Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

Essays, military and political, written in India online

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have been recently driven into mutiny for want of pay — such a course
being their only means of obtaining their just dues, — whilst estates of
large value have been given to the brother of the Maharanee, at well as to
the relations of the Vizier. It is surprising that, after the experience of
the last five years, of a mutinous army controlling its own Government at
Lahore, the durbar cannot understand, or will not practise, so simple a
system to ensure obedience.

" It is not necessary that I should recapitulate the acts of impolicy and
injustice which have marked the conduct of the durbar during the last
five months. Having a right to interfere, by the terms of the treaty,
in matters relating to the payment of the disbanded soldiery, I have fre-
quently urged the durbar to do their duty ; and this advice, given with
moderation, had led the Sikh Government to make the confession of its
own weakness, and to implore the Governor-General to prolong the period
of occupation.

"It is impossible to place any confidence in the professions of the Maha-


ranee or the Vizier, that the advice of a British agent would be followed, if
the garrison were to be permitted to remain : the British Government
would, in such case, be a party to the oppression of all classes of the
people. Again, if the troops are withdrawn, we are warned that the
country will be plunged into a state of anarchy, and the destruction of all
government will ensue. Neither of these results would be consistent with
the humanity, or the sincerity, of our policy, and they would be equally
opposed to our best interests.

" The other course — which it may be open to the British Government to
take, and which has constantly occupied my attention since the 3rd of
September — would be, to carry on the government at Lahore in the name
of the Maharajah during his minority (a period of about eight years), or
for a more limited time, placing a British minister at the head of the Go-
vernment, assisted by a Native Council, composed of the ablest and most
influential chiefs.

" This course, however, could not be adopted, even if the offer to sur-
render the Regency were to be made by the Maharanee, unless Her High-
ness' solicitations were cordially and publicly assented to by the great
majority of the chiefs.

" If, therefore, the chiefs should ^lot join the Regent and the durbar in
calling upon the British Government to act as the guardian of the young
prince during his minority, and to conduct the Administration, no attempt
would be made to carry such a measure into execution. I should, in that
case, scrupulously adhere to the terms of the agreement. Those terms
could not be suspended, even temporarily, without some such public act as
that of assembling all the chiefs who have an interest in the State, through
the lands they hold from the Maharajah ; and in any such proceeding,
the proposal must originate with the Lahore, and not with the British

"The marked difference between the system of having a British minister
residing at Lahore, and'conducting the government through native agency,
and that which now prevails of a Native Government administering the
affairs of the State, without any interference, foreign or domestic, excepting
from the Regent, would amount to this — that, in the one case, our troops
are made the instrument for supporting misrule, and giving countenance
and strength to oppression ; in the other, by British interposition, justice
and moderation are secured by an Administration conducted by native
executive agency, in accordance with the customs and feelings, and even
prejudices, of the people. An efficient Administration, working satis-
factorily, being fairly established, the British interposition might be with-
drawn ; or, if necessary, it might continue till the coming of age of the
Maharajah, when, as may be hoped, his country would be made over to
him in a much-improved and prosperous condition.

" The principal means of ensuring a successful government would consist
in the strict administration of justice between the Government and the
people, in the regular payment of the troops, and the guarantee to the
chiefs, of the unmolested enjoyment of their estates, which should only be
liable to forfeiture on a strong case of misconduct clearly proved.

" The native officers of the army would remain, as at present, generals
and colonels at the head of their troops ; and innovations, unless required
for important purposes of government, would not be introduced.

" Such a system of British rule might not answer as a permanent one,
but it might be adopted, if the durbar and chiefs are convinced that the
Government, without such an alternative, would fall to pieces on the
retirement of the British garrison.

" If, therefore, the proposal of the Regent and durbar should lead to an


offer to carry on the Lahore government by a British Minister, during the
minority of the Maharajah, and the proposal should be confirmed by the
influental chiefs, publicly convoked for the deliberation of such a mea-
sure, I should be disposed to give to the experiment a favourable con-

>!j ^- H< -'.< ',< ♦

" If no such proposal leading to modifications of the treaty should be
made, it is my intention to withdraw the British force from Lahore the
latter end of December, in accordance with the agreement. I shall, in this
case, have afforded the Lahore durbar every facility in my power to avert
the misfortune which the Vizier and his colleagues anticipate on the re-
tirement of the troops ; and you may be assured that, in the transactions
now pending, the conduct of the British Government shall be strictly re-
gulated by principles of justice and good faith.

" With regard to the apprehended failure of the Vizier to establish a Sikh
Government, I am satisfied it will not have been caused by any difficulties
which might not have been obviated by a firmer minister. At the same time,
it must be admitted, that he has been placed in a position of great dif-
ficulty, which might have baflled the skill of an abler and better man. It
is due, however, to the Rajah, and must be admitted, that he has on all
occasions cheerfully assented to every proposal for the comfort and accom-
modation of the British troops.

" If the hope, which I have expressed since last March, that a permanent
Sikh Government might be formed, should be disappointed, the result will
not prove that the measure could have been dispensed with at the time it
was adopted.

" The force was left expressly for the purpose of protecting the inhabitants
of a large city from spoliation by a disbanded army. The occupation has
fulfilled that object, and has given to the Sikh Government the time to
re-organize their army ; it has given to the Lahore Government the oppor-
tunity of performing its duty to the State : and if, from causes beyond the
control of the Governor-General, the attempt to establish a Sikh Govern-
ment should fail, that result can in no respect reflect unfavourably on the
policy of the attempt. It has not impaired the British character ; on the
contrary, it has caused it to be respected, not only by force of arms, but by
the removal of national prejudices. At the time I consented to the occu-
pation, the question then raised by the opponents of the measure was, not
whether a Sikh Government would succeed or fail, but whether the British
garrison could maintain its position in Lahore ]

" The risk of occupying the capital, in my judgment, was not commen-
surate with the moral obligations imposed upon me, and the political ad-
vantages which have followed that act ; and, at this moment, it will not be
forgotten by reflecting men, that a gi*eat military object has been obtained,
of giving to this admirable Indian army a salutary lesson, that, under the
firm management of an able commander, there are no difficulties in occu-
pying a large town, the capital of a foreign nation, which cannot by good
discipline be overcome.

" I, therefore, never can regret a measure which, up to this hour, has
secured the capital of a neighbouring State from ruin, and has maintained
unimpaired the reputation of the British power throughout our Eastern

The above masterly document tells how honestly the
Governor-General endeavoured to prop up the State
that had been struck down by the hands of its own


children : it does more — it emphatically lays down the
somewhat novel, though happily- growing, doctrine that
Eritish protection ,when accorded, is not merely a shield
for the native sovereign and his myrmidons, but that
it covers the people also — that the country of an ally
may be defended, but may not be harried, by British

The other despatch with which we enrich our pages
states that the culprit Vizier of Lahore was tried in open
court in the presence of sixty-five of his Peers ; not hy
them, because they loere his enemies ; but by five British
officers, every individual of whom was more or less his
friend and well-wisher. It then tells of the terms on
which Lord Hardinge consented to carry on the Admi-
nistration of Lahore for eight years. Even Lai Singh,
though anxious for a Eesident and a Contingent on
the old system, preferred this scheme to being left to
the mercies of the Sikhs and the fate of his prede-
cessors. But without further preface we offer the ex-
tract nearly in full as published in the Blue Book : —

No. 9.

" The Governor-General to the Secret Committee.

" Camp, Bhyrowal Ghat,
(Extract.) ''December 21, 1846. (No. 59.)

" In my last despatch, of the 5th instant, I informed you of the arrange-
ments which had been made at Lahore, for conducting the inquiry into
the allegations of Sheik Imamoddeen, relative to his proceedings in Cash-

" The collection of papers which accompanies this despatch will bring
before you all the circumstances that have since occurred, and will show,
that the course contemplated by me, in my communication to you of the
19th of September, in the event of the Lahore Government desiring the
continuance of the British troops, has been acted upon.

" I have to request your attention to Mr. Currie's letter of the 5th of
December, forwarding the minutes of evidence and abstract of the pro-
ceedings taken in the investigation of the Cashmere insurrection.

" You will observe that the inquiry was conducted in the most open and
public manner. All the leading chiefs of the most influential families,
sixty-five in number^ attended to witness the proceedings^


The Grovernor-Greneral then enters into some details
of the trial of Eajah Lai Singh ; acknowledges the ser-
vices of Mr. Currie and his colleagues, and thus pro-
ceeds : —

" In the subsequent transactions to which I am now about to draw your
attention, and which refer to the terms on which alone I could consent to
the continued occupation of Lahore by a British garrison, you will find
that all the anticipations of my confidence in this valuable officer's ability
have been realized.

" In the same letter (of the 7th of December) in which I confirmed Mr.
Currie's proceedings, I instructed him to address the Maharajah, express-
ing the deep interest I took in His Highness's welfare, and stating that, as
the time had nearly arrived when the British troops would, in observance
of the agreement of the 11th of March, withdraw from Lahore, I was
anxious, after the Vizier's deposition, that the Government should be so
reconstructed as to afford the best prospect of preserving the Raj ; that I
was anxious the British Government should remain on terms of peace and
amity with the Government of Lahore ; but that I was determined, after
the experience of the last nine months, and the recent misconduct of the
Vizier, not to leave a British force in the city, beyond the stipulated period,
for the sake of supporting a Native Government which can give no assur-
ance of its power to govern justly, as regards its people, and no guarantee
for the performance of its obhgations to its neighbours.

" I stated, that it was the duty of His Highness's Government and the
Chiefs, to decide upon the course which they might deem to be most
expedient ; but that in these arrangements I could exercise no interference,
further than in giving to His Highness's Government the aid of my advice
and good offices in promoting the interests of the State.

" These sentiments were conveyed to His Highness in Mr. Currie's letter
of the 9th of December, and the answer is contained in a recapitulation of
each paragraph by the durbar, concluding with the request that I would
leave two regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and a field-bat-
tery, at Lahore, with Lieutenant- Colonel Lawrence as the Eesident, for
some months longer.

"Mr. Currie, in his reply to this letter of the Maharajah's, informed His
Highness, that the application for the continuance of a British force at
Lahore involved a departure from the conditions of the articles of agree-
ment concluded on the 11th of March, and stated that it would, therefore,
be advisable that the members of the durbar and the principal sirdars
should assemble, in order that Mr. Currie might declare, in their presence,
the only terms on which the Governor-General would consent to a modifi-
cation of the arrangements, and to the continuance of a British force at
Lahore, after the expiration of the stipulated period.

"The paper containing these conditions was carefully translated into
Persian and Hindoostanee, and delivered by Mr. Currie to the chiefs, when
they met on the 15th of December. For the purpose of avoiding all mis-
understanding, the different articles were explained — the sirdars retired for
consultation, and, after some discussion relating to the amount of the con-
tribution for the expense of the British garrison, the terms were agreed to.

*• In order to afford full time for further deliberation, it was resolved that
the sirdars and chiefs should reassemble on the following day, when certain
individuals should be selected by themselves to draw up articles of agree-


ment, in conjunction with Mr. Currie and Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence.
The chiefs accordingly reassembled at Mr. Currie's durbar tent, at 3 o'clock
of the 16th instant. Each article was discussed separately : the contribu-
tion was fixed at twenty-two lakhs ; and every sirdar present signed and
scaled the paper. All the chiefs, in number fifty-two, on the conclusion of
the meeting expressed their satisfaction that the Maharajah would be under
the protection of the British Government during his minority, which will
continue until the 4th of September, 1854.

" At these meetings the chiefs unanimously concurred that a State ne-
cessity existed for excluding the Maharanee from exercising any authority
in the administration of affairs, and the durbar and the chiefs have come
to the decision that Her Highness shall receive an annuity of one lakh and
a half.

"You will observe, that a British officer appointed by the Governor-
General in Council, with an efficient establishment of subordinates, will
remain at Lahore, to direct and control every department of the State.

"The feelings of the people, and the just rights of all classes, will be

" xi Council of Regency J composed of leading chiefs, will act under the
control and guidance of the British Resident.

" The Council will consist of eight sirdars, and the members will not he
changed without the consent of the British Resident, acting under the orders
of the Governor-General.

" The power of the Resident extends over every department, and to any

" A military ^ force may he placed in such forts and posts, and of such
strength, within the Lahore territories, as the Governor-General may de-

" These terms give the British Resident unlimited authority in all matters
of internal administration, and external relations, during the Maharajah's

" The concession of these powers will enable the British Government to
secure the peace and good order of the country — the authority will he exer-
cised for the most beneficial purposes : these terms are more extensive than
have been heretofore required, when Native States have received the protection
of a British contingent force. My motive in requiring such large powers has
arisen from the experience of its necessity during the last nine months; and
my^ reluctance on general principles to revert to the subsidiary system of
using British troops to support a Native Government, while we have no
'means of correcting the abuses of the civil administration of a country
ostensibly under British protection. A British force, acting as the instrument
of a corrupt Native agency, is a system leading to mischievous consequences,
and which ought, when it is possible, to be avoided.

fv " The occupation of Lahore will afford the means of coimteracting much
of the disorder and anarchy which have disturbed the Punjab for the last
five years, chiefly owing to a numerous Sikh army, kept up in the vicinity
of the capital, in numbers greatly disproportioned to the revenues of the
countiy, and by whose republican system of discipline, the soldiery had
usurped all the functions of the State.

" The control which a British garrison can exercise in enforcing order
amongst the disbanded soldiery, will, in conjunction with a British system
of administration, protect all classes of the community. The immediate
effect of depriving a numerous body of military adventurers of employment
(there being still many to be disbanded to reduce the numbers to the limits
of the Treaty of Lahore), may be troublesome, and a source of some


uneasiness.* No policy can at once get rid of an evil which has been the
growth of years. But the operation of a system of order introduced into
the Punjab, will subdue the habits of this class, as has been the case in
our own provinces since the Pindarree war, and, by gradually mitigating the
turbulent spirit of the Sikh population, encourage the people to cultivate
the arts of industry and peace.

" A strict adherence to the letter of the treaty, by the withdrawal of the
British garrison at this moment from the Punjab, after the avowals made
by the durbar, that the Government could not stand, would probably have
led to measures of aggrandizement, and the extension of our territory,
after scenes of confusion and anarchy. This danger was felt by the most
able of the sirdars, and it reconciled them to the sacrifices which the
terms inevitably required for the interest of the Lahore State. By the
course which has been adopted, the modification of the terms of the
agreement of last March, has been made with the free consent of the
sirdars, publicly assembled, who were made fully aware of the extent of
the power which, by the new articles, was to be transferred to the British

" The confidence which the Sikh chiefs have reposed in British good faith
must tend, by the unanimity of their decision, which partakes, as far as it
is possible in an eastern country, of a national sanction, to promote the
success of this measure.

" I have deemed it expedient, that the ratification of the new terms of
agreement entered into for protecting the Maharajah during his minority
should be made as public as possible. It has, therefore, been determined,
in communication with the sirdars, that His Highness shall come to my
camp on this side of the Beas on the 26th instant ; and I propose after-
wards, when the agreement will be formally ratified, to pay His Highness
a friendly return visit at Lahore."

* In some quarters we understand January, 1844, was still owed in

that Lord Hardinge is reproached June, 1847 (3^ years after the treaty)

with allowing the arrears of a thou- the monstrous sum of 25 lakhs of

sand or two of Sikh sowars to re- rupees. If 10 lakhs of the marriage

main unpaid. The following facts gift of the Bazee Bhaie have been

therefore will be instructive: — The appropriated to the payment of those

Sikh army has during the last twelve arrears, as was suggested, we under-

months been reduced not less than stand, by the local agents, there will

20,000men; and the finances thereby still remain, four years after the

relieved by 30 lakhs. Not only have treaty, a larger arrear to the Gwalior

all these men been paid their arrears, cavaliy, than is owed to the whole

but the army still kept up, which Sikh army nine months after the

was found in arrears of from nine to treaty that transferred it with the

sixteen months, is now paid nearly as rest of the Lahore State to British

regularly as our own. The infantry care. We attribute no sort of blame

are two months in an-ears, and the in this matter to Col. Sleeman, or

majority of the cavalry only five ; Sir K. Shakspeare. The treaty of

and their not being paid up as well Gwalior did not give them the au-

as the infantry is for the excellent thority to act ; that of Lahore did

reason that there is no money. When give Col. Lawrence. We only add

these facts have been digested, we one more example to the many on

would beg attention to the contrast record of the evils of the old subsi-

afforded by the following. The diary system, and the advantages of

Gwalior cavalry, remodelled and the new. — H. M. L.
taken under our protection in


Compliments to Mr. Currie and Colonel Lawrence
here follow, and the despatch thus concludes : —

" In eveiy part of India the most perfect tranquillity prevails.

" No efforts on my part will be omitted to preserve this desirable state
of things. My views and measures have been uniformly directed to main-
tain a system of peace, by consolidating the British power in India, and
not by objects of aggrandizement, and I trust that the arrangements now
about to be ratified will tend to this effect, and that the course which I
have adopted will be found by you to be consistent with true policy, and
conducive to the interests of British India."

The treaty of March, 1846, was no sooner signed
than arrangements were made for the management of
the valuable acquisitions obtained. Mr. John Lawrence,
one of the most experienced officers in the civil service,
was sent for from Delhi, in which neighbourhood he
had served for many years with great credit. To his
care, as Commissioner, was entrusted the JuUunder,
with half a dozen assistants, while Major Mackeson,
with a similar staff, superintended the Cis-Sutlej States,
both acting under the agent of the Grovernor-Greneral.
The arrangement answered so well, that within the
year almost all the complicated questions caused by the
war were decided, and the Sikh chiefs put on a new and
improved footing. Major Broadfoot had truly observed
that these chiefs had long ceased to be the protected,
and might latterly rather be called the restrained. They
had ceased to fear the Punjab ruler : they now only
feared our preventions from plunder. The police powers
of many of these were withdrawn : the customs of all
commuted or abolished. The disorderly and untrust-
worthy contingents on both sides the river were com-
muted for a money payment sufficient to pay several
good regiments ; the jaghirs of all examined, and pos-
session allowed until so done ; and, above all, a very
light summary assessment was completed, within three
months, in the JuUunder, and, during the year, else-
where. The Grovernor-General's only instructions to the


Commissioners being to be moderate in their demands,
and not to distress the people. Thus has order been
brought out of anarchy, and a mosfc fruitful and lovely
district, already yielding fifty lakhs, been added to
British India.

Simultaneously with these arrangements, retrench-
ments in a small way were commenced, but it was not
until the treaty of December, 1846, was signed, that
the Governor -Greneral felt justified in reducing the mili- '
tary force. Now, however, that affairs were put on a
more promising footing, the strength of every infantry
corps in the service was reduced, as also of all the irre-
gulars ; the police battalions were one by one disbanded ;
and, without any apparent effort, more than 30,000 men
were reduced from the Bengal army alone. There is no
denying that while this bold measure saved much to

Online LibraryHenry Montgomery LawrenceEssays, military and political, written in India → online text (page 26 of 39)