Charles Wentworth Dilke.

Problems of Greater Britain (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 49)
Online LibraryCharles Wentworth DilkeProblems of Greater Britain (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 49)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook














k ^

All riylils reserved

First Edition January 1S90
Second Edition March 1890





I. Indiak Defence
II. British India .






I. Colonial Democracy . . . .

II. Labour, Provident Societies, and the Poor

III. Protection of Native Industries

IV. Education . . . . .
V. Religion . . . . .

VI. Liquor Laws . . . . .


OF THE EMPIRE . . . . .463




India ....•• To face page 1


65" "BoUch. 70* , - - , 75

Uiidim MHrinilh.u X' ('


,v VOL. II



The most important question connected with India at india.
the present time is that of defence. From the more nence^in
limited or British Indian point of view it is of Httle ^'J' J^f "'^'='
use for us to concern ourselves with improvements in q^i^stiou of

■■- _ defence.

government if we cannot retain the countrv in our
hands ; and from the larger or British Imperial point
of view the loss of India would be a crushing blow to
our trade, if our rule were succeeded by that of a pro-
tectionist country or by a period of anarchy. It would
constitute, moreover, so grave an encouragement to our
enemies in all parts of the world that we might expect
a rapid growth of separatist feeling in Canada, South
Africa, and Australasia, and a general break-up of the
British power. The bolder among the pessimists of the
Dominion ; the extreme Dutch, who may desire the
creation of the United States of South Africa under re-
publican forms ; and the wilder portion of the " native"
Australian party, would need no other signal — would
find no longer any difference of opinion among their
friends as to the nature of the action that they should
take, nor would they be confronted with the same body
of opposition to their views as exists in the three groups
of colonies at the present time.

There are some dreamers who appear to think that


Loss of we sliouki leave India to itself, and tlie loss of trade,
by the possible adoption of a protectionist policy in
India, tliey would, I believe, be content to face. Be-
sides trade there is the interest upon capital, and, India
remits so much money for various purposes to England
that in this sense, too, a peaceful and friendly India seems
almost necessary to our existence ; and it is difficult for
any one who knows the divisions of the peninsula to
suppose that an India left to itself would see its races
and its religions dwell together in amity and concord.
If to speculation speculation is to be opposed, I should be
inclined to fancy that some effect might be produced upon
the minds of those of whom I speak by asking them to
consider not only the evils of a lower kind wdiich the
loss of India would occasion, but also those of a higher
nature. I would bid them reflect upon the hopeless
insularity that would overtake the British people if
deprived of the romantic interest that the possession of
India lends to our national life. Is it conceivable, how-
ever, that India should be able to govern and to defend
herself? The exactions and the quarrels of the native
princes alone would set the country in a blaze, and every
city of the north w^ould be a scene of civil discord between
the adherents of the chief rival creeds. Even if India
did not fall at once to the lot of Eussia, the recent
action of Germany in Africa warns us that Germany, and
Madagascar and Tonquin warn us that France, would
strive to conquer or to divide that vast peninsula which
we should leave wholly unable to defend itself by force of
arms. A despotism less beneficent than our own would
probably succeed a period of anarchy in which the good
results of many years of steady progress would be lost
to the subject population. There can, I think, be no
two opinions among reasonable men as to the necessities


of every kind tliat force us to link our fate to our con-
tinued domination throughout India. It is then useless
to go into inquiries about our Indian Empire unless we
first make sure our ground with regard to Indian defence.

There is another reason for separate treatment of the Reasons for

, . . treating the

question of Indian Defence, and for its lull discussion, Indian
before we reach that question of Imperial Defence in q^esSi
which it seems to be involved. The Indian problem ^^i'^^''^^"^^'-
is distinct from the general problem. Not only is it
the most difficult branch of the defence question, and
one which thoroughly deserves to be studied on the
spot, but one wholly different in its nature from the
British Imperial Defence question as it exists elsewhere.
It is only in Canada and in India that we have land
frontiers of military importance. I have already dealt
in the previous volume with the question of Canadian
Defence ; but while in Canada there is little prospect
that we shall be attacked by our peaceful neighbours,
in the case of India we are face to face with a
different set of circumstances. It is in fiict only on
this one of all the frontiers of the Empire that the
British dominion is virtually conterminous with the
continental possessions of a great military power. The
British Empire has of late, in New Guinea and else-
where in the Pacific, become conterminous with Germany,
in Further India virtually conterminous with France, and
in Africa conterminous with both Germany and France ;
but if we command the seas we could cut off Germany
from Africa and from Polynesia, and France from Africa
and from Indo-China. Russia alone is virtually our
continental neighbour, in the same sense in which the
United States is our neighbour on the Canadian frontier.
The United States is not a military power, and, though
able to crush us in Canada, will never advance except



invited by the Canadians, or driven into war, while

Russia is an autocracy with untold millions of men who

are ready to march at one man's will.

Consensus Thosc in England who desire to close their eyes to

on hii rort- ^^^ importance of the question of Indian Defence are in

ance of the ^^ habit of dcscribino; as alarmists all who force them to

Indian ^ p • i

Defence discuss the matter. It is, therefore, right to show at
the outset that those who l3elong to the peace section of
the Liberal party, but who happen to know India well,
are as thoroughly awake to the danger as are military
Conservatives themselves : in fact, that there is unanimity
of opinion among the well-informed, whatever may l:)e
their predispositions. For example. Sir George Camp-
bell has argued, in a work circulated by the Cobden
Clu1) itself, that we ought not to feel easy about our
military position in India ; that our Indian army is,
considering what it has to do, " the smallest army in
the world" — an army of 200,000 men, not all fit for
the most dangerous service, defending, against internal
troubles and against a great military neighbour, a
peninsula containing 250,000,000 of inhabitants. Sir
George Campbell points out that we have to deal with
tremendous risks both east and west of India, and to
observe the approach of two great European powers
towards our borders. He shows how our difficulties
have been increased by a popular resistance to our rule
in Burmah, such as we never experienced in any part of
India, and such as will call for the presence of a large
garrison for many years ; and he says : " We can no
longer consider India to be a country divided from
the whole world, and our military arrangements must
be modified accordingly." Eadical economists and the
Cobden Club are thus, it is seen, compelled by the
necessities of the case to use words which would not be


disavowed by those who are looked upon, by the portion
of their countrymen who are uninstructed in this par-
ticular matter, as alarmists of a military school.

The first question that arises in connection with The idea of
Indian defence is, whether our preparations for war in alliance.
or near India against a European enemy are necessary at
aU, or whether it would be possible safely to come to
terms with Russia. There is a school in Eno-land the


members of which would attempt to bring about an
Anglo-Russian alliance based on the general principle
that Russia should be allowed to work her will on
Turkey, provided our Indian North-AVest frontier were,
through the alliance, made secure. There is this to
be said for those who think thus, that it is our duty
to look at such questions from a point of view less
selfish than that of British interest alone, and that
it is well sometimes to try to place ourselves in the
position of Russian statesmen. Russia, ice-bound as
she is, needs outlets ; but we must remember also that
she has an outlet on the Pacific which will become
more and more important day by day, that the outlet
through Turkey is not ours to give, and that the outlet
through India is ours to refuse. Without dwelling upon
the fact that under certain circumstances the possession
of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles by Russia might
prove a political danger to ourselves, and without
urging the consideration that there is a large British
trade in Turkey which would soon be destroyed by
Russian protectionist feeling, it is difiicult to see, if
we look to the Indian side of the question, how Russia
could put it out of her own power at any moment to
threaten us on the North-West frontier.

What we should gain by an understanding with Russia
is far from clear. No promise, especially no promise


accompanied by an advance towards our frontier, could
enable us safely to reduce our Indian forces and to take
less money from the Indian taxpayer. On the contrary,
while I am far from agreeing with all that has been
written upon the subject by the late Sir Charles Mac-
Gregor, still, in discussing the transport difficulties of a
Eussian advance on India, he was writiuo- on a matter
which he thoroughly understood, for he had given much
time and care to it. The then Quartermaster- General
in India put the most successful possible result of the
first Russian campaign as the annexation by Eussia of
the country up to that very line of the Hindu Kush
which it is now proposed by some, whose language is
eagerly reprinted by the Eussian press, to give to
Eussia voluntarily, as the result, not of a campaign, but
of an understandino^. Sir Charles MacGrea:or was of
opinion, as the whole of our authorities in India at the
present moment are of opinion, that once in secure
possession of Herat and Balkh, Eussia could afford to
wait, to consolidate her power, to complete her railways,
and would then, and then only, issue forth from her
excellent bases to make her attack on India.
The Tsar. Granting the pacific disposition of the present Em-

peror of the Eussias, and supposing, for the sake of
argument, that we might safely give to him personally
that which his friends in England ask, is it not at least
possible that in some years' time there may be at the
head of affairs in Eussia those who will hold different
views, and who might return to the designs of General
Skobeleff, to tlie prosecution of which they would bring
the enormous advantage of a perfect base for opera-
tions virtually bestowed upon them by ourselves ?
Moreover, we should be giving that which is not ours
to give ; we should be thought by the Afghans to have


shown the utmost treachery towards their interests ;
we should incur their hatred, and at the same time the
contempt of our Indian princes, and the Kussians would
be to a corresponding extent strengthened by the exist-
ence of these feelings.

To willinglv let Eussia occupy the northern half of Our


Afghanistan in the lifetime of the present Ameer would
be a flagrant breach of faith, for, in spite of Mr. Curzon,
whose recent articles made more stir in Russia than he
can like, to judge from what he has since written in a
book,^ we are deeply pledged to Abdurrahman by our
promises, twice at least — perhaps three times — volun-
tarily made. To give up Northern Afghanistan even
when he is gone would l^e to reverse the policy which
seemed wise to Mr. Gladstone's second administration as
well as to their Conservative successors. What we
should lose l3y the Anglo-Russian alliance, which seems
to reduce itself, when examined, to a permission or to an
encourao-ement to Russia to stretch herself on the one
side towards the Dardanelles, and on the other side into
Afghanistan, is clear : our Turkish trade, our power to
use the Euphrates route or the Suez Canal during war
with Russia when once she was established on the mag-
nificent position of the Sea of Marmora, the friendship
of the Afghan people now tardily obtained, and the con-
fidence of our Indian subjects in our strength. At one
blow we should have brought military Russia within
possible striking distance of India, and put ourselves
farther off from India by driving ourselves to the use
of the Cape route even in a single-handed war. An
increase of the distance from our base in England to
the Helmund where we should have to fight would be

1 Exm&ia in Central Asia, by the Hon. Geo. N. Curzon, M.P. Long-
mans, 1889.


brought about at the same moment as a shortening of
the distance between the Kussian railroads and India.
The story of Batoum has shown that Eussian promises
cannot be trusted. The reply of the friends of Russia
in this case is, that the promise as to Batoum was an
unwilling promise, extorted from Russia at Berlin. It
was not in form unwilling, but, even admitting the fact,
we may doubt whether the promises or declarations of
the present Emperor of Russia would be more binding
upon a successor who might very likely hold widely
different views.

We are told that we might diminish our military
expenditure in India if we had a Russian alliance.
That cautious and economy-loving power the German
Empire, at the time when her old Emperor and the
Russian Emperor were bound together by the most
solemn of alliances, in the Three Emperors' League, con-
tinued with feverish haste to strengthen her fortresses
of Thorn, Konigsberg, and Posen, useful only against
Russia, while Russia strengthened Warsaw and the
Polish Quadrilateral, useful only against Germany. No
prudent power, with a frontier exposed to land attack,
can afford to rely upon promises, however apparently
binding, and relax her preparations for meeting in arms,
if necessary, possible invasion by a military power of
the first class. It did not need Batoum to prove that
it would be unwise to trust the very life of our Empire
to any promise.

Without inviting Russia into Northern Afghanistan
we may, of course, be called upon to consider what we
shall do when she has come there uninvited. The
Russians have sufficient belief in the reality of our
pledges to the present Ameer not, I think, to come there
in his lifetime ; but supposing that they are right in


thinking that the Ameer and Afghan rule are unpopular
in Herat and Balkh, and that a successful insurrection
may be organised against him, circumstances may so
change as to tempt them forward. The Russians may
be right, too, in thinking that if the present strong
man were removed by assassination there might be civil
war in Afghanistan and disorder upon their frontier
sufficient to give them a fair pretext for advancing.
Supposing that we fail to make those wise arrange-
ments, with regard to the Afghan succession, and for
securing tranquillity in the country on a change of
sovereign, which we ouo-ht to make in time, and could
make, the Russians may very likely cross the frontier
with a small number of men upon some apparently
excellent pretext, ready to withdraw if our Government
should threaten war, and ready to remain if we should
only grumble. We all of us are sometimes strangely
like the Turks in thinking that what will last our
own time is good enough, and in finding reasons for
putting off the fight until the time of our successors.
We have weakened English public opinion by the very
uncertainties of our past Afghan policy, the most amaz-
ing instance of which was the sudden reversal by Lord
Beaconsfield's Government in 1878 of the uniform policy
of Great Britain with regard to Herat, in the offer of
Herat to Persia, actually bound at the very time by
a secret treaty to Russia, a portion of which has
since been revealed. It is at least possible that
if the Conservatives were in office in England when
Russia in small force crossed the Afghan frontier,
recently settled with her, there would be a coalition
between the mass of the Opposition and Conservatives
who hold the view that the present arrangement
has no element of permanency in it which would


prevent tlie Government from resisting the Kussian


Views ex- In May 1867, when I first wrote upon Indian defence,

&veaL"^ I recommended that policy of advance upon our left

£d1n'' which was afterwards adopted. The railway through

■^^^^' the Bohan, and the station at some such position as

Quetta has since become were among the suggestions

that I made. The adoption of this policy was advised

from many sides and the policy was successful ; and

writing again in January 1887, after nearly twenty years

had passed, I was still able to take a hopeful view of the

prospects of Indian defence for some time to come. It

was still possible to set very high the risk to Kussia of

plunging into defiles inhabited by an independent

population, and to lay stress upon the time that would

be needed for the completion of her strategic railways in

Turkestan. On the other hand, while I thus stated my

own opinion, I was forced to quote the opinion of foreign

military writers to the opposite eflect. These think,

as I showed, that it would be difiicult for us to put

40,000 men at Quetta within three months of the

declaration of war, and that we could do it only if we

gave up all idea of off"ensive operations against Russia in

any quarter of the glolje, and confined ourselves to a

defensive attitude, leaving Russia to attack us when and

where she chose — in itself a serious weakness. I showed

that the foreigners who had w^ritten upon this subject

thought that Russia could raise trouble for us in India,

and force us to leave a large proportion of our troops

behind to watch narrowly the armies of the native

states ; and that they believed that an advance force of

Mohammedans, in the Russian interest, descending from

the mountains upon Kabul, might conciliate the Afghans

and bring with them towards India the tribes eager for


the plunder of our plains. I ventured nevertheless to
discount these alarmist views, and to suggest that
pressing danger would first arise only several years after
Russia had occupied Herat (should we allow her to reach
that point), had finished her railways in that quarter,
and had fortified her base. The Russians, it seemed to
me, had every interest in postponing war, and would do
so for twelve or fourteen years at least. At the same
time I hinted that we were one of the least popular of
powers, and that if we were attacked in India no hand
would be raised in our defence.

Writing, however, a few months later, after I had The in-

T p T T , T sufficient

received irom India many answers to my earlier number
suggestions, I had somewhat to tone down my optimism, sation^of"'"
Sir Frederick Roberts^ could not be quoted upon the °"'' ^™°p^-
more cheerful side, though naturally proud of an army
with which he has been long and honourably connected.
Lord Wolseley had thrown the gravest doubts upon our
having sufficient strength to do more than remain on a
strict defensive. I pointed out that it was a dangerous
delusion to suppose that the whole of the Indian army
could take the field against the Russians, and that
English ofiicers who knew the Russian army thought
that their picked troops were admirable, while it was
certain, owing to transport difficulties, that Russia would,
if she attacked India, bring picked troops into the field.

1 As I was invited by my friend Sir Frederick Eoberts to accompany
him in his military frontier tour of November-December 1888, and did
so, and as I have dedicated to him tliis work, some attempt might possibly
be made to commit him to the opinions put forward in this chapter, which
he has not seen. It is better, therefore, that I should distinctly say that
the views expressed are mine, not his, and dilfer indeed in several points
from those of the Commander-in-Chief in India. At the same time, where
my conclusions are known to me to be opposed to those of the highest
military authorities in India, I have said so in the text.


I argued in favour of the creation of a separate white
force for India, inasmuch as our compromise as to length
of service was ruinous to India, and forbade her having
any hope of keeping up a sufficient army to meet coming
dangers, in return for such money as she could afford to
spend, while at the same time it spoilt our home service
army. I stated generally that the criticisms which had
reached me showed a steady growth of pessimism among
our best officers, and that it was the universal opinion
in India that if the Afghans should join the Russians,
the Russians would have the game in their own hands.
Hence the need for first considering our relations with
Mr. Glad- The poHcy of the second administration of Mr.

Afghan Gladstone in the Afghan matter is of some historical
policy. ^^^^ qI" gonie present importance. Mr. Gladstone recom-
mended the removal of Lord Lytton, and reversed Lord
Lytton's policy, but not to revert to the Lawrence
policy. On the contrary, while he wisely evacuated
Kandahar — following largely the advice of that most
skilled of all observers of the Afghan question, Sir
Robert Sandeman — Mr. Gladstone gave those strong
pledges to the Ameer of Afghanistan to which I have
alluded, and proposed the delimitation of the Afghan
frontier. The arrangement declared to be binding
by the Russian Emperor in 1888 was the outcome
of these proposals. The Ameer of Afghanistan was
subsidised and supplied with arms, and w^as told by
Lord Dufferin, by direction of the Government, that
so Ions as he conformed to our advice his enemies
would be ours. After some hesitation the Quetta
frontier was advanced, the loop strategical railway
made, and the Bori valley brought under British rule.
This policy of Mr. Gladstone's second administration,


followed as it has been since that time by Mr. Glad-
stone's third administration, and by two Conservative
administrations, was wise and necessary. The policy
which I have described was, then, a policy of influence
at the Court of Kabul, combined with non-interference
in the domestic afiairs of Afghanistan, and it was a
portion of this policy that we should extend either our
frontiers or our authority up to the Afghan border.
This was indeed the ground for that occupation of the
Bori valley under Mr. Gladstone's second administration
to which I have just referred. In the course of the
twenty years of which I have spoken the British and
the Russians have drawn 1100 miles nearer together,
Eussia advancing 900 and we 200 miles ; and we are
now — not in a straight line, but by road — 500 miles
apart. On this line there is no mountain chain worth
naming. There are two much -travelled native roads,
along one of which Ayoub marched with wheeled
artillery before he beat us at Maiwand.

The strong, friendly, and united Afghanistan created Afghanis-
by our policy will exist during the life of the present '^° '^^ ^ ^^*
Ameer, but there is too much reason to fear that his death

Online LibraryCharles Wentworth DilkeProblems of Greater Britain (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 49)