831. Similar insults to France were not so readily redressed. A threat of force on the part of the French government was followed by an appeal from Dom Miguel for British assistance. This Palmerston refused to grant, and in July a French squadron under Admiral Roussin forced the passage of the Tagus, and carried off the best ships of the Portuguese navy. Meanwhile much irritation had been caused in Brazil by Peter's advocacy of his daughter's claim to Portugal, which was considered inconsistent with his professed adherence to the separation of the two countries. On April 6, Peter abdicated the crown of Brazil in favour of his infant son, Peter II., and on the following day sailed for Europe in order to assert his daughter's right to the Portuguese throne. He arrived in Europe towards the end of May, and visited both England and France.

Though neither government assisted him directly, he was permitted to raise troops and even to secure the services of naval officers, and in December a force of 300 men sailed from Liverpool to Belleisle, which he had appointed as the rendezvous. Palmerston had thus, unlike Wellington, adopted the same attitude towards the Portuguese liberals that Ferdinand VII. had adopted towards the absolutists. Peter's expedition gathered further strength at the Azores and sailed for Portugal on June 27, 1832. On July 8, the fleet, commanded by Admiral Sartorius, a British officer, appeared off Oporto, which submitted on the following day. The town was, however, blockaded by Miguel's forces and Peter's cause made no headway until in June, 1833, the command of the fleet was transferred to Captain (afterwards Admiral Sir Charles) Napier. On the night of June 24, he landed at Villa Real a force of 2,500 men who conquered the province of Algarve in a week, and on July 5 he annihilated Miguel's navy in an engagement off Cape St. Vincent. After a further battle near Lisbon, Peter's forces entered the capital on the 24th, and subsequently repulsed a Miguelite attack upon the city. Miguel still held out in northern Portugal, when another train of events caused the western powers to substitute direct for indirect interference.

Ferdinand VII. of Spain had fallen so entirely under the influence of his fourth and last queen, Maria Christina of Naples, as to repeal by a pragmatic sanction the Salic law which the treaty of Utrecht had established as the rule of succession in Spain. The result of this edict was to leave the succession to his infant daughter Isabella instead of his brother Don Carlos, the leader of the Spanish absolutists. When Ferdinand died on September 29, 1833, Don Carlos was absent from the kingdom, supporting the cause of his fellow-pretender Dom Miguel. Isabella received the hearty support of the constitutional party and was almost universally acknowledged as queen. It was only in Biscay, where the centralising tendency of the Spanish constitution, published on April 10, 1834, seemed to entrench upon local liberty, that Don Carlos met with much active support. His cause, like that of Miguel in Portugal, was the more popular, but his adherents were as yet almost entirely devoid of organisation. Peter's partisans had already made substantial progress towards a complete victory, and Santha Martha, the Miguelite commander-in-chief, had surrendered in the beginning of April, when on April 22 a triple alliance, already signed between Great Britain, Maria Christina, Queen-regent of Spain, and Peter, as regent of Portugal, was converted into a quadruple alliance by the adhesion of France. This treaty provided for the co-operation of Spain and Portugal to expel Dom Miguel and Don Carlos from the Portuguese dominions. Great Britain was to assist by the employment of a naval force, and France was to render assistance, if required, in such manner as should be settled afterwards by common consent of the four contracting powers. The Spanish general, Rodil, immediately crossed the frontier. He met with no resistance, and on May 26 Miguel signed a convention at Evora, by which he accepted a pension, renounced his rights to the Portuguese throne, and agreed to quit the country.

[Pageheading: THE CARLIST WAR.]

Don Carlos, however, refused to renounce his rights to the Spanish throne, and all that the British navy could do was to convey the two pretenders, Carlos to England and Miguel to Genoa. Although Miguel, on June 20, repudiated his abdication, the Portuguese question was really at an end. The Spanish question was, however, merely entering on its critical stage. Don Carlos secretly left London on July 1, and nine days later appeared at the Carlist headquarters in Spain. Here he had the assistance of the ablest general of this war, Zumalacarregui. Melbourne's succession to the premiership in July left Palmerston at the foreign office, and was followed by no change in foreign policy. On August 18 an additional article to the quadruple alliance provided that France was to prevent reinforcements or warlike stores from reaching Don Carlos from the French side of the frontier, while Great Britain was to supply arms and stores to the Spanish royalists and, if necessary, intervene with a naval force. The short interlude of conservative government, with Peel as premier and Wellington as foreign secretary, was not marked by any change of policy nor yet by any new aggressions. Wellington's only interference with the course of hostilities was the mission of Lord Eliot to Navarre, which induced the combatants to abandon for the time being those cruelties to prisoners which had been the disgrace of the Spanish civil wars.

Shortly after the return of Melbourne and Palmerston to power, Zumalacarregui won a victory in the valley of Amascoas on April 21 and 22, 1835, which opened to him the road to Madrid. The Madrid government now appealed to France to send 12,000 men to occupy the Basque provinces. By the terms of the quadruple alliance the assent of Great Britain and Portugal was necessary in order to determine the manner in which France was to render assistance. Thiers, on behalf of Louis Philippe, suggested a separate French expedition on the lines of that of 1823. Palmerston, like Canning before him, refused to sanction such an expedition, though he was prepared to allow France to make the expedition on her own responsibility. He suggested in return that Great Britain should intervene. But Louis Philippe was equally opposed to the separate action of his own country and of Great Britain, and the result was that neither government sent any troops. The Spanish government was, however, permitted to enlist volunteers, and actually received the assistance of an English legion, a French legion, and 6,000 Portuguese. The immediate danger was averted by the obstinacy of Don Carlos, who refused to permit Zumalacarregui to march on Madrid till the conquest of Biscay was complete. The Carlist general turned aside in consequence to the siege of Bilbao, in which a few weeks later he met his death.

In February, 1836, some changes in the French ministry increased the power of Thiers, who had so recently advocated the policy of intervention. Palmerston now proposed a French expedition to the Basque provinces, while the British were to occupy St. Sebastian and Pasages. Thiers did not, however, feel strong enough to accept this offer, and Palmerston determined to act alone. A British squadron under Lord John Hay was despatched to the Spanish coast with instructions to assist the royalist forces. This squadron is probably entitled to the principal share in the credit for the successful resistance of Bilbao to the Carlist armies. In May, however, a conservative government entered upon office in Spain, and France became more ready to grant assistance. Isturiz, the new Spanish premier, persuaded Louis Philippe to send some troops to Spain; but by leaning on foreign support Isturiz had overreached himself. Spanish indignation found vent in a revolutionary movement, accompanied by bloodshed; one town after another declared for the constitution of 1812, which the queen-regent was forced to sign on August 13, and on the following day a progressist ministry was installed in office. Austria, Prussia, and Russia withdrew their ambassadors from Madrid after the riots of the 13th, and Louis Philippe recalled the forces he had sent to the assistance of the Spanish government. Had Don Carlos listened to the advice of the eastern powers and given such assurances as might have won over the more moderate of Isabella's supporters, he would probably have proved successful. As it was the war dragged on, but De Lacy Evans, who was in command of the British legion, left Spain on June 10, 1837, and most of his men followed soon after. The question of intervention had, however, put an end to that cordial co-operation of Great Britain and France which had existed ever since the July revolution, and left Great Britain as isolated in the counsels of Europe as she had been when Canning and Wellington dissociated themselves from the other powers at Verona.

The settlement of the Greek question proceeded very slowly. While the powers were seeking a possible king, Capodistrias exercised an autocratic sway as president. However, in the spring of 1831, the Mainots of southern Laconia and the Hydriots revolted against him, and got possession of the Greek fleet. Capodistrias appealed to Russia for assistance, and a Russian squadron was sent to blockade the Greek fleet at Poros. But Miaoulis, the Greek admiral, sank his ships in order to save them from the Russians. The situation was simplified by the assassination of Capodistrias on October 9, which left two rival national assemblies struggling for the mastery. The French troops failed to maintain order, and the way was clear for a king who would have the prestige of an international treaty and an independent revenue to support his position. This was the situation when on February 13, 1832, a protocol was signed at London, offering the Greek crown to Otto, the second son of King Lewis of Bavaria, a boy of seventeen. The boundary was to be fixed where Palmerston, while still a member of the Wellington administration, had wished to fix it, along a line running from the Gulf of Arta to that of Volo. King Lewis would not, however, agree to accept the crown for his son unless he should be granted the title of king, instead of prince, and should be guaranteed a loan to enable him to meet the expenses of his position. On May 7, 1832, the London protocol was embodied in a treaty of London; the crown was definitely conferred on Otto, who was given the title of king, guaranteed a loan, not exceeding L2,400,000, and allowed to take out 3,500 Bavarian troops with him. The Turkish consent to the proposed boundary was given on July 21; Greece accepted the treaty in August, and the new king left for his kingdom in December.[137]


Greece now disappears from the eastern question. But Ibrahim Pasha, whose successes in Greece had induced Canning to interfere, had already disclosed a new phase of that question by successes gained in another quarter. Mehemet Ali had quickly repaired the losses which his fleet and army had sustained in the Peloponnese. Meanwhile he demanded from Sultan Mahmud that Ibrahim should be compensated with a part of Syria for the loss of the Morea, which had been promised him as a reward for his services in Greece. The sultan refused to grant this insolent demand, and Mehemet Ali determined to conquer the province for himself. Abdallah, Pasha of Acre, had taken under his protection some fugitive peasants, and Mehemet Ali, in spite of the sultan's prohibition, sent Ibrahim with an army of 30,000 men against him. He laid siege to Acre on December 9, 1831, and took it on May 27, 1832. On July 8 he routed a Turkish army at Homs; on the 29th he routed a larger army at the pass of Beilan, and on the 31st he entered Antioch. In November he was at Konieh. The Tsar Nicholas had, with Palmerston's approval, already sent Lieutenant-General Muraviov on a mission to Constantinople, offering military and naval support; but the sultan preferred to seek British assistance first.

Unfortunately the message came at a time when the British fleet was preparing to blockade the coasts of the Netherlands, and could not be spared for service In the Mediterranean. An appeal to France was equally unsuccessful. She had by this time formed the siege of the citadel of Antwerp, and was moreover naturally averse from a struggle with Ibrahim, whose army had been organised and trained by French officers. The sultan therefore decided to avail himself of the offers made by Russia. Indeed he had no choice, for the news now came that on December 21 Ibrahim had completely defeated the Turkish general, Reshid, at Konieh and that there was no army between him and Constantinople. Muraviov was sent on a vain mission to Alexandria with authority to cede Acre to Mehemet Ali if he would surrender his fleet to the sultan. Ibrahim advanced to Kiutayeh and his advance-guard came as far as Broussa. The sultan on February 2, 1833, requested the assistance of the Russian navy, and on the 20th a Russian squadron appeared at Constantinople.

The powers that had refused to move to save Turkey from Ibrahim were quick enough to interfere when the danger was from Russia and not from an oriental. Ibrahim might have been expected to make a stronger ruler than the sultan, whose fall seemed imminent. A Russian protectorate was a different matter. Roussin, the French ambassador at Constantinople, protested against the Russian alliance and threatened to leave Constantinople. A French envoy was, at his suggestion, permitted to offer Mehemet the governorship of the Syrian pashaliks of Tripoli and Acre. On March 8 Mehemet rejected these terms, and declared that if his own terms were not accepted within six weeks his troops would march upon Constantinople. The sultan then turned to Russia again and asked for troops. Fifteen thousand Russians were in consequence landed on the shores of the Bosphorus, and in the beginning of April an army of 24,000, which had remained in Moldavia ever since the war of 1828-29, prepared to march southwards. Constantinople at least was thus rendered safe from Ibrahim, and there was therefore more hope that Mehemet would come to terms. The British, French, and Austrian ambassadors spared no effort to induce the Porte to offer terms that might be accepted, and their representations were probably rendered the more persuasive by the appearance of British and French fleets in the AEgean. Roussin especially urged that it was better to surrender Syria than to reconquer it by Russian troops. At last the sultan yielded, and on April 10 a peace was signed at Kiutayeh, though not ratified by the sultan till May 15. This treaty granted to Mehemet Ali Syria and Cilicia, but restored the bulk of Asia Minor to the Porte.


Turkey had been saved by the western powers, but only because they dreaded the possibility of her being saved by Russia. A few weeks later their worst fears seemed on the point of realisation. The Russian troops on the Bosphorus were a sure guarantee of the predominance of Russian influence at Constantinople, and this was illustrated in a marked degree by the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi, signed on July 8, which provided for a defensive alliance for eight years between Russia and the Porte. Russia was, when required, to provide the sultan with both military and naval forces, to be provisioned by him, but otherwise maintained by Russia. A secret article, soon made known, provided that Russia would not ask for material aid if at war, but that in that event the Porte would close the Dardanelles to the warships of other nations. Great Britain had already obtained the rights of the most favoured nation, so far as the passage of the Dardanelles was concerned, and therefore maintained that the treaty did not affect her right to pass those straits; and France joined her in presenting identical notes declaring their intention of ignoring the treaty in event of war. British public opinion, already wounded by the conquest of Poland, was even more vehemently affected than British policy. The treaty was regarded as the establishment in Turkey of a Russian protectorate, which it was necessary for Great Britain to destroy, and the antagonism thus produced has lasted to our own day. Matters were not improved when the tsar asked for the cession of the Danubian principalities, which were still occupied by Russia, in return for a remission of the war indemnity owing since 1829. Austria, France, and Great Britain protested against this proposal, and in consequence nothing came of it.

Austria then assumed the role of mediator. A friendly request for explanation elicited a declaration from Russia, disclaiming all intention of self-aggrandisement, and promising to accept the mediation of Austria in any case where the treaty could be invoked. Austria in consequence endeavoured to persuade the western powers that there was no immediate danger, and that she would use her mediation to remove any danger that might arise. Meanwhile she endeavoured to allay distrust of Russia by inducing that power to evacuate the Danubian principalities. But before this result could be accomplished the negotiations between Austria and Russia had taken a turn which gave Austria, in English eyes, the appearance of an accomplice rather than of a mediator. The revolutionary movements of 1830 and following years had produced grave apprehensions in the minds of the rulers of the three eastern powers, Austria, Prussia, and Russia; and the coercion of Holland and Portugal caused them to feel a deep distrust of the policy of Great Britain and France, and to grasp the necessity of united action against the revolutionary forces at work in Europe. For this purpose it was considered necessary to revive Metternich's policy of 1820 as defined at Troppau. The three powers had for some time been drawing together, and in September, 1833, the Emperors Francis and Nicholas and the Crown Prince of Prussia met at Muenchengraetz in Bohemia, where a secret convention was signed on the 18th. They refused to recognise Isabella as Queen of Spain in the event of Ferdinand's death; they arranged for mutual assistance against the Poles; and agreed to combine to resist any change of dynasty in Turkey and any extension of Arab rule into Europe. In the event of a collapse of the Ottoman empire, Austria and Russia were to act together in settling the reversion. On October 15 the three powers signed a further convention at Berlin, containing one public and two secret articles. The latter recognised the right, already asserted at Troppau, of intervention in the internal affairs of a country whose sovereign expressed a desire for foreign assistance. There can be little doubt that Austria and Russia were in earnest in their professed desire to maintain the integrity of the Turkish dominions, but an opinion gained ground in England that they had already agreed to partition them between themselves.

On January 29, 1834, Austrian mediation bore fruit in a definite treaty for the evacuation of the Danubian principalities. Russia merely reserved to herself the appointment of the first hospodar of each principality. The first act, however, of Alexander Ghika, the new hospodar of Wallachia, was to forbid any change of statute without the consent of Russia. Silistria alone remained in Russian hands till a third part of the indemnity should be paid. The remaining two-thirds Russia consented to abandon. A revolt among the Syrian mountaineers gave Russia an opportunity of demonstrating her pacific intentions. The sultan supported the revolt and also sent troops to conquer Urfa which Ibrahim had neglected to surrender. Russia, however, refused to support the sultan in an aggressive war, and the powers negotiated a peace. The Syrian revolt was quelled, and Urfa surrendered to the sultan. In 1835 the Tsar Nicholas and the new Austrian emperor, Ferdinand, met at Teplitz where they renewed the agreements concluded at Muenchengraetz. Metternich proposed a conference at Vienna to settle the eastern question, but the tsar, who really possessed the decisive voice so long as the question remained open, refused to hear of this. Finally in September, 1836, the Russian evacuation of Silistria was obtained by a payment of 30,000,000 piastres, borrowed, for the most part, in England. The Eastern question now seemed to have entered upon a quieter phase, and the military reforms which European officers, including Moltke, afterwards famous in a different region, were carrying out in Turkey, gave promise that she might be able to hold her own in future against domestic foes.


[136] The debt was, according to the French practice, expressed in terms of the interest payable annually (rentes), not in terms of a nominal principal as in this country.

[137] Finlay, History of Greece, vol. vii., chapters ii., iii.



When Pitt resigned office in 1801, the Marquis Wellesley had already reached the climax, though by no means the close, of his brilliant proconsulate. This remarkable man, whose fame has been unduly eclipsed by that of his younger brother, may justly be considered the second founder of our Indian Empire. This empire, recognised at last, in the vote of thanks passed by the house of commons on the fall of Seringapatam, was soon to be aggrandised by three important accessions of dominion. The first of these was the annexation of the Karnatik on the well-founded plea that its nabob was too weak even for the semblance of independence, that he was incapable of governing tolerably, and that he had been in correspondence with Tipu. The effect of this and two minor annexations was to place the entire south-western and south-eastern coasts of the Indian peninsula under the British rule. The next step was the system of subsidiary treaties, whereby the British government assumed a protectorate over native states, providing a fixed number of troops for their defence and receiving an equivalent in subsidies. The Nizam of Haidarabad was already in a condition little removed from vassalage, and now surrendered considerable districts in lieu of a pecuniary tribute.

A similar course was taken with the Nawab Wazir of Oudh whose territory was threatened on one side by the Afghan king, Zeman Shah, and on another by the Maratha lord, Daulat Rao Sindhia, who had gained possession of Delhi. By forcible negotiations Wellesley obtained from him the cession of all his frontier provinces, including Rohilkhand, and consolidated the power of the Indian government along the whole line of the Jumna and Ganges. The last and greatest object of the governor-general's ambition was the conquest of the confederate Maratha states, and for this a pretext was not long wanting. His forward policy, it is true, had already excited alarm and criticism at home, while the peace of Amiens had ostensibly removed the chief justification of it—the necessity of combating the aggressive designs of France. But, in the case of India, far more than of the American colonies, "months passed and seas rolled between the order and the execution"; for in those days ships conveying despatches occupied at least four or five months on their voyage, and decisions taken in Leadenhall Street might be utterly stultified by accomplished facts before they could be read in Calcutta.

[Pageheading: WELLESLEY AND LAKE.]

The Peshwa, at Poona, still maintained a show of independent authority over the other great Maratha chieftains, Sindhia, Holkar, and the Raja of Nagpur or Berar. But the real military power of the Marathas rested with these leaders, and their predatory troops of horsemen terrorised all Central India. Happily for Wellesley's purpose, they were often at feud with each other, and the Peshwa, though aided by Sindhia, was utterly defeated by Jaswant Rao Holkar. He fled to Bassein near Bombay, where, on December 31, 1802, a treaty was signed by which not only the Peshwa but the Nizam of Haidarabad was placed under British protection. The Peshwa was conducted back to Poona by a British force under Arthur Wellesley in May, 1803, but the other Maratha chiefs naturally resented this fresh encroachment on their independence, and a league was shortly formed between the Raja of Nagpur and Sindhia, which it was hoped that Holkar would ultimately join. By this time, a rupture of the peace with France was known to be impending, and Lord Wellesley eagerly seized the opportunity to crush Sindhia, while he urged the home government to seize the Cape of Good Hope and the Mauritius. Two expeditions were directed against Sindhia's territory, the one under Arthur Wellesley, moving from Poona in the west towards the Nizam's frontier; the other, under General Lake, operating on the north-west against the highly trained forces, under French officers, assembled before Delhi. Both campaigns were eminently successful. Wellesley captured Ahmadnagar on August 11, encountered the combined armies of Sindhia and the Raja of Nagpur at Assaye on September 23, and, after a desperate conflict, obtained a decisive victory. Twelve hundred of the Marathas were left dead on the field and 102 guns were captured. He then advanced into Berar and completely defeated the army of the Nagpur Raja at Argaum. Lake marched from Cawnpur, took Delhi and Agra, assuming custody of the Mughal emperor, and inflicted a final defeat on a powerful Maratha army, no longer under French officers, at Laswari. Large cessions of territory followed. The treaty of Bassein was recognised by Sindhia and the Raja of Nagpur. Gujrat, Cuttack, and the districts along the Jumna passed into British possession, and the East India Company became the visible successor, though nominally the guardian, of the Mughal emperor.

Meanwhile, Holkar remained a passive spectator of the contest. Jealous as he was of Sindhia, he was by no means prepared to acquiesce in the subjection of the great Maratha power. Having taken up a threatening position in Rajputana, and defied Lake's summons to retire, he was treated as an enemy, and proved a very formidable enemy. Instead of relying, like Sindhia, on disciplined battalions, he fell back on the old Maratha tactics, and swept the country with hordes of irregular cavalry who lived by pillage. In 1804 a British force of 1,200 troops under Colonel Monson was lured away from its base of supplies by a feigned retreat and incurred a very serious reverse; scarcely a tenth of them, utterly broken, "straggled, a mere rabble, into Agra". This disaster was soon afterwards retrieved by other divisions of Lake's army, but three attempts to storm the strong fortress of Bhartpur were repulsed by the raja, Ranjit Singh, an ally of Holkar. Though Holkar's bands were at last dispersed, a new dispute arose with Sindhia about the ownership of Gwalior and Gohad, which remained unsettled when Lord Wellesley resigned early in 1805, not so much because his policy was disapproved by the court of directors, for whom he always professed a sovereign contempt, as because he was no longer cordially supported by the home government.

In his despatch to the secret committee of the East India Company after the conclusion of the war with Sindhia, Wellesley describes the consolidation of the British empire and the pacification of all India, as the supreme result of his beneficent rule.[138] That rule was followed by ten years of comparative repose, if not of reaction, but two events, occurring within this period, threw a significant light on the inherent danger of relying too much on a native army under British officers. Sepoy regiments had been raised and had served loyally on both sides in the struggles between the French and English during the eighteenth century. The Bengal sepoys were mostly Rajputs and showed the highest military qualities in many a wearisome march and hard fought field, from the days of Clive to those of Lake and Arthur Wellesley. But outbreaks bordering upon mutiny had occasionally taken place in the native armies of all the presidencies, and on July 10, 1806, a most formidable mutiny, ending in a massacre at Vellore, west of Madras, produced a sense of insecurity throughout all India. It was instigated by the family of Tipu who had been quartered in that fortress, and its immediate origin was the issue of certain vexatious regulations about uniform which offended native prejudices of caste. The European force, numbering some 370, was surprised and surrounded by a much larger body of sepoys, half of them were killed or wounded, and Tipu's standard was hoisted. Within a few hours, however, cavalry and artillery arrived from Arcot, the mutineers were slaughtered by hundreds, and the disaffected regiments were broken up. Three years later, a serious mutiny broke out among the company's own officers at Madras, caused by a petty grievance affecting their profits on tent-contracts. It was appeased rather than suppressed, and, notwithstanding these discouraging symptoms of insecurity, the Company's army retained its separate organisation for half a century longer.


Lord Cornwallis, the successor of Lord Wellesley, was opposed by conviction to a progressive expansion of British territory, and represented not only the cautious views of the home government, but the financial anxieties of the East India Company, which always valued a steady revenue more highly than imperial supremacy. Wellesley had virtually reconstructed the map of India on lines destined to endure until a fresh period of annexation set in some forty years later. These lines were not disturbed by Cornwallis, who died on October 5, 1805, three months after his arrival, but he clearly indicated his desire to let the system of protectorates and subsidiary treaties fall gradually into abeyance. His correspondence with Lake, whose victories had won him the rank of baron, contains a somewhat peremptory warning against fresh engagements contemplated by that enterprising officer, whose vigorous remonstrance he did not live to receive.[139] Sir George Barlow, who became acting governor-general for two years, adopted the same passive attitude, and forebore to carry out a projected alliance with Sindhia, though he would not allow any interference with our paramount influence at Poona and Haidarabad. Lord Minto, father of the Earl of Minto who presided at the admiralty under Melbourne, arrived as governor-general in 1807. He was imbued with similar ideas, and was fortunate in finding the Marathas too much weakened to be dangerous neighbours. His rule was, therefore, essentially pacific, but he did good service in maintaining internal order, and especially in putting down the organised brigandage, known as "dakaiti," which had been the curse of rural districts. The distinctive feature of his career, however, was a permanent enlargement of the horizon of Indian statesmanship to a sphere beyond the confines of India and even of Asia, a change due to new movements in the vast international conflict then engrossing the energies of Europe.

However chimerical the designs of Napoleon against British India may now appear, there is no doubt that such designs were seriously entertained by him, nor is it self-evident that what Alexander the Great found possible would have proved impossible to one who combined with Alexander's superhuman audacity the command of resources beyond anything known in the ancient world. At all events, after the battle of Friedland and the peace of Tilsit, an expedition to be launched from Russian territory upon the north-west frontier of India, with the support of Persia on the flank, became a contingency which an Indian governor-general could not afford to neglect. It is, indeed, strange that a march across Europe and half of Asia should have appeared to Napoleon more practicable than a voyage across the English Channel, and it is highly improbable that he would have cherished the idea of it, if he could have foreseen the perils of the Russian expedition. But his conversations at St. Helena prove that it was not a mere vision but a half-formed design, and, even after it had been discouraged by Russia, he sent a preliminary mission to Persia. Minto lost no time in sending counter-missions, not only to Tihran, but to Lahore, Afghanistan, and Sind.

The Persian court was already in diplomatic relations with the Indian government. Colonel Malcolm, afterwards Sir John Malcolm, had been sent by Wellesley as envoy to the shah at the end of 1800, and in January, 1801, a treaty had been signed, establishing free trade between India and Persia, and binding the shah to exclude the French from his dominions, while the company undertook to provide ships, troops, and stores, in case of French invasion. This treaty, however, neither was nor could have been actively carried out on either side. Early in 1806 the shah, who had become embroiled with Russia, appealed to Calcutta for aid, regardless of the fact that hostilities with Russia were not a casus foederis. Failing to obtain it, he appealed to France. Napoleon despatched General Gardane, who arrived in December, 1807. He obtained a treaty under which the shah engaged to banish all Englishmen on demand of the French emperor. Thereupon Malcolm was entrusted by Minto with a fresh mission, but never reached the Persian capital, where French influence was still paramount, and the peremptory tone of Malcolm's letters was resented. Meanwhile, Sir Harford Jones had been sent out by the British foreign office, and was received at Tihran in February, 1809, the peace of Tilsit having destroyed the Persian hope of French support against Russia. For a while, the right of negotiating with the shah was in dispute between the Indian government and the foreign office, and Sir John Malcolm reappeared at Tihran in the spring of 1810, as the representative of the former. In the end, however, he co-operated loyally with Jones, and a fresh treaty was signed, though both these rival emissaries were soon afterwards superseded by Sir Gore Ouseley as permanent ambassador.


Two other envoys selected by Minto left names which are famous in Anglo-Indian history, and one achieved an important success. Charles Metcalfe, Minto's envoy to Lahore, succeeded with the advantage of an armed force within easy reach of the Sikh frontier, in converting into an ally the redoubtable Ranjit Singh (not to be confounded with Ranjit Singh of Bhartpur), who had gathered into his own hands the Sikh confederacy and acquired sovereignty over the whole Punjab. He was now induced not only to accept the Sutlej river as the boundary line of his dominion, but to conclude a treaty of perpetual amity with the British government. This treaty remained unbroken until his death, and stood us in good stead during the perilous crisis of the first Afghan war. The embassy of Mountstuart Elphinstone to Afghanistan was comparatively fruitless, chiefly owing to the unsettled state of that mysterious country. Shah Shuja, its titular amir, so far from being in a condition to resist French invasion, had lost possession of Kabul and Kandahar, and was only anxious to obtain British aid against his elder brother Mahmud. Elphinstone, of course, had no authority to entangle the Company in a civil war far beyond the Indian frontier and was obliged to content himself with a worthless treaty empowering Great Britain to defend Afghanistan against France. This treaty had scarcely been ratified when Shah Shuja himself was driven into exile, to play an ignoble part thirty years later in the great tragedy of the first Afghan war.

However pacific Minto's policy was, he did not shut his eyes to the necessity of guarding the coasts and commerce of India against the enemy who still dominated Europe, and had not wholly abandoned his visions of eastern conquest. We have seen already that the "half way" naval station at the Cape of Good Hope had been retaken from the Dutch in 1806, the year in which the Berlin decree was issued. In 1810 the French were expelled from Java by an expedition despatched under Minto's orders, though it was soon to be restored to Holland. In the same year the islands of Mauritius and Bourbon were captured from the French and the sea route to India was finally secured. Lord Minto, who was recalled in 1813 and raised to the dignity of an earl, left India after six years of peaceful government in a state of tranquillity such as it had never before enjoyed, and the settlement of the country under British suzerainty appeared to have been assured. Yet the seeds of fresh trouble were already working, and his successor was to prove himself a second Wellesley, and add new territories of great extent to British India.

Lord Moira, better known by his later title as Marquis of Hastings, displayed qualities as governor-general of which his previous career had given no indication. He had already proved himself a good soldier, but he was a court favourite as well as a somewhat impracticable politician, and owed his appointment to other influences than his own merit. His arrival in India nearly coincided with the charter of 1813, which threw open the India trade, and virtually ushered in a new social era. He was at once confronted with an empty treasury, on the one hand, and, on the other, with alarming reports both from the northern frontier and from the central provinces, still under independent princes of doubtful fidelity. The earlier part of his nine years' residence in India was engrossed by most harassing operations against the Nepalis and the Pindaris, but these operations resulted in perfect success, and Hastings was able to show before he left India that he was eminent alike in civil and in military administration.

The mountainous region of Nepal, lying on the slopes of the Himalayas north of Bengal and Oudh, had been occupied by the warlike nation, still known as the Gurkhas, whose capital was at Khatmandu. Like the Marathas, they had been in the habit of pillaging British territory as well as Oudh, and when part of Oudh was annexed by Wellesley, frontier disputes were added to former grounds of hostility. Minto remonstrated with them sharply but in vain, and Moira lost no time in declaring war against them. The first campaign of 1814, which followed, though skilfully conceived by Moira, who held the office of commander-in-chief, was carried out with little generalship, and was marked by disasters highly damaging to British prestige. Three out of four armies launched against the hill-tribes met with serious reverses, chiefly due to a contempt for the enemy, and a persistence in making frontal assaults on strong positions without practicable breaches, which have proved so fatal in many a later conflict between British troops and undisciplined foes. During the cold season, however, on the extreme north-west, the cautious but irresistible advance of General Ochterlony penetrated the hill ranges which had baffled all the other commanders, and retrieved the fortunes of the war. The Gurkhas were far, indeed, from being subdued, but Ochterlony's success among their strongest fastnesses, aided by that of Colonels Gardner and Nicholls in the district of Kumaun, induced them to sue for peace, and offer territorial cessions. The loss of the Tarai, or belt of forest interspersed with pastures at the foot of the Himalayas, was the most onerous of the conditions imposed upon them by the treaty of Almora, signed in 1815. Rather than submit to it, the Gurkha chiefs refused to ratify the treaty, and resumed their arms. After two defeats, however, in February, 1816, they abandoned further resistance, and Moira afterwards wisely consented to a modification of the frontier-line. Retaining but a remnant of their dominions in the lowlands, the Gurkhas have ever since preserved their independence with their military training in the highlands, and have contributed some of the best fighting material to the British army in India.

[Pageheading: THE PINDARIS.]

While the war in Nepal was still undecided, fresh troubles broke out in Central India, where Wellesley's settlement had left no permanent security for peace. The very submission of the great Maratha powers had set free large bands of irregular troops, with no livelihood but pillage, and ever ready, like the Italian condottieri of the later middle ages, to enlist in the service of any aggressive state. These mounted freebooters, now called the Pindaris, were secretly encouraged by the Maratha chiefs, who looked upon them as useful auxiliaries in the future, either against the government of India or against other native princes. Several of these still remained in a more or less dependent but restless condition, and the great leaders of the Maratha confederacy, Sindhia, Malhar Rao Holkar, son and successor of Jaswant Rao, the Peshwa, and the Raja of Nagpur, retained a large share of their former sovereignty. Of these subject-allies, the one most directly under British guidance and protection was the Peshwa, but even he took advantage of hostile movements among his neighbours to join in a combination against British rule, supported by the predatory raids of the Pindaris. He had long been discontented with the subordinate position which he had occupied since the treaty of Bassein. The assassination in 1815 of an envoy of the Gaekwar of Baroda, who had been sent to Poona on a special mission under British guarantees, nearly provoked hostilities. But in June, 1817, a treaty was concluded, by which the Peshwa accepted an increased subsidiary force, ceded part of his territory, renounced his suzerainty over the Gaekwar and undertook to submit all further disputes to the decision of the British government. In November, however, chafing under the restrictions imposed by this treaty, he broke out into hostility, burnt the British residency, and after vainly attacking the British troops, fled from Poona. Almost simultaneously Holkar and the Raja of Nagpur rose. Holkar was defeated in a pitched battle at Mehidpur in Malwa, while the sepoys successfully held their own against the Raja's troops at Nagpur. The fugitive Peshwa was energetically pursued, and captured, and was stripped of his dominions. The greater part of these was annexed by the East India Company, but a portion was reserved for the heir of the old Maratha kings who was established at Satara. The Raja of Nagpur was also compelled to cede a large portion of his dominions, and at the same time the Company acquired the overlordship of Rajputana. Henceforth, the British government claimed a control over all the foreign relations of native Indian states, whose internal government was to be carefully watched by a British resident, and whose military forces were to be practically under the supreme command of the paramount power.


Lord Moira, created Marquis of Hastings in 1816, was at last free to hunt down the Pindaris, with the sullen acquiescence of the Maratha governments, and he executed his task with extraordinary vigour. He would have undertaken it, at the instigation of Metcalfe, then resident at Delhi, a year earlier, but for the peremptory orders of Canning, at that time president of the board of control, who positively forbade him to embark on a new war. These orders were greatly relaxed after the bloodthirsty raid of Chitu, the famous Pindari leader, who in 1816 desolated vast tracts of Central India. Still no effective action against the Pindaris was possible until the Maratha lords who harboured and encouraged them had been crippled and overawed. With their connivance, a second Pindari raid, accompanied by shocking cruelties, was made in the same year, but in 1817, when Holkar's followers were severely defeated at Mehidpur, the secret coalition between these bandits and our nominal allies was thoroughly broken up. Even then it proved a most difficult enterprise to root out the Pindaris, who were not a race, or a tribe, or a sect, but bands of lawless men of all faiths; for they met and vanished like birds of the air, outstripping regular cavalry by the length and rapidity of their marches, and carrying off their booty almost under the eyes of their pursuers. But the resolute tactics of Hastings prevailed in the end. Amir Khan, their most powerful leader, disbanded his troops; and hemmed in on all sides, cut off from every place of shelter, and chased by successive detachments of horsemen almost as fleet as his own, Chitu became a hopeless fugitive, with a handful of faithful adherents, who shared his desperate efforts to escape, but advised him to surrender. He could not bring himself to do so, possessed, it is said, with an unspeakable horror of being transported across "the black sea," and he actually remained at large or in hiding for a year after his lair was discovered. Nor was he ever captured, for, by a strange fate, this ruthless scourge of the Deccan, after baffling human vengeance, found his last refuge in a jungle and died, a tiger's prey. By this time, all the wild bands which sprung into existence out of the Maratha war had been extirpated or dispersed, and after the year 1818 the dreaded name of Pindari was heard no more in history.

The suppression of civil war and anarchy in Central India, which completed the work of Wellesley, was the greatest achievement of Hastings. One remarkable incident of it was a portentous outbreak of cholera in 1817, during a campaign in Gwalior conducted by Hastings in person. There had been several minor visitations of this disease in India. But it now first established itself as an endemic disease, and it has ever since infested the valley of the Ganges. So virulent was its onslaught, and so fearful the mortality in Hastings' army, that it was only saved by shifting its quarters, and the governor-general himself made preparations for his own secret burial, in case he should be among the victims. As we have seen already,[140] it was propagated from this centre through other regions of Asia, until it spread to Western Europe, and the "Asiatic cholera" of 1831-32 may be lineally traced back to the last Maratha war.

The position of Hastings in Indian history closely resembles that of Wellesley. Disregarding the instructions of the board of control, as well as of the board of directors, he forced upon them, like Wellesley, a large extension of their empire. But it cannot be doubted that his policy, dictated by exigencies beyond the ken of authorities sitting in London, was eminently successful and beneficent in its results. It went far to establish a "Pax Britannica" in the Indian Peninsula, and, if it took little account of dynastic rights, it broke the rod of oppression, and relieved millions upon millions from tyranny and intimidation which overshadowed their whole lives. He retired in 1823, after seven years' tenure of office, and died in 1826 as governor of Malta. Canning had been designated as his successor, and, having accepted the post, was on the eve of starting for Calcutta, when the tragical death of Castlereagh recalled him to the foreign office, and opened to him the most brilliant stage in his career. Thereupon Lord Amherst was appointed governor-general, with every prospect of a pacific vice-royalty, whereas it is now chiefly remembered for the annexation of new provinces on the south-east of Bengal, and the capture of Bhartpur.


The first Burmese war arose out of persistent aggressions by the new kingdom of Ava or Burma on what is now the British province of Assam, but was then an independent, though feeble, state. There had been earlier frontier disputes between the Indian government and Burma about the districts lying eastward of Chittagong along the Bay of Bengal, but it was not until Burma conquered Arakan, invaded Assam, and occupied passes on the north-east overlooking the plains of Bengal, that serious action was felt to be necessary. Indeed, while Hastings was engaged with the war in Nepal and the suppression of the Pindaris, even he was in no mood to embark on a fresh campaign beyond the borders of India. The incursions of the Burmese, however, became more and more threatening both on the coast line and on the mountains above the Brahmaputra river, and in February, 1824, Amherst resolved to check the extension of their dominion. Notwithstanding the experience recently gained in Nepal, the first operations of the Anglo-Indian troops were conducted with little knowledge of the country, and met with very doubtful success. Rangoon was easily captured, but the expedition was disabled from advancing up the river Irawadi by the want of adequate supplies and the deadliness of the climate. Part of the Tenasserim coast was subdued, but a British force was defeated in Arakan. These reverses were retrieved in the following year, 1825, when one army under Sir Archibald Campbell made its way up the river to Prome, while another army conquered Arakan, and a third, moving along the valley of the Brahmaputra, established itself in Assam. The Burmese now abandoned further resistance. Assam, Arakan, and the Tenasserim provinces were ceded to the company, whose protectorate was also recognised over other territories upon the course of the Brahmaputra. It was not until February, 1826, that the King of Ava could be induced to sign the treaty embodying these cessions, and many years were to elapse before the port of Rangoon was opened to British commerce.

The strong fortress of Bhartpur, in the east of Rajputana, and near to Agra, had acquired an unique importance, in the eyes of all India by its successful resistance to Lake's assaults during the Maratha war of 1805. It was still held until 1825 by its own petty raja, the son of Ranjit Singh, who remained on terms of respectful amity with the Indian government, though his little principality was a notorious focus of native disaffection. In that year he died, and his child, after being acknowledged by the Indian government as his successor, was forcibly ousted by a usurper. Sir David Ochterlony, the hero of the Nepalese war, then resident in Malwa and Rajputana, undertook to support the legitimate heir, but was overruled by orders from Amherst. On his resignation he was succeeded by Metcalfe, who had become Sir Charles Metcalfe by his brother's death in 1822, and who now obtained authority to carry out Ochterlony's policy, if necessary, by armed intervention. As negotiation failed, Lord Combermere, as commander-in-chief, proceeded to reduce the virgin fortress, not by the slow process of siege, but by a well-organised assault. Having cut off the water supply, and mined the mud walls, he poured in a storming party and overpowered the garrison. The feat was probably not so great, from a military point of view, as many that have left no record, but its effect on the superstitious native mind was prodigious, especially as it nearly coincided with the victorious issue of the Burmese war. Nevertheless, Amherst was shortly afterwards recalled, and left India in 1828. His annexation of Burmese territory and the increase of expenditure under his rule displeased both the Company and the home government, so often foiled in the attempt to enforce a pacific and economical policy. His successor was Lord William Bentinck, who had been compelled to retire from the governorship of Madras after the mutiny of Vellore.

Like Hastings, Bentinck showed a firmness and wisdom in his Indian administration strongly contrasting with the restless self-assertion of his earlier career. His lot was cast in an interval of tranquillity after a long period of warfare, and his name is associated with internal reforms and social progress in India, not unconnected with a like movement in England. The measure upon which his fame chiefly rests was the abolition of "sati," that is, the practice of Hindoo widows sacrificing themselves by being burned alive on the funeral pile of their husbands. This practice, which specially prevailed in Bengal, has been explained by a false interpretation of certain texts in sacred books of the Hindus, by the selfish eagerness of the husband's family to monopolise all his property, and by the utterly desolate condition of a childless widow in native communities. At all events, it was deeply rooted in Hindu traditions, and no previous governor had dared to go beyond issuing regulations to secure that the widow should be a willing victim. Bentinck had the courage to act on the conviction that inhumanity, however consecrated by superstition and priestcraft, has no permanent basis in popular sentiment. With the consent of his council, he prohibited "sati" absolutely, declaring that all who took any part in it should be held guilty of culpable homicide; and the native population acquiesced in its suppression.

But this was only one of Bentinck's reforms. Armed with peremptory instructions from the home government, he effected large retrenchments in the growing expenditure of the Indian services, both civil and military, and a considerable increase in the Indian revenue. It may be doubted whether one of these retrenchments, involving a strict revision of officers' allowances known as "batta," was considerable enough to be worth the almost mutinous discontent which it provoked. Another, affecting the salaries of civilians, was aggravated, in their eyes, by the admission of natives to "primary jurisdiction," in other words, by enabling native judges to sit in courts of first instance. This important change had been gradually introduced before the arrival of Bentinck, but it was he who most boldly adopted the idea of governing India in the interest and by the agency of the natives. On the other hand, it was he who, supported by Macaulay's famous minute, but contrary to official opinion in Leadenhall Street, issued the ordinance constituting English the official language of India. In a like spirit, he promoted the work of native education, partly for the purpose of developing the political and judicial capacity of the higher orders among the Hindus, but partly also for the purpose of making the English language and literature the instrument of their elevation. He earnestly desired to raise the standard of Indian civilisation, but he equally desired to fashion it in an English mould.


Under the rule of Bentinck, the revenue was largely augmented by a reassessment of land in the north-western provinces, where an increasing number of zamindars had fraudulently evaded the payment of rent, and by the imposition of licence-duties on the growers of opium in Malwa, who had carried on a profitable but illicit trade through foreign ports. But the social benefit of the people was ever his first concern, and not the least of his claims to their gratitude was the final extirpation of "thagi". This institution was a secret association of highway robbers and murderers who had plagued Central India almost as widely as the roving troops of Pindaris. Their victims were travellers whom they decoyed into their haunts, plundered, strangled, and buried on the spot. For years they carried on their infamous trade with impunity, and no member of the conspiracy had turned informer. At last, however, a clue was found by a skilful and resolute agent of the government, and the spell of mutual dread which held together the murderous confederacy was effectually broken in India. Meanwhile, the same period of peaceful development witnessed the execution of important public works, the relaxation of restrictions on the liberty of the press, and a general advance towards a more paternal despotism, coincident with the progress of liberal ideas at home. These benign influences were favoured by the continuance of peace and the maintenance of non-intervention, disturbed only by the minor annexations of Cachar and Coorg, to which may be added the assumption of direct control over Mysore.

When the charter of 1833 transformed the "company of British merchants trading to the east" into the "East India Company," with administrative powers only, Bentinck was in failing health, and he soon afterwards returned home. On his resignation in 1835, Metcalfe became provisional governor-general, but his liberal policy displeased the court of directors, and Lord Heytesbury was selected by the short-lived government of Peel as Bentinck's successor. Palmerston, however, on resuming the foreign office, was believed to have used his influence to set aside this nomination, and to procure the appointment of Lord Auckland, then first lord of the admiralty. The supposed objection to Heytesbury was his known sympathy with Russia, at a moment when distrust of Russia's designs on the north-west frontier was about to become the keynote of Anglo-Indian statesmanship. During the interregnum between Bentinck's retirement and Auckland's accession, three more remedial measures were carried into effect, the wisdom of which is not even yet beyond dispute. These were the complete liberation of the Indian press, the abolition of the exclusive privilege whereby British residents could appeal in civil suits to the supreme court at Calcutta, and the definite introduction of English text-books into schools for the people. For all these reforms Macaulay was largely responsible, but the impulse had been given by Bentinck, and was accelerated by Metcalfe.

During the years 1835-37 domestic affairs occupied much less space in the counsels of Indian statesmen than schemes for counteracting the growth of Russian influence at Tihran, and securing the predominance of British influence in Afghanistan. For a time their anxiety was concentrated on Herat, which the Shah of Persia was besieging, with the intention of penetrating into the heart of Afghan territory, while the Afghan rulers themselves were suspected of secretly conspiring with Persia against our ally, Ranjit Singh. Since Persia, having again lost faith in British support, was drifting more and more into reliance on Russia, this forward movement was regarded as the first step of the Russian advance-guard towards India. The fate of India was felt to depend on the defence of Herat under Pottinger, a young British officer, who volunteered his services without instructions from home. The siege, conducted under Russian officers, lasted ten months, and its ultimate failure was hailed as a triumph of British policy, for Herat was recognised, since the days of Alexander the Great, as the western gate of India.


About the same time the question of a shorter route to India attracted much attention both in Russia and in England. The first project was that, ultimately adopted, of a sea passage by Malta to Alexandria, a land transit across Egypt to Suez, and a second voyage by the Red Sea to Indian ports. The alternative line was more properly described as an "overland route," since it was proposed to make the journey from some port in the eastern Levant across Syria and by the Euphrates to the Persian Gulf. Colonel Chesney was sent out in 1835 as the pioneer of an expedition by this route, and parliament twice voted money for its development, but it was vigorously opposed by Russia, and abandoned as impracticable owing to physical difficulties in navigating the Euphrates, then considered as a necessary channel of communication with the sea. The scheme has since been revived on a much grander scale in the form of a projected railway traversing Asia Minor to Baghdad, and running down the valley of the Tigris. In the meantime, the Red Sea route, at first discredited, has far more than justified the hopes of its promoters. With the aid of steam-vessels, since 1845, and of the Suez Canal, since 1869, it has reduced the journey to India from a period of four months to one of three weeks, and profoundly affected its relations with Great Britain.

It would be well if the premature, but not unfounded, fear of Russian invasion had produced no further effects on Anglo-Indian policy. Unhappily, those who justly perceived the importance of Afghanistan, as lying between Persia and the Punjab, were possessed with the delusion that it would prove a more solid buffer as a British dependency than as an independent state. In their ignorance of its internal condition and the sentiments of its unruly tribes, the Indian government despatched Sir Alexander Burnes to Kabul, nominally as a commercial emissary, but not without ulterior objects. They could not have chosen a more capable agent, for he added to a knowledge of several languages a minute geographical acquaintance with Central Asia and an insight into the character of its inhabitants which probably no other Englishman possessed. He was to proceed by way of Sind to Peshawar, and in passing through Sind he received news of the siege of Herat, the significance of which he was not slow to appreciate. Thenceforward his mission inevitably assumed a political complexion, since the future of Afghanistan became a practical question. His rash negotiations with Dost Muhammad, the Amir of Kabul, and his brother at Kandahar, his return to India, his second mission to Afghanistan in support of a policy which he had deprecated, and his tragical death in the Kabul insurrection,—these are events which belong to a later chapter of history. But, though Burnes cannot be held responsible for the first Afghan war, there can be no doubt that his travels in disguise through Central Asia, and confidential reports on the border countries between the Russian and British spheres of influence, were the immediate prelude to a campaign the most ill-advised and the most disastrous ever organised by the Indian government and sanctioned by that of Great Britain.


[138] Despatch of July 13, 1804, Selection from Wellesley's Despatches, ed. Owen, pp. 436-41. See Sir A. Lyall, British Dominion in India, p. 260.

[139] Cornwallis to Lake, Sept. 19, 1805, Cornwallis Correspondence, iii., 547-55.

[140] See p. 310 above.



The period which elapsed between the resignation of Pitt and the battle of Waterloo was hardly less eventful in the history of British civilisation than in the history of British empire. To some, the boundary line between the society of the eighteenth and that of the nineteenth century appears to be marked by the outbreak of the French revolution, and the far-reaching effects of that catastrophe upon ideas, manners, and politics in Great Britain, as well as upon the continent, are too evident to be denied. But it is equally certain that, before the French revolution, an intellectual and industrial movement was in progress which must have given a most powerful impulse to civilisation, even if the French revolution had never taken place. In this country, especially, the great writers, philanthropists, scientific leaders, inventors, engineers, and reformers of various types, who adorned the latter part of George III.'s reign, largely drew their inspiration from an age, just preceding the French revolution, which is sometimes regarded as barren in originality.

When the nineteenth century opened, the classical authors of that pre-revolutionary age had mostly passed away. Hume died in 1776, Johnson in 1784, Adam Smith in 1790, Gibbon in 1794, Burns in 1796, Burke in 1797, Cowper in 1800. John Howard, the great pioneer of prison reform, became a martyr to philanthropy in 1790. The most remarkable of those manufacturing improvements and mechanical inventions upon which the commercial supremacy of England is founded date from the same period, and have been described in a previous volume. Steam navigation was still untried, but preliminary experiments had already been made on both sides of the Atlantic before 1789. The application of steam to locomotion by land had scarcely been conceived, but the facilities of traffic and travelling had been vastly developed in the first forty years of George III.'s reign.

It may truly be said, however, that English literature in the early party of the nineteenth century bears clear traces of the influence exercised on receptive minds by the French revolution. Three of the leading poets, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Southey, were deeply infected by its spirit, and indulged in their youth fantastic dreams of a social millennium; Wordsworth, especially, who in his maturer years could be justly described as the priest of nature-worship and the poet of rural life, had imbibed violent republican ideas during a residence of more than a year in France. These were passing off in 1798, when he published, jointly with Coleridge, the volume of Lyrical Ballads containing the latter's immortal tale of the Ancient Mariner. In the following year he settled in the English lake-country, where Coleridge established himself for a while, and Southey for life. Hence the popular but very inaccurate title of the "Lake School," applied to a trio of poets who, except as friends, had little in common with each other. Indeed, after Wordsworth had developed his theory of poetical realism in the preface to a volume published in 1800, Coleridge rejected and criticised it as wholly untenable. All three, however, may be considered as comrades in a revolt against the conventional diction of eighteenth century poetry, from which Coleridge's "dreamy tenderness" and mystical flights of fancy were as remote as Wordsworth's rusticity and almost prosaic studies of humble life.


Although Coleridge survived to 1834 and Wordsworth to 1850, both seem to have lost at an early date that power of imagination, whether displayed in sympathy or in creation, in which their greatness consisted. Wordsworth wrote assiduously during the whole of this period; in 1807 he published a volume of poems, including the famous Ode on the Intimations of Immortality and several of his finest sonnets; but of his later work only an occasional lyric deserves to be ranked beside the poems published in 1800 and 1807. Coleridge, indeed, published two of his finest poems, Christabel and Kubla Khan, in 1816, but they were written long before, Christabel, partly in 1797 and partly in 1801, and Kubla Khan in 1798. Even the new metre of Christabel, which is not the least of Coleridge's contributions to English poetry, had, as early as 1805, been borrowed in the Lay of the Last Minstrel by Scott, to whom Coleridge had recited the poem. Nevertheless, Coleridge continued to exercise a great influence, partly through the charm of his conversation and partly through his prose works, in which he introduced to a British public, as yet unused to German literature, a vision of that mystical German thought which finds its father in Kant, and was represented at that day by Hegel in philosophy and Goethe in poetry. It is uncertain how far the general ignorance of German literature in England was responsible for the influence exercised in their own day by the few English or Scottish thinkers, such as Coleridge, Hamilton, and Carlyle, who had either fallen under the spell or learned the secret of the German mystics. The most important of Coleridge's prose works was Aids to Reflection, which appeared in 1828, and whatever be its literary value, it deserves the notice of the historian, as the least unsystematic treatise of an author who gave the principal philosophical impetus to the Oxford movement.

Two other poets, eminently the product of their age, though not the offspring of the French revolution, Scott and Byron, were equally in revolt against conventional diction. Scott elevated ballad-poetry to a level which it had never before attained, and composed some of the most beautiful songs in the English language. If it be remembered that he was cramped by the drudgery of legal offices during the best years of his life, that he was nearly thirty when he made his first literary venture, that he was crippled by financial ruin and broken health during his later years, that his anonymous contributions to periodicals would fill volumes, and that he died at the age of sixty-one, his fertility of production must ever be ranked as unique in the history of English literature. Already known as the author of various lyrical pieces, and the Border Minstrelsy, he published the Lay of the Last Minstrel in 1805, Marmion (with its fine stanzas on Pitt and Fox) in 1808, the Lady of the Lake in 1809, Don Roderick in 1811, and Rokeby in 1813, as well as minor poems of high merit. He is said to have abandoned poetry in deference to Byron's rising star, and it is certain that he now fills a higher place in the roll of English classics as a prose writer than as a poet. His first novel, Waverley, appeared in 1814, and was followed In the next four years by six of the greatest "Waverley Novels," as the series came to be called—Guy Mannering, the Antiquary, the Black Dwarf, Old Mortality, Rob Roy, and the Heart of Midlothian. It is not too much to say that by these works, both in poetry and in prose, he created the historical romance in Great Britain. The legends of chivalry and the folk-lore of his native land had deeply stirred his soul, and fired his imagination from childhood, and though later "research" has far outstripped the range of his antiquarian knowledge, no modern writer has ever done so much to awaken a reverence for olden times in the hearts of his countrymen. The easy flow of his style, the vivid energy of his thought, the graphic power of his descriptions, his shrewd and robust sympathy with human nature, and the evident simplicity of his own character, not unmingled with flashes of true poetical insight, justly rendered him the most popular writer of his time.

Byron was born in 1788, and first sprang into notice as the author of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, a fierce and bitter reply to critics who had disparaged his first essay in poetry. This satire appeared in 1809, when he was just of age, after which he travelled with Hobhouse, and it was not until 1812 that he "woke to find himself famous," on publishing the first two cantos of Childe Harold. During the next three years, he poured forth a succession of characteristic poems, including the Giaour, the Bride of Abydos, the Corsair, Lara, and the Siege of Corinth. His later work was of a more finished order, including the remaining cantos of Childe Harold, Manfred, Cain, and Mazeppa, and when he died at Mesolongi in 1824, he left unfinished what is, in some ways, the most remarkable of his works, Don Juan. Long before his death he had become the prophet and hero of a pseudo-romantic school, composed of young Englishmen dazzled by his intellectual brilliancy, and attracted rather than repelled by a certain Satanic taint in his moral sentiments. But he also won the admiration of Goethe, and the reaction against his fame in a later generation is as exaggerated as the idolatry of which he was the object under the regency. His morbid egotism, his stormy rhetoric, and his meretricious exaltation of passion, have lost their magical effect, but his poetical gifts would have commanded homage in any age. The message which he professed to deliver was a false message, but few poets have surpassed him in daring vigour of imagination, in descriptive force, in wit, or in pathos. His style was eminently such as to invite imitation, yet no one has successfully imitated him. Had he been a better man, and had his life been prolonged, he might perhaps have towered above his literary contemporaries as Napoleon did among the generals and rulers of Europe.


Yet among these contemporaries were Keats and Shelley, whom some critics of a younger generation would place above him in poetical originality. Their chief merit lay neither in thought nor in strength, but in an exquisite sweetness of expression, which in the case of Shelley at least was quite independent of the subject-matter. Keats, though junior to Shelley, has been described as his poetical father, but his chief poem, Endymion, did not appear until several years after Shelley had formed his own distinctive style. He died in 1821 at the age of twenty-six, leaving a poetical inheritance of the highest quality, which, though limited in quantity and unequal in workmanship, has gained an enduring reputation. Nevertheless his work lent itself readily to imitation, and he exercised a marked influence on the style of later poets, not only in this period, but in the Victorian age as well. The rebellious spirit of Shelley had already shown itself at an early age in his poetry, and especially in Queen Mab, printed in 1812. His ethereal fancy, his dreamy obscurity, and his witchery of language, designated him from the first as a master of lyrical poetry; though he wrote longer pieces, his fame rests on the numerous short poems which continued to appear till his death in 1822.

Perhaps the greatest master of melody was one who was only coming to the front at the close of this period, Alfred Tennyson, born in 1809, contributed with two of his brothers to a collection of verses, misleadingly entitled Poems by Two Brothers, which appeared in 1826. At Cambridge his Timbuctoo won the chancellor's prize, but the first proof of his powers was given by a volume of short poems published in 1830, followed by a similar volume two years later. By far the greater part of his work lies in the next period, but the volume of 1833 already included some of his best known poems.

Among minor poets of this period the highest rank must perhaps be assigned to Thomas Campbell and Thomas Moore as authors of some of the most stirring and graceful lyrics in the English language. The former had attained celebrity by the Pleasures of Hope, published before the end of the eighteenth century, but his choicest poems, such as Ye Mariners of England, the fine verses on Hohenlinden and Copenhagen, and Gertrude of Wyoming, appeared between 1802 and 1809. The series of Moore's Irish melodies, on which his poetical fame largely rests, was begun in 1807, though not completed until long afterwards. They were followed by other lyrical pieces of great merit, and by a series of witty and malicious lampoons, collected in 1813 into a volume called the Twopenny Post Bag. Lalla Rookh, his most ambitious effort, was not published until 1817.

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