« AnteriorContinuar »
of the Native Indian powers, and absorbed under one sovereignty the last kingdom that remained outside the pale of British rule in India. With Lord Canning, the last of the distinguished roll of Governors-General, and the first of an equally distinguished roll of Viceroys, came the transfer of the dominions of the Company to the Crown. Thus was brought about the complete supremacy of Great Britain over the vast Indian Continent.
If in this long roll of Governors-General there were three who are entitled to be called great legislators, Warren Hastings, Lord Cornwallis, and Lord William Bentinck, so also there were three who, with Clive, are entitled to be styled great conquerors, the Marquess Wellesley, the Marquess of Hastings, and the Marquess Dalhousie. Clive had established us along the East Coast from Calcutta to Madras ; Wellesley and Hastings overthrew the Mahratta power and established us as lords of the middle of the country, and of the Western side of the Peninsula, and Dalhousie, besides consolidating these conquests, gave us the North-West, and carried our frontier to the Indus.' Of the great Oriental Empire thus created Sir John Seeley has finely said : 'An Empire similar to that of Rome, in which we hold the position not merely of a ruling, but of an educating and civilizing race ; this Empire held at arm's length, paying no tribute to us, yet costing nothing except the burden it imposes on our foreign policy, and neither modifying nor perceptibly influencing our busy domestic politics; this Empire nevertheless held firmly, and with a grasp that does not slacken, but visibly tightens, the union between England and India, ill-assorted and unnatural as it might seem to be, nevertheless growing closer and closer with great rapidity, under the influence of the modern conditions of the world which seem favourable to vast political unions ; all this makes up the strangest, most curious, and perhaps most instructive chapter of English history.' To the Governors-General must the credit of this great achievement, the dominion of England over India, be assigned.
There have been many judgements, sound and unsound, passed on the methods by which this dominion has been achieved. The conception was undoubtedly due to the master-mind of the Marquess Wellesley. Some historians, indeed, have thought they traced a compact between Wellesley and Pitt to replace the American Colonies by an Eastern Empire ; whereas the only point of contact between these two great patriots was their far-seeing patriotism and their single-minded devotion to their country's interests. The expansion of England was dear to them both, and in French ambition they both saw a bar placed before that expansion ; and both were agreed that French ascendancy, whether in America or in Asia, was to be crushed once and for all. In America the outcome of this determination was the acquisition of Canada : in Asia, that of India. Similarly, another eminent historian has considered it necessary to pen an Apologia for the policy of the Governors-General in these terms : 'It was not to be denied that a most deplorable anarchy reigned in India. Now this anarchy rose directly out of the decline of the authority of the Great Mogul. It was possible, of course, for the English to wash their hands of this, to defend their own territories and let the chaos welter as it would outside their frontier. But to GovernorsGeneral on the spot such a course might easily seem not just but simply cruel. Aggrandizement might present itself in the light of a simple duty, when it seemed that by extending our Empire the reign of robbery and murder might be brought to an end in a moment and that of law commence.' The lives and careers of the distinguished men who have ruled India in the capacity of GovernorsGeneral under the Company are, however, a sufficient guarantee that aggrandizement had no place in their policy. So far as their own country was concerned, the only springs of action that moved them were Duty and Patriotism. While, as regards the people of the country they had been deputed to rule, the only considerations that actuated them were justice, righteousness, and humanity. Anarchy they saw all around them, and it was their duty as well as their pleasure to put an end to it.
If any one is in doubt whether this policy was justified he has only to read what an historian has written of the state of things that the English found existing in India, to be assured that it was more than justified, that indeed it was a policy from which no Englishman, worthy of his great inheritance, could possibly have turned away in indifference without forfeiting his birthright. "When' (writes an historian) 'we began to take possession of the country, it was already in a state of wild anarchy such as Europe has perhaps never known. What Government it had was pretty invariably despotic, and was generally in the hands of military adventurers, depending on a soldiery composed of bandits whose whole vocation was plunder. The Mahratta power covered the greater part of India, and threatened at once Delhi and Calcutta, while it had its head quarters at Puna : and yet this power was but an organization of pillage. Meanwhile, in the North, Nadir Shah rivalled Attila or Tamerlane in his devastating expeditions. It may be said that this was only a passing anarchy produced by the dissolution of the Mogul Empire. Even so, it would show that India is not a country which can endure the withdrawal of Government. But have we not a somewhat exaggerated idea of the Mogul Empire ? Its greatness was extremely shortlived, and in the Deccan it seems never to have established itself. The anarchy which Clive and Hastings found in India was not so exceptional a state of things as it might seem. Probably it was much more intense than ever before, but a condition of anarchy seems to have been almost chronic in India since Mahmoud, and to have been but suspended for a while in the Northern half by Akbar and Shah Jahan.' It was from this chronic anarchy that the GovernorsGeneral delivered India. And who is prepared to deny that such a state of things would again arise in India with the withdrawal from the scene of British rule? Well does Sir John Seeley say: 'To withdraw our Government from a country which is dependent on it, and which we have made incapable of depending upon anything else, would be the most inexcusable of all conceivable crimes and might possibly cause the most stupendous of all conceivable calamities.' Similarly, the words of Viscount Morley are well worthy of attention : "The people of this country were the Rulers of India. We had a present duty which we could not neglect. How should we look in the face of the civilized world if we turned our back upon our duty and our task ? How should we bear the stings of our own conscience when, as assuredly we should by and by, we heard through the dark distance the roar and storm of confusion and carnage through India. The final outcome of British rule in India might be a profitable topic of musing to a meditative mind, but we were not there to muse. Our first and commanding task was to keep order and to quell violence between races and creeds and sternly to insist upon the impartial application of rules of justice.'
If the Marquess Wellesley conceived the idea of the dominion of England in India, it was the Marquess of Dalhousie who finally consummated that dominion. An historian has said of this great Proconsul, somewhat unjustly, 'Lord Dalhousie stands out in history as a Ruler of the type of Frederic the Great, and did deeds which are almost as difficult to justify as the seizure of Silesia or the partition of Poland.' That is hardly the estimate which a biographer who has had access to his correspondence, private and official, would form of that great statesman, whose work of consolidation did more than anything else to help England to maintain her supremacy in India when the inevitable trial of strength came between the forces making for order and those making for disorder. The final scene came as the result of the great struggle of 1857. Sir Alfred Lyall has thus described it: 'In suppressing the wild fanatic outbreak of 1857, we were compelled to sweep away the last shadows, that had long lost substance, of names and figures once illustrious and formidable in India. The phantom of a Mogul Emperor and his Court vanished from Delhi : the last Pretender to the honours of the Mahratta Peshwa disappeared from Cawnpur; the direct Government of all our Indian territories passed from the Company to the Crown in 1858.' The passing of the Company, and the accession to the Empire of India of the Sovereign of England, was duly proclaimed throughout the length and breadth of India. One of the leading newspapers of the day thus commented on the Royal Proclamation issued by the Great Queen :
The Imperial Caesars of Rome's proudest era could not have boasted a more comprehensive designation than that which is embraced in the high-sounding words : “Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Colonies and Dependencies thereof in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australasia," with which the Proclamation issued to the people of India commences. Such a preamble—it is the only Orientalism in the whole composition-must have struck with effect on the ears of the assembled multitudes.' Passing from some general considerations on the tenor of the Proclamation, the article thus concludes : ‘For good or for evil the last experiment which this country is likely to be able to make in reference to the complete incorporation of India into our rule has now been solemnly inaugurated. To time, and the wisdom or weakness, as the case may be, of those who are entrusted with its development, must the event be committed. For the present we can only hope that the