Price Collier.

The West in the East from an American point of view online

. (page 7 of 29)
Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 7 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ligions, with Akbar as its prophet, or the head of
the church. He was accused finally of even per-
mitting worship of himself, a crime, be it said,
of which great politicals are accused to this day,
and we all know with how little reason! Akbar
died in 1605, and is buried in the splendid tomb
at Sikandra, some five miles from Agra canton-

It was during his reign that three Englishmen
arrived with a letter from their Queen, Eliza-
beth. They were John Newbery, Ralph Fitch,
and William Leedes. John Newbery was lost
somewhere on his travels, Leedes, who was a
jeweller, remained as court stone-cutter, and
Fitch returned to England. It was through his
reports of the opportunities awaiting the trader
in India, that the first commercial ventures from
England were started. He it was in short who
gave the signal for the formation of commercial
companies to exploit India, with the result that
India is governed by England to-day.

Akbar was succeeded by his son Jahangir,
who reigned from 1605 till 1627. He carried on
a series of wars in southern India, and lost the
province of Kandahar to the Persians. Jahan-
gir turned from his father's new-fangled faith.


and personally conducted ritual, to the orthodox
observances of Islam. He must have been a wag
of terrifying prowess, since it is told of him that
after a night of drunken revelry with some of
his courtiers, one of them reminded him the next
morning of what had happened. Jahangir asked
the man who his companions had been in such
a disgraceful debauch, then called them before
him and had them beaten so severely that one
of them died. He himself died in the midst of
a rebellion against him, led by his son Shah
Jahan. Jahangir built the tomb of Anar Kali
at Lahore, and the tomb of Itimad-ud-daulah
at Agra, w^ho was a Persian named Ghiyas Beg,
Jahangir's father-in-law, and the grandfather of
the wife of Shah Jahan, whose tomb is the most
wonderful in the world. The mightiest factor
for good in Jahangir's life was his wife, Nun
Jahan. He loved her twenty years and then
killed her husband to get her, and, what is per-
haps more astonishing still, he never regretted
it. In 1603 Sir Thomas Roe, the first English
ambassador to India, presented his letters to Ja-
hangir from James I.

Shah Jahan was emperor of Delhi from 1628 till
1658, just about the time the Pilgrims and Puri-
tans were making their first settlements in Ameri-
ca. WTiile they were building schools and


churches of logs hewn into shape with the axe; at
about the time indeed when the oldest meeting-
house in America, which has been used consecu-
tively for public worship, was building, now
known as the "Old Meeting-House," in Hingham,
Massachusetts, this Indian Emperor was plan-
ning the building of the most magnificent capital
in the world. No courtier in Delhi, or in Agra,
and no citizen of Hingham at that time, imagined
that the simple slate grave-stones in the cemetery
at Hingham would mark the beginnings of a
more lasting state than the jewelled tombs of
Agra and Delhi.

Toward the end of his father's reign, Shah
Jahan was a refugee and a rebel, conspiring
against his own father. After coming to the
throne he murdered his brother, Shahriyar, and
all the other members of the house of Akbar
who might become rivals to the throne. Dur-
ing the whole of his reign his armies were at
work defending, attacking, and losing or winning
territory. He is said to have been just to his
people, blameless in his habits, a good financier,
and by far the greatest man of his day in all the
East. He built the Great Mosque or Jama
Masjid, at Delhi, the Palace — what is now the
Fort — also at Delhi, which contains the Court
of Private Audience or Diwan-i-Khas, and the


Pearl Mosque or Moti-Masjid. The famous
Peacock Throne in his Audience Hall in the
Fort at Delhi, with its tail shimmering in the
natural colors of rubies, diamonds, sapphires,
and emeralds, was valued by the jeweller Tav-
ernier at thirty-five million dollars. If he had
done nothing else, his name would have been re-
membered in India, but he did more than this.
He stamped the whole world of architectural
beauty with his private seal when he built the
Taj Mahal

Elsewhere one may read of the vivid incon-
gruities of India, but what of this : I have just been
the guest, at a splendid camp, where some seven
hundred people were entertained for four days
by one of the most enlightened native rulers in
India. This ruler is a woman. Her Highness
Sultan Begum of Bhopal. Here in India one
finds a woman ruling with tact, with force, and
with success. Here in India I have seen women
actually catching in their hands the dung as it
fell from the cattle, pressing it into cakes, car-
rying it off on their heads, to dry it at home
for fuel. Here in India too is the most marvel-
lous memorial to a woman ever built by hu-
man hands. Woman at her highest, woman at
her lowest, woman immortalized, and all here in


The Taj Mahal is the exquisite mausoleum
built by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favorite
wife Arjmand Banu, called Mumtaz-i-Mahal, or
*' Light of the Palace." It stands on a platform
of marble, twenty feet high, and three hundred
feet square. The tomb itself measures one hun-
dred and eighty-six feet on each side, and the
dome over the centre is two hundred feet high.
It is one of the most wonderful things I have seen
in the world. I saw it for the first time just as
the sun was setting, leaving it with the purple
curtain of the horizon all about it. It looked as
though a Titan had taken a huge piece of ivory
satin, embroidered it, encrusted it with jewels,
stiffened it into shape, and set it in the sky. It
seemed quite as though it might fade, or float,
away. The first clod of dry earth that falls upon
a coffin must seem like the weight of a planet to
some one, but here are tons of marble and not an
ounce of weight. If you could blow bubbles of
mother-of-pearl they would not shine more softly,
or float more lightly, than the minarets and domes
of this tomb. Here is a tomb that might float
away with the spirit of the body to which it gives
a home. It looks as though you might hold it
up on your outstretched hand.

It is the only building in the world that makes
one wish to pat it, smooth it, touch it, as though


it had the soft skin of a woman. It is not
something you see; you feel it, hear it, taste it.
I put my hand against the marble. It was
warm, it seemed to have texture and quality, as
though it were the covering of something alive.
I have never seen any other building that re-
sembled it, or reminded me of it — and only
one woman.

Inside, underneath the great marble dome, are
the two marble tombs of Shah Jahan and his
wife, and there the marble is like lace, so cun-
ningly is it carved, with flowers inlaid in color,
the colors being made of precious stones, agate,
cornelian, lapis-lazuli. One can readily believe
that it cost ten millions of dollars and twenty-two
years of labor to make this casket.

No other woman in the world has been praised
in marble and jewels as is this woman, and no
other woman ever can be. There have been
greater men, and lovelier women, doubtless, and
countless men who have loved as much, and
many, no doubt, who have loved more, but every
man who has loved a woman must envy this man
for having done what he would wish to, but may
not do !

Around the two tombs is a screen of marble.
You can look through it, as you can look through
a cobweb. There are scrolls and flowers, and


the petals and leaves of each flower are of col-
ored precious stones, inlaid in the marble.

We Occidentals use urns and crosses and
broken columns. This man put a diadem of
brilliants on the brow of memory, as if to say:
This is not something buried or broken or to
be forgotten, but rather something complete and
never to be forgotten, and it never will be! He
was right. When a man has really loved once,
he has been eaten up by it. After that it does
not matter how often, or how soon, he dies.
"Home is not a hearth but a woman."

Poor Shah Jahan, as he had rebelled against
his father Jahangir, so he in his turn suffered
from the intrigues and rebellion of his family. He
fell ill. His son Aurangzeb murdered his broth-
ers, and proclaimed himself emperor in 1658. He
imprisoned his father and kept him in close con-
finement in the Fort at Agra till he died in 1666.

I am sitting now, as I write, where Shah Jahan
used to sit as a prisoner in his own palace. I can
see the Taj Mahal, as he used to see it two hun-
dred and fifty years ago.

As he looked across at those minarets and at
that dome, he probably thought his life a fail-
ure, and yet every man who sits where I am sit-
ting must envy him such a success. All that the
world of his generation had to give had been


poured into a cup and lifted to his lips every day,
and he had probably envied the man who was
genuinely thirsty, that he might enjoy it. Now he
is deserted and alone, and his cup, full of success
and adulation, is in the hands of his rebelHous
son, who carries the key of his prison-house in his
girdle, and mocks him. All he has left is his
daily vision of the tomb of his wife, the Taj Ma-
hal. One can pay this building no higher hom-
age than to say that one envies Shah Jahan even

There are other buildings in Agra. There is
the great Fort, with its circuit of nearly a mile, and
its huge sandstone walls nearly seventy feet high,
built by Akbar. Within these walls is a mosque,
also built by Shah Jahan, called the Pearl
Mosque, the Hall of Public Audience, the Gem
Mosque, used by the ladies of the court, the Hall
of Private iVudience, and the miniature mosque,
called the Mina Masjid, in which the Emperor
made his devotions, and the splendid sandstone
palace, and so on.

He must have revelled in building, and for-
tunately there were eyes that dreamed beauty,
and sure hands to make buildings of the dreams
to do his bidding. No one before, and no one
after, till the British took possession, was more
completely master of India than Shah Jahan.


The Mughal Emperors cuhiiinated in Shah Ja-
han, and their pinnacle is the Taj Mahal.

As long ago as 1398 Timur, or Tamerlane, as
he is better known to us, poured his hordes of
followers through the Afghan passes from Tar-
tary. Shah Jahan's grandfather Akbar, was the
sixth in descent from this barbarian warrior.
One wonders who and what our first ances-
tors could have been, who drifted over the world
from Central Asia, and whose descendants built
the Acropolis, the Forum, the cathedrals and
churches of Italy and France, Germany, and
England, and the Taj Mahal in India. At any
rate one is proud to be of that Aryan stock.

The last of this great line of Mughal emper-
ors, wdio really held India together, was Aurang-
zeb, who proclaimed himself emperor while his
father Shah Jahan was still living. He ruled
from 1658 till 1707. His reign began in rebellion
against his father, and ended in the rebellion of
his own sons against him. He devoted practi-
cally his whole forty -nine years as a ruler to the
conquest of southern India, and for the last half
of the time he was in the field himself at the head
of a huge, and what proved to be an unwieldy,

A new power had sprung up in the south,
known as the Maratha Confederacy, and Au-


rangzeb, who had become a bitter and partisan
INIuhammadan, lost the friendly co-operation of
Hindu generals and Hindu viceroys, who had
helped to consolidate the Mughal power under

The religious sect of the Hindus, the Sikhs
in the north, the Marathas in the south, and the
Rajputs in the west, now hemmed in, and grad-
ually dismembered, the great Mughal Empire
in India. As we shall see later, it was from the
Marathas and the Sikhs and not from the INIug-
hals, that the British took control of India. Au-
rangzeb by his stubborn policy put India again
into the hands of bigoted Hinduism and big-
oted Islamism, from which Akbar had wrenched
it clear.

While this great empire was falling to pieces
in the hands of the feeble successors of these six
great emperors, other enemies appeared.

The Persian king, Nadir Shah, held a carni-
val of slaughter and debauchery in 1739, last-
ing nearly two months, in and around Delhi, and
is said to have carried away with him booty, in-
cluding the peacock throne, to the value of one
hundred and fifty millions of dollars.

The Afghans, time and time again, poured
through the now unprotected passes, and burned,
and sacked, and slew. The whole borderland


between northern India and Afghanistan was
swept bare of wealth and of people, and lay bar-
ren for years. It was during this time of an-
archy, and internecine fighting, if fighting be-
tween such diversified inhabitants of the same
country may be described as internecine, that
the British began patching together piece by
piece, what is to-day their Indian Empire. While
the others were quarrelling and fighting over re-
ligious, social, political, and hereditary shadows,
the British bull-dog walked off with the bone.
He w'as not permitted to enjoy it in peace for
years. The last war with the Marathas was not
ended till 1818, and the Sikhs were not con-
quered by the British till 1849.

That eminent and satisfactory historian of the
Indian peoples. Sir William Wilson Hunter,
writes: "Akbar had rendered a great empire
possible in India by conciliating the native Hindu
races. He thus raised up a powerful third party,
consisting of the native military peoples of In-
dia, which enabled him alike to prevent new
Muhammadan invasions from Central Asia, and
to keep in subjection his own Muhammadan
governors of provinces. Under Aurangzeb and
his miserable successors, this wise policy of
conciliation was given up. Accordingly, new
Muhammadan hordes soon sw^ept down from


Afghanistan; the Miihammadan Governors of
Indian provinces set themselves up as indepen-
dent potentates; and the warhke Hindu races,
who had helped Akbar to create the Mughal
Empire, became, under his foolish posterity the
chief agents of its ruin."

When Columbus discovered America, he was
trying to find a sea-passage to India. He car-
ried in his pocket a letter from his sovereign to
the Khan of Tartary!

When Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa,
and discovered the sea route to India in 1498,
he turned the whole current of power and com-
merce. The Arabs had made Bagdad the centre
of trade between the East and the Mediterranean
nations. As early as the year 931 A. D., exam-
inations of candidates for permission to practise
medicine were held at Bagdad, which was
already then a centre not only of commerce,
but of culture. The Crusaders made certain
Italian cities, Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, Venice, rich,
because it was through them that these multi-
tudes poured on their way to the East. They
did the transporting of men and stores and
horses. At the height of their power the Tabula
Amalfitana were the sea laws for the whole iVIedi-
terranean. When Pisa, Amalfi, and finally Genoa
were subjugated by their rivals, Venice became


the world's great sea-power, and also the centre
of the world's commerce and the world's art and
culture. Her ships covered the sea, and she
numbered her sailors in tens of thousands. Find-
ing that the through journey was too long, the
Venetians arranged with the northern towns of
Europe to make one town, lying between Italy
and the traders of the north, a centre or store-
house, where exchange of goods might be con-
veniently effected. They agreed to make Bruges
that centre, and thereafter Bruges in the north,
and Venice in the south, handled the trade of
the world.

Vasco da Gama's discovery came like a magic
wand to change all this. It was cheaper to trade
by way of the newly discovered sea-route, and
Lisbon, lying half-way between East and West,
became the great market of the world, and by
far the most potent Western factor in the East.
There followed the tremendous war between
Spain, which had conquered Portugal in 1580,
and those great trading towns of the north then
centred in Holland. For nearly a hundred
years the war raged between Spain and Holland,
and at the end of it, or the beginning of the sev-
enteenth century, the Dutch were masters of
the world. New York was Dutch, Brazil was
Dutch, India was Dutch, and the Cape of Good


Hope was Dutch, and of course the Eastern trade
was Dutch. The Thirty Years' War and the
civil war in England only made them stronger,
till one wonders why the Dutch rather than the
British did not become a great empire.

But a "fat soil," a "wealthy community,"
bred a race of what would now be 9alled "Lit-
tle Hollanders." No one, they thought, would
dare attack the world-power which had swept
Spain off the seas. No doubt there were poli-
ticians to tell the people that the huge navy was
an incubus, that more money was wanted for the
poor, where so many were rich, and that the era
of peace had come at last. Certainly that psalm-
singing, devout Protestant across the North Sea,
Cromwell, who was training an army and build-
ing a navy, merely of course to protect the com-
merce of England, was the last man to be sus-
pected of designs upon Holland. Was he not
continually saying that his army and his navy
were merely brought into existence to preserve
peace! When all was ready, and the Dutch pol-
iticians had succeeded in rendering Holland fully
unprepared for war, this man of prayer, and
psalm, and Bible, struck his blow in 1652, and
Holland lost her empire, lost her mastery of the
sea, lost her commercial supremacy, and all be-
cause she was fat and rich.


Cromwell's navigation laws were what are now
known, and reviled, as high tariff laws. By
Cromwell's Navigation Act all goods of every
description, wherever grown or manufactured,
were to be imported into Great Britain only in
ships belonging to British subjects, of which the
master and a majority of the crew were British
born ; and all goods produced in Europe must be
brought into Great Britain either in British bot-
toms, or in ships belonging to that country in
which they were actually produced. The Dutch
were exporters of cheese, but had been carrying
the trade of the world in their ships!

It is easy to see against whom the new Navi-
gation Act was aimed. There followed an enor-
mous expansion in British foreign trade, which
has never ceased to grow from that day until
within the last few years.

When a man arms himself with the Bible, and
clothes himself in the shining armor of scripture,
look out for him! One seems to be able to
strike more suddenly, more unexpectedly, and
more fiercely with that weapon than with any

England's greatness began and grew under
Protection. France on land, and England on
the sea, destroyed utterly the Dutch commercial
supremacy, and then for a century England and


France fought for the mastery of the sea, for the
trade of the East, for commercial supremacy.
Finally at Waterloo the mastery was gained, and
the British Empire has had plain sailing from
that day till within the last few years.

There are few more exciting stories than this
history of the fight for the commercial empire of
the world, which ended in England's becoming
the trader, the manufacturer, the ship-builder, the
ship-owner, the banker, and the policeman of
the world. It is a tempting task to fit in illus-
trations, to make comparisons, to point to the
beginnings of similar weaknesses, and parallel
examples of rottenness here and there in the
social and political fabric of other great imperial
powers, which seem to unfold prophecies for the
future, but I leave that to the Englishman. I am
not his Cassandra. This whisp of the history of
commerce is given here merely to introduce "The
Governor and Company of Merchants of London
trading to the East Indies," better known as the
English East India Company, or the "Jolm
Company," who started business with one hun-
dred and twenty-five shareholders, and a capital
of three hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
The man with that amount of capital is not
considered a rich man in London or New York
to-day. Nonetheless it was this trading com-


pany who won, and held, and turned over to the
British crown, the empire of India.

The Portuguese and the Dutch fought them
in the beginning, the French fought them later,
and one power after another succumbed to them
in India itself. By the middle of the eighteenth
century all European opposition was at an end,
and by the middle of the nineteenth century
India itself was practically in their hands and
under their control. To be quite accurate, 1783,
and the peace of Versailles, marks the date when
the maritime powers of Europe withdrew from all
serious rivalry in conquest or commerce with
England in India. After that date the contest
is w^holly between England and the native rulers
for ascendancy in India.

The first territorial possession of the East In-
dia Company was Madras, and the site upon
which Fort St. George was built was bought
from the Raja of Chandragiri in 1639. In 1661
Bombay was turned over to the English crown
by the Portuguese, as part of the dowry of Cath-
erine of Braganza, the queen of Charles II., and
in 1668 King Charles sold his rights to the East
India Company for an annual payment of fifty
dollars! In 1700, the company bought from a
son of the Emperor Aurangzeb certain villages,
which were united to form what is now Calcutta.


Two men whose names are seldom mentioned,
and rarely seen, gained for English commerce al-
most the first legal foothold in India. The ship
surgeon, Gabriel Broughton, who cured Shah
Jahan's daughter when she was badly burned;
when asked to name his fee, requested that the
East India Company might be allowed to trade
in Bengal free of all duty.

The staff surgeon, William Hamilton, who
when the court physicians had failed, cured the
Emperor Faroksliir of a tumor in the back in
1715, asked for the thirty odd villages surround-
ing the Company's factory near Calcutta, and
for some villages near Madras, which gave the
English control of both these ports. British
commerce leaves Hamilton's tombstone neg-
lected in Calcutta, and nobody even knows
where Broughton's bones lie!

The transfer of the supreme power of India
from the grasp of the Great Mughal to this little
company of English traders, makes a story as
brilliant and adventurous as any story in history.

The rise of British power in India virtually be-
gins in 1745, and the two great names are those
of Clive and Hastings. One died a suicide, and
the other after an impeachment lasting seven
years was completely impoverished. There are
men in India to-dav, and fine fellows thev are.


risking their health and their Hves, and those of
their famiUes, to keep India for England, and
there are almost as many voluble orators at home
making it as difficult as they can for them. There
are so many people nowadays who think this
a topsy-turvy world because they are underneath,
not realizing that the world would be upside-
down indeed if they were not, that governing,
particularly the governing of alien peoples, has
become increasingly difficult.

In the days of Clive and Hastings, and for
about one hundred years after, there was no rail-
way, nor cable, nor Suez Canal. The man on
the spot was authoritative and responsible. The
Oriental is still unable to understand divided au-
thority, authority dictated from an unseen source.
It may be safely said that had the present govern-
mental machinery been in existence in 1745, In-
dia might never have become a fief of the British
Crown. It is sometimes fatal to interfere even
when a man is making mistakes. Interference
may poison the mistakes with lack of confidence,
till they wilt into abject and costly failure.
While mistakes may teach a man, interference
always bewilders him and those under him.

After the death of Aurangzeb, a new power,
the Marathas, though of Hindu origin, with their
home in the plains east of Bombay, overran, and


Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 7 of 29)