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and Cotton succeeded by Burnes
for doing nothing; and the Government accordingly determined to retain what it had got, and to refrain from encountering further risks by attempting to acquire more.1
And there was another reason for preserving the status quo. A change was contemplated in the machinery of government. Macnaghten Cotton, in the previous January, complaining of ill
health, had been relieved of the command; and
Auckland had chosen as his successor General and Elphin
Elphinstone, an officer the weight of whose declining years ? was aggravated by confirmed ill-health, but who enjoyed the advantage of being the grandson of a peer and the son of an East India Director. In August, Macnaghten, who had already been raised to the baronetcy for his services, was given a more substantial reward, the governorship of Bombay ;8 and Burnes, who had been serving under him in an undefined and irresponsible capacity, was selected to succeed him. Thus, as the autumn wore on, the fortunes of Britain were apparently to be entrusted to new guidance, and the man who had shaped the Afghan policy was to be transferred to new quarters.
Busily preparing for his coming journey, Macnaghten occupied a house near the British cantonments outside Cabul. On
their first arrival barracks for the roops had been
erected on the Bala Hissar, a hill which overlooked and commanded the city. But Shah Sooja required the Bala Hissar for the ladies of his harem; and Macnaghten, to please the king, withdrew the troops from the fort to the plain. Few
i The orders to seize Herat were not cancelled till the Conservatives accepted office. Ellenborough’s Indian Administration, pp. 3, 4. Cf. Kaye, vol. i. pp. 587, note, 588, and 621.
2 Kaye writes of him as the poor old man, but he was under sixty years of age. Elphinstone was first cousin to the distinguished civil servant who had been sent to Cabul by Minto in 1809, and who subsequently published the great account of Afghanistan which ranks even now as a standard work, and first cousin once removed to Lord Elphinstone, who, as Governor of Bombay during the Mutiny, displayed capacity and energy. It may be some consolation to a distinguished family to reflect that, if it produced the most unfortunate general, it contributed to the Indian Civil Service its most capable statesman, and to Bombay its most energetic Governor. 3 Ibid., p. 6o9.
4 Durand's Afghan War, pp. 206–208.
precautions were taken to fortify the new position. It was flanked by hills, it was encompassed with villages. Only a rude mound and ditch, over which an officer offered to ride a pony, was drawn round it. The cantonments, moreover, were separated from the stores and from an adjoining enclosure in which the houses of the Mission were placed. In this indefensible position, Macnaghten, accompanied by his wife, passed the fine autumn month which preceded his anticipated departure. The officers with whom he was surrounded, enjoying the bracing climate, were pursuing the amusements of Englishmen amidst the snowy hills of Cabul. Sport in the daytime, entertainments in the evening, shortened the hours of their exile ; the presence of a few English ladies among them gave both tone and zest to their amusements; and perhaps in no portion of the Eastern possessions of England was society more gay or life more pleasant than within the slender pale which surrounded the cantonments of Cabul.
Men, indeed, who stopped to think amidst the gaiety which diverted most of their comrades from thought, must have detected even in the prevalent peace many causes for anxiety. It was known in India that the ministry ment in which had suggested or sanctioned Auckland's Afghanistan. Afghan campaign was doomed to perish; it was inferred that the access of a new ministry to office would lead to the modification of a policy which its probable leaders were known to disapprove; it was assumed that Peel would not easily be reconciled to an occupation which was costing India from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 a year;1 and it was concluded, therefore, that retrenchment, which would be inevitable a few weeks later, might as well be begun at once. Thus it was decided to withdraw most of the troops on Macnaghten's departure, and to withhold many of the allowances with which the chieftains had hitherto been conciliated. Macnaghten had endeavoured to strike terror by force, and to win friendship by gold. New men were to introduce new measures, and were
i Kaye, vol. i. p. 619.
The Ghilzies and Sale.
to be deprived both of the power to strike and of the money to bribe. 1
Yet even the mere suggestion of a new policy produced danger. The Ghilzies of Eastern Afghanistan, finding that their allowances were discontinued, occupied the hills between Cabul and Jellalabad. Macnaghten desired Sir Robert Sale,
an officer who was already under orders to return to India, to sweep the Ghilzies from the passes on
his way. Salé, leaving his wife at Cabul, set out for Jellalabad, and, partly by arms, partly by negotiation, made some sort of terms with the Ghilzies. Even Macnaghten, however, anxious as he was to leave the country, and to leave it at peace, was not wholly satisfied with the sufficiency of the arrangement. He could not be deaf to the story of an enemy threatening to block the passes which led to Peshawur, to Calcutta, and to Bombay.
And other danger was now imminent. It will perhaps be always doubtful whether the rising which almost immediately occurred was the result of an organised conspiracy or the consequence of an accidental outbreak. If, indeed, the revolt
were prepared, it is difficult to explain why it ocof the rising. curred on the end of November. Had its authors waited only a few days, Macnaghten and more than half the troops would have been on their way to Hindostan.2 Afghan statesmen were, at any rate, farseeing, patient men, unlikely to attack an army, when a respite of a few days would have left them only a brigade to deal with. Men there are of authority and repute who believe that the rising was, in the first instance, due to a private injury and not to a public wrong, and that the unexpected success of a mob induced its leaders to convert a riot into a revolution.
Private injury unfortunately existed, and afforded pretext for outrage; armies encamped far from home are not usually famous for virtue, and Englishmen are not more moderate in their passions than men of other countries. And in Afghani
1 Cf. Quarterly Review, vol. lxxviii. p. 490; and Durand's Afghan War, p. 298.
2 See this argument well stated in Kaye, vol. ii. p. 4.
stan a departure from virtue was especially unfortunate. In the elaborate account which Elphinstone gave of the manners and customs of the Afghans, he paid them the striking compliment of saying that they were the only people in the East among whom he had seen any trace of the sentiment of love. 1 The love of Doorkhaunee for Audam, and her murder, and her lover's murder by her husband, formed the subject of the poem which, at the time of his visit, was "read, repeated, and sung” through all parts of the country. There were Audams among the British, there were Doorkhaunees in Cabul in 1842; and the Doorkhaunees had jealous husbands ready to avenge the treatment of their wives. 3
Most of the British occupied quarters either in cantonments or in the adjoining mission-compound. But Burnes, Macnaghten's successor-designate, was living in a house in the city, which adjoined the residence of a British officer, Captain Johnson, the paymaster of Shah Sooja's army. On the night of the ist of November, Abdoolla Khan, an Achekzye 4 whom Burnes had insulted, suggested an attack on the The murder mission-house. A friendly Afghan warned Burnes of Burnes. of his danger ; 6 Burnes sent a message to Macnaghten asking for support, but he declined to leave the mission. rudely wakened from his confidence. Early in the morning an angry crowd of Afghans surrounded the house and clamoured for Burnes's blood. Burnes, relying on his influence, harangued the men from a gallery. The mob answered the harangue by renewing the attack. A young English officer, Broadfoot, was shot dead at Burnes's side. Burnes himself, trusting to the protection of a native who promised him a safe-conduct, was betrayed to the mob by his guide. He was at once cut to pieces by the rabble. Johnson's house, the treasury of the Shah, was immediately afterwards sacked; and the mob, gathering confidence by success, and with appetite sharpened by the taste of blood and treasure, gave themselves up to the plunder of Cabul.
1 Elphinstone's Cabul, p. 184.
2 Ibid., p. 185. 3 Kaye, vol. i. p. 614; cf. Durand's Afghan War, p. 211.
4 According to Elphinstone, the Achekzyes, or Atchikzyes, were one of the four clans into which the Zeeruk branch of the Douranees were divided, Elphinstone's Cabul, p. 397.
5 “Aware of Abdoolla Khan's designs (intrigues with the Ghilzies), Burnes sent him an angry message, called him a dog, and threatened to recommend Shah Sooja to deprive the rebel of his ears." Kaye, vol. ii. p. 5. It is odd that English gentlemen fail to see that they gain nothing, but lose both dignity and influence, by language of such a character,
6 Lady Sale's Journal, pp. 48, 440.
At half an hour's march from these deeds of violence a British army lay secure in its cantonments. News of the rising reached it at nine in the morning; and Shelton, Elphinstone's second in command, was ordered to march with a small force into the Bala Hissar. He had hardly received his orders, when his march was countermanded. Allowed later on to proceed, he was again halted; and he ultimately only arrived in time to cover the retreat of a small force which Shah Sooja had himself sent into the city, and which, entangled in narrow streets, had been severely handled. This, the only effort made
to stop the rising, thus ended in a victory for the Spread of
insurgents. Prospering by success, a riot in the
morning became a revolution in the evening; and the chiefs, who had hitherto abstained from a movement which seemed foredoomed to failure, placed themselves at the head of the insurrection.1
It is somewhere related that a caricature was published in the last century representing Paul of Russia holding in his right hand a scroll on which the word “ordre” was written, in his left hand another scroll with the word "contre-ordre" upon it, while upon his forehead was the word “désordre.” Gout had reduced Elphinstone to the same condition. Orders and counter-orders had made Shelton powerless for good, and the difficulty of restoring quiet was increased tenfold by inaction. On the morrow, indeed, a small force was sent to force its way into the town. But it was weak; its commander misunderstood his orders; and it retired unsuccessful but unscathed.
i Lady Sale's Journal, p. 39. Durand, Afghan War, p. 353, defends Shah Sooja's conduct on this occasion. Other writers doubt whether he made any serious effort to check the rising.