Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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retain many of the feelings, prejudices, habits, and even
superstitions of their Hindoo forefathers, and to them a
Hindu, a Rajput, and a mountaineer could not be ob-
jectionable simply on the score of faith. One of the
first acts of Grolab Singh was to proclaim freedom of
worship through his dominions ; while even to this day
in the face of Colonel Lawrence and the British officers,
the Mahommedan cry to prayer has been suffered rather
than sanctioned at Lahore. But those who are loudest

* At one time there was some- was virtually an enemy to the Sikhs
thing like an accusation of treachery during the war : — he obtained them
put forth in reference to the pro- a favourable peace, the terms of
motion of Golab Singh ; but the which, if there had been any honesty
fact is, that Lord Hardinge's deal- or patriotism among the Chiefs,
iugs with him may with advantage they could have fulfilled in a week,
be contrasted with those of all and and thus have deprived him of Cash-
any Indian officials towards hostile mere. His redemption of their bond
princes and their dependents from corrected the only mistake that was
the days of Clive and Jaffier Alii made in the whole transaction ; for
down to those of Marquis Hastings after all that had passed it would
and Ummir Singh Thappa, or even have been cruel to have left him to
with the more recent cases of Haji be vizier of Lahore, to avenge the
Khan Kakur in AfFghanistan, and plunder of Jummti — the murder of
Morad Ali, in Scinde. Golab Singh, his sons and brothers,
of his own accord, held aloof and


on this question appear to forget that this is not the
first or the tenth time that a chief of one creed has
been placed over a people of another. They forget the
transfer of Khyragurh and the Nepal Terai to Oude, of
Tonk to Ameer Khan ; they are oblivious or unmindful
of the partition treaty of Mysore, or of the offer, so
late as the year 1842, of the Affghan province of Julal-
labad to the Sikhs. These are some of the instances in
proof, that Lord Hardinge acted in this matter, in con-
formity with the practice of some of his ablest prede-
cessors. We are far from presuming that the errors of
one administration palliate those of another, but it will
be acknowledged by all practical men that, provided
honesty and good faith are preserved intact, a wider
latitude must of necessity be admitted in political
measures than would be admissible in domestic matters.
Public men have something more to do than simply to
gratify their feelings. Lord Hardinge needed not to
seek for the best or the most amiable man in private or
in public life ; what he wanted was the best ruler, — the
man who could best secure tranquillity in a hitherto
troubled tract. The chief who would have the ability
and the courage to manage tribes which, in the memory
of man, had never been managed. The task was not
an easy one. Lord Minto and other Grovernor- Generals
gave away many petty principalities, but as in the
instances of Hansi, Kurnaul, &c., they were soon sur-
rendered as uncontrollable.* When all these points are
considered, it will, we doubt not, be conceded that, in
this branch of the arrangement, Lord Hardinge acted
wisely and well.

If then the Punjab could not become English, what

* Few chiefs of India would have among them, except Golab Singh,
refused the sovereignty of the Hill who, circumstanced as it then was,
country, but we know no individual could have managed it. — H. M, L.


should liave become of it ? Some — not many — would
have given it back to Dhulip Singli, or rather to the
Burchas, and thus allowed them another opportunity
to try their arms against us. Strange as it may seem,
we have heard respectable and intelligent men advocate
such a course. Others would have had a Punjab, as
well as a Cis-Sutlej protectorate, — perhaps the wildest
of all schemes. Surely we have by this time had
enough of such a system, to forbid again voluntarily
shackling ourselves with such arrangements. A native
principality is always more or less a source of care, the
more so, indeed, the more that it is interfered with, un-
less managed altogether by our officers. But when we
come to a hundred petty chiefships, each with its owner
possessing full internal authority, we have all the vices,
the absurdities and inconveniences of the Native system
of Government on a large scale, without its advantages
— incapable of resisting foreign aggression or of preserv-
ing domestic peace, and at feud with their surrounding
neighbours, regarding every village boundary. The
paramount Power has all the odium of being the pro-
tector of such petty rulers, and therefore the aider and
abettor of their misrule. It has been our fortune for
the last forty years to have borne with this system on
the western frontier, and it would have been insanity
had we enlarged it. We should have had all the
expenses of defending these chieflings from foreign
powers, from internal commotion, from mutual violence,
and when the day of danger and trial arrived, many
would have acted as the Ludwa Eajah did during the
late campaign.

In a word, Lord Hardinge had not the means for an-
nexation, had he desired it. It was necessary to punish
and weaken the invader without, if possible, destroying
his political vitality. To lessen his power for mischief



by dividing his territory was the only alternative ; nor,
in doing so, would it have been' practicable to have an-
nexed the Hill provinces, adding the upper half of it to
the British dominions. A position so isolated and diffi-
cult of access could only have been held by means of a
chain of strong military posts. The ruinous expense of
such a measure is the most conclusive argument against
it. Would those, again, who clamour against handing
over the Hill territory to Golab Singh have approved of
annexing the Lower Provinces to the British dominions,
thus fastening the more cruel and distasteful rule of the
Sikhs upon the Mountain tribes ? or would those who
urge the danger of the neighbourhood of the Sikhs,
even now that their army is dispersed, have listened
with complacency to a proposition which would have
given them so advantageous a position of annoyance as
the possession of the Mountain ranges which bound the
plains of the Punjab ? It was necessary to provide for
the management of the Hill portion of the Sikh terri-
tory, and now, nearly two years after the event, we deny
that, politically or morally, a better practical arrange-
ment could have been made.

We have perhaps said enough to prove that those on
the spot and best qualified to judge were not of opinion
that we were at the time in a condition to seize and
annex the Punjab, had the Governor- General been
so disposed. It is very easy to decide what should
have been done twenty months before. The Sikhs have
come to terms, and have settled down, because they have
been well treated hy us, and protected from their own
army and chiefs by us ; because scarcely a single jaghir in
the country has been resumed, and because the rights
and even prejudices of all classes have been respected.
It is, however, by no means so certain that, had the
country been occupied, all jaghirs summarily resumed as


has been done elsewhere in India, and held until it
might be the pleasure or convenience of Government to
examine into the tenures — and had our system, even in
its most moderate form, but with its necessary vexations
to a loose wild people, been introduced, it is by no
means so certain that the Sikh population would have
sat down quietly under the yoke. They have lost little
that they held under Bunjit Singh ; they are therefore
patient and submissive, if not contented and happy ;
but had they been reduced to the level of our revenue-
paying population, there cannot be a doubt that ere now
there would have been a strike for freedom.* The Sikhs
perhaps care as little for their Government as do other
natives of India ; but, like others, they care for them-
selves, their jaghirs, their patrimonial wells, gardens and
fields — ^their immunities and their honour. And in all
these respects, the Sikh and Jat population had much
to lose. The Sikh position must not be mistaken.
They are a privileged race; a large proportion have
jaghirs and rent-free lands ; all hold their fields on more
favourable terms than the Mussulmans around them.

A guerilla war, the Sikh horsemen plundering the
plain, Golab Singh acting the part of Abdul Kader in
the Hills, would have given us at least one long year's
warm work. Its expense may be calculated. Then let
any one conversant with such matters estimate the ex-
pense of holding any equal extent of territory in India
— of the North- West Provinces, of Bombay, or Madras.
Let him calculate the cost of the military and civil esta-
blishments, and then consider how much of the single
crore of rupees that comes into the Punjab treasury
would reach the general exchequer of British India.
We fear that for some years at least the deficit would
be considerable. Besides the British garrison of Lahore
* Written before the annexation of the Punjab.

X 2


costing 30 laklis per annum, 25 Infantry regiments,
12,000 Cavalry, and 18 or 20 batteries, are now kept up,
irrespective of numerous Irregulars. For a long period
not a man less could we maintain ; with more than the
usual proportion of Europeans, with batta to the sepoys,
with a hundred et ceteras that always start up after an
arrangement has been closed.''^

These are substantial reasons for the Grovernor-Grene-
ral's moderation, and many others even as cogent might
be found ; but he acted on higher and nobler grounds
than mere expediency. He desired to punish a gross
violation of treaties — he did not desire to destroy an
old and long-faithful ally. No one more than the Go-
vernor- Greneral saw the chances of a break-down in the
arrangement of March, 1846 ; but it is as idle as it is
malicious therefore to blame him for its consequences.
The question rested entirely on the honesty and patriot-
ism of the Sikh cabinet. Were they or were they not
disposed to sacrifice their own selfish desires to the hope
of rescuing their country from internal anarchy and
foreign domination ? Because one good, one able man
was not to be found in a whole people, was that a just
reason for condemning the Governor-Generars acts ?
He at least did his duty, nobly, wisely, and honestly.
Carefully abstaining from such interference as would
weaken the executive, he authorized remonstrance of the
most decided kind to the durbar in behalf of the dis-
banded soldiery : as decidedly he supported the con-
stituted authorities against the assumptions of Dewan
Mulraj of Mooltan ; he forbore on the strong provoca-

* When it is considered that the some idea may be formed of the

pay of the officers of a regiment of expense that would be incurred by

Native Infantry of 800 men exceeds the substitution of British battahons

that of the Native officers and and batteries for the Sikh troops

soldiers, while the Sikh rates of pay now employed in the Punjab. —

are lower than those of our ranks, H. M. L.


tion given at Kangra, and forgave the offence of Cash-
mere — punishing, in the latter case, one individual,
where a very slight stretch of privilege would have
authorised a disseverance of the whole treaty.

We need not here repeat our arguments, but may
satisfy ourselves with congratulating Lord Hardinge
and the British public on the great success of his lord-
ship's Punjab policy. The candid reader will remember
how some of the bravest of the land, how Sir Charles
Napier himself, expressed alarm at the first occupation
of Lahore ; how the cry of Caubul was in every man's
mouth; and disaster was loudly predicated. We have
heard that Sir Charles Napier so fully considered there
was danger in the arrangement, that he volunteered
to take command of the Lahore garrison. To hold the
post of honour, as brave a man was found in Sir John
Littler ; and near 'two years have now passed over with
less of outrage, less of crime in the hitherto blood-
stained Punjab than in our most favoured provinces.
Daily the newspapers have told of improvements or of
contemplated ones, of favours and kindnesses showered
on chiefs, people, or soldiers, so as to give all well-dis-
posed among them reason to approve our rule.

The idle attempt, or rather thought, of a half- crazed
Brahmin, supported by a score of as wretched and
worthless creatures as himself, last February, has been,
for their own purposes, trumpeted into something by
designing Europeans, but silence and contempt is a suf-
ficient answer for their malice. They would desire to
mar, they would rejoice to break, the peace — the calm
that they hate — which they prophesied would never be.

The eflPects of this honest policy of Lord Hardinge
have extended far beyond the limits of the Five Waters.
The princes of Central Asia have looked with wonder
upon such acts of moderation — upon the twice-emanci-


pated Punj ab — on the twice-surrendered Caslimere . Dost
Maliommed Khan has been quieted, the chiefs beyond
his. limits cease to look for the coming English squa-
drons. The princes of India, too, have evidence that
we do not seize all that is fairly within our reach.
Oude, Hyderabad, and Grwalior may still hope for pro-
longed existence.

It would be no unpleasant theme to dilate on the
Cashmere campaign, on the extraordinary fact, never
before witnessed, of half a dozen foreigners taking up
a lately- subdued mutinous army through as difficult a
country as there is in the world, to put the chief, formerly
their commander, now in their minds a rebel, in posses-
sion of the brightest gem of their land. Roman history
tells no such tales — shows no such instantaneous fellow-
ship of the vanquished with the victors.

A still pleasanter tale would be thd: of the voice of a
suppliant people, a unanimous nation, calling on their
conquerors to remain for their protection — calling, as
the Britons of old, to their masters not to abandon
them ; to remain and protect their infant sovereign and
to save them, one and all, from themselves — from
their mutual animosities. The best part of the conti-
nental Press, while giving Lord Hardinge credit for his
moderation, could not credit that Mr. Currie and Colonel
Lawrence had not brought about this happy event —
this combination, in their opinion, so fortunate for both

How it was brought about cannot be better explained
than in Lord Hardinge's own despatches ; and though
our essay has already exceeded the usual limits, we
give nearly in full Nos. 2 and 9 of the Blue Book papers ;
the first of which clearly lays down the principles of the
Govemor-Greneral's policy ; and the second tells how his
agents carried out the preliminary arrangements after


the deposition of Lai Singh. Little comment is required
on either. They speak for themselves ; and are as
honourable to the head as to the heai-t of the writer.

In Despatch No. 2, dated "Simla, September 10,
1846," the Governor-Greneral commences by informing
the secret committee that the political agent had re-
ported that, in conformity with his instructions, he had
repeatedly declared to the durbar that the , British gar-
rison of Lahore would, in fulfilment of the agreement
of 11th March, be withdrawn during the month of
December. As directed, the agent separately informed
each member of the durbar of this determination, in
order that there might be no misunderstanding. With
the exception of Dewan Dina Nath, they unanimously
declared that the Administration could not stand if the
British troops were withdrawn. Six months' respite
was asked, but the agent, instructed of the Governor-
Greneral's strong objections to the subsidiary system,
distinctly refused. We must, however, give his lord-
ship's own words : —

" Tlie avowal of the Vizier and his colleagues, on the 10th of September,
has not been elicited by any suggestions ofiered to him by the officiating
agent. That officer has treated the Vizier uniformly wdth respect, and his
declarations have not originated in any attempt to excite his fears ; but
they appear to be the voluntary impressions of his own judgment, as shown
in former conversations shortly after the officiating agent's arrival, when
he expressed the danger, to which he was daily exposed, of being assas-

"I have no doubt the Vizier and the durbar are convinced of the sincerity
of the British Government's purpose to promote the establishment of a
permanent Hindoo Government in the Punjab, and that the British Go-
vernment has no desire to interfere in their internal affairs.

" The durbar has profited by our advice and mediation in settling their
differences with the Dewan of Mooltan. They know that the political
agent has abstaining from enforcing the article of the treaty for the pay-
ment of the arrears to the disbanded soldiery, in order that the British
authorities might not appear to court popularity at the expense of the
Vizier's Government ; that the greatest pains have been taken, and most
successfully, to maintain a strict discipline amongst our troops ; that the
inhabitants of their great city can, for the first time during many years,
sleep in safety ; that the insolence and rapine of the Khalsa soldier have
been repressed ; and that, upon the whole, a most favourable change has
been effected in the feelings of the Sikh people, and even soldiery, towards
the British authorities, since the occupation of the capital in March last.


" There can be no doubt of the great improvement of our relations with
the people of the Punjab, in this short space of time, which is corroborated
by the satisfaction which has followed the assessment of lands made in
the Julunder and the ceded territories.

_" I notice this state of popular feeling, as far as it can be correctly ascer-
tained, not only because its existence is a satisfactory proof that the occu-
pation has been followed by desirable results, but because this disposition;
on the part of the people, to confide in our justice and lenity, will be an
essential means of carrying on a Government through a British minister,
if such an expedient should be adopted. At any rate you will be enabled
to form a correct judgment of the present state of our relations with the

" in my despatch of the 3rd instant, I stated my impression that no per-
manent advantage to the Maharajah's interests, or to our own, would be
derived by the continued presence, under existing circumstances, of our
troops at Lahore. That opinion remains unaltered.

" I do not think that the British Government would he justified in support-
ing a native Government in the Punjab^ merely because it may conduce to the
safety of a regent, and a m^inister obnoxious to the chiefs and people, and to
whom the British GovernTnent owes no obligations. These are the very indi-
viduals who, for personal interests of their own, excited the Sikh soldiery to
invade the British frontier ; and consideratioiis of humanity to individuals
would be no plea for employing British bayonets in perpetuating the misrule
of a native State, by enabling such a Government to oppress the people.

" Our interference, if it should ever be called in, onust be founded on the
broad principle of preserving the people from anarchy and ruin, and our
own frontier from the inconvenience and insecurity of such a state of things
as that which, it is assumed, will follow lohen the British troops retire.*

" To continue to hold Lahore, without reforming the evils so clearly exist-
ing under the Vizier's Government, would not only, if that Government is
to remain as it is now constituted, be an infraction of the agreement
entered into on the 11th of March, but would, in all probability, be an un-
successful attempt. If the various classes who now justly complain of the
misrule of the Hegent and the Vizier find that a British force, in opposition
to the terms of the treaty, continues to occupy Lahore in support of a bad
Government, the confidence which we have inspired up to the present
time will be changed into mistrust of our intentions ; the Sikh troops re-
maining unpaid would refuse to serve at the distant stations ; and, with a
British garrison at Lahore, the whole of the country beyond the Ravee
would not fail to be a scene of disorder and bloodshed. I, therefore, adhere
to the opinions expressed in my last despatch, that the British garrison
ought not to remain beyond the stipulated period, if a Native Government
contiiuies to administer the affairs of the Punjab.

"I have, since my arrival in India, constantly felt and expressed my
aversion to what is termed the subsidiary system, and, [although it was
probably most useful and politic in the earlier period of British conquest
in India, I have no doubt of its impolicy at the present time, but more
especially on this, the most vulnerable, frontier of our empire.

" The period of the occupation of Lahore was expressly limited to the end
of this year, for the purposes specified in the agreement of the 11th of
March, namely, that the Sikh army having been disbanded by the Vlth
article of the treaty, a British force should be left to protect the person of
the Maharajah and the inhabitants of the city, during the re-organization of
the Sikh army. By the XVth article of the treaty it was stipulated that

* The Italics are the Essayist's.


the British Government would not exercise any interference in the internal
affairs of the Lahore State.

" At that time, the entreaties of the Eegent for our assistance appeared to
me not only reasonable, but as imposing upon me a moral duty, exacting,
as I was as that very time, from the Lahore Government, the disbandment
of their mutinous army. It is true this assistance, and the whole measure
of occupation, was no part of the original policy in framing the treaty, for
you are aware that the application for our troops was made after the treaty
had been signed. But it was evident I had no alternative, if I felt con-
fident, as I then did, that the British garrison would be able to eiFect its
declared objects without compromising the safety of the troops. I, there-
fore, did not hesitate to afford the aid solicited, although I did so with

"On every occasion, the Lahore Government has been assured that the
British Government deprecates interference in their affairs : they have
been informed that our troops were ready to retire at any moment, if the
re-organization of the Sikh army, and the improved state of the country,
would admit of their being withdrawn.

" It may be further observed, that the occupation of Lahore could not be
considered in the light of a subsidiary arrangement, because the instruc-
tions given to the General officer and to the Political Agent were, that the
garrison was placed there to preserve the peace of the town, but was not
to be employed in any expedition, even between the Ravee and the Sutlej.
" The force was expressly given as a loan of troops for a peculiar emer-
gency, and to aid the Lahore Government in carrying out an essential article
of the treaty, which required the disbandment of their army. No payment
was demanded, except for certain extra allowances granted to the native
troops, whilst serving beyond the Sutlej.

"^ therefore^ the proposals of the Regent and the durbar are merely confined
to a further loan of British troops for six months, on the plea that a Hindoo
Government cannot he carried on unless supported by British bayonets, I am.
of opinion that the application must be refused.

" There has been ample time for the re-organiz,ation of the Sikh army, and
by proper management the durbar could have fulfilled the limited objects
for which the British force was left at Lahore. The means of effecting
these objects have been invariably neglected, in opposition to the friendly
admonitions of the British Government. I have not failed to exhort the
Vizier to pay the troops with regularity, as the only mode by which the
Government and the army can be on good terms, and without which no
efficient service, or correct discipline, can be expected. Two regiments

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 25 of 39)