« ElőzőTovább »
is presented in the anxiety of the Russian Government to foster and encour
age by every means the Asiatic trade, and to open new channels of communication with hitherto unexplored countries; and some idea may be formed of the exertions made for this purpose, from the fact, that on the late occupation of Cabul by our troops, a large quantity of loaf-sugar was found in the bazaars, which, originally from our own West Indian possessions, had been purchased by Russian merchants at Petersburg, and forwarded by the way of Astrakhan, over the Caspian to Asterabad, and thence by land carriage to this remote city!
Yet, despite of all these efforts in behalf of the Asiatic trade, and of the concurrent circumstances which tend to render them efficacious, the increased activity which was at first imparted to it by the exclusive possession of the Black and Caspian seas, has not been permanent. In the course of the last ten or twelve years the quantity of the exports has gradually undergone a great diminution; while the superior quality and cheapness of English manufactures, notwithstanding the obstacles so sedulously thrown in the way of their introduction, has regained for them the preference in the markets of Asia.
As the Russian official returns are not easily accessible, we shall content ourselves with quoting on this point the unimpeachable evidence of two of the continental journals most notoriously in the Russian interest, the Franconian Mercury and the Augsburg Gazette-the former of which, in January 1839, showed by a long and elaborate article, that "the Russians have comparatively little trade in Georgia, Circassia, and Persia, and are not likely to improve it, the competition with England having given a deathblow to their commerce in that quarter." The Augsburg Gazette of the 29th and 30th of the same month, enters more into detail. "From 1824 to 1829," (according to this authority,) "the woollen wares sent over the Caspian, from Russia to Persia, rose from the value of 150,000 to 1,000,000 silver rubles yearly; since 1829, the exports have again fallen to 140,000. În 1824, the sales of woollens to the nomadic tribes amounted to 700,000 rubles; from this it gradually rose to 3,000,000; but in 1834 it had fallen back to
2,200,000. Silks" (which, when Jooke wrote, formed nearly the whole amount of the imports by the Caspian, rated by him, as we have already seen, at 1,000,000 silver rubles per annum) "are no longer sent over the Caspian for more than 50,000 rubles annually, and less by way of Georgia. The Turkmans and Kirghizes now buy no more than 100,000 rubles' worth yearly of Rus sian manufactures; in 1828, they bought to the amount of 300,000. Russian linen was formerly bought by the hordes to the value of from 250,000 to 400,000 rubles; not more than 100,000 rubles' worth is now sold. The greatest increase is in iron: the quantity carried year by year across the Caspian, rose from 70,000 poods," (a weight of forty Russian pounds,) "to 258,000 in 1829, and 276,000 in 1830; but even this, in 1834, had declined to 244,000 poods. The exportation of iron wares by the Caspian, which, in 1829, amounted to 287,000 rubles, has fallen to half that sum." As a general result, the writer in the Augsburg Gazette states, that the exports of Russia into Asia, in 1833 and 1834, may be valued at seventeen millions of silver rubles, (about £2,750,000,) of which one-fourth was woollen goods :-while in 1832 the exports of England to Asia, exclusive of China and India, were to the value of £3,700,000, one-half of which was for woollens ; and, from the increased attention which has been drawn within the last seven years to Asiatic affairs, it may be presumed that the present amount may safely be rated much higher. If even a moderate share of enterprise and exertion be brought into play, a few years may see this trade augmented twenty-fold, from the ready communications now opened with countries where British goods found their way hitherto only by devious and uncertain channels, or which their inland situation rendered wholly inaccessible-but these interests can only be protected and advanced by political predominance. No sooner had Russian intrigue supplanted the influence of England in the councils of the Shah, than the prohibition of British manufactures immediately followed; and we may rest assured that, if Russia is suffered without opposition to establish her power in Transoxiana, many years will not elapse before the line of cir
cumvallation will be completed, and not a bale of British goods suffered to make its appearance to the north or west of the Indus.
In the foregoing details it has been our object to present a picture of the present state of Central Asia, as viewed from the Russian side of the question, and to place in clear relief the new combinations by which that power is on the point of assailing us in our altered position; but, in so doing, it is probable that we shall be considered as indulging in a tone of gloomy anticipation by those who, personally unacquainted with the East, and accustomed to look upon our Indian annals as a triumphant progress from victory to victory, have been dazzled by the newspaper pœans over our Affghan successes into the belief that the web of Russian finesse has been swept utterly away, and British supremacy in the East secured for ever, by the gallantry displayed on the plain of Candahar, and under the walls of Ghazni. It must, indeed, be at once admitted that the military results of the Cabul expedition justify all that can be said in their favour. The most sanguine of our Indian politicians could not previously have hoped for a triumph so rapid and complete as that which has crowned our arms; but, great as our success in Affghanistan has hitherto been, the English public will have widely erred if they imagine that the glories of a single campaign have terminated the war, or that the terror of the British name will suffice, if unsupported by active assistance in troops and money, to retain the Affghans in their forced allegiance to Shah Shooja, or to protect his dominions from attack from the adjacent states. The principle of unavoidable expansion (as some writers on India have termed the ever widening vortex which has carried our arms and influence from Calcutta to Loodiana) has at length passed the natural boundary of the Indus, and entered on a new sphere of action; and even beyond this it has already become apparent, that the policy which dictated to the Indian Government the imperative necessity of reinstating Shah Shooja,
will speedily point out a further advance as essential to the security of the ground thus gained. A halt in our onward career from the western bank of the Indus, would now, in fact, be attended with consequences as injurious to our interests as a repulse in the first instance could have produced. To be stationary is impossible.
If, moreover, we recapitulate the circumstances which attended and preceded the restoration of Shooja to a pageant throne, it will be sufficiently evident that not only can his tenure of that precarious possession be assured only by the continual presence of a disciplined force (whetheravowedly Company's troops, or commanded in the name of the Shah by European officers) sufficient to overawe the Affghans, but that the objects of the expedition would be defeated by suffering him to regain such a share of independent power as to induce the hope of sustaining himself unaided. In the debate on the address at the opening of the Session of 1839, Sir Robert Peel remarked with justice, that "the principle was the same in the attempted restoration of Shah Shooja, as it would be in the attempt to restore Charles X. to the throne of France; with this difference, that the Shah had been thirty years dispossessed of his throne" which Lord John Russell met by the asserttion, that "the objects of the expedition was not to extend our own limits, but to defend an old ally." An alliance with Shooja had indeed been concluded by Mr Elphinstone in 1809, a few weeks only before the battle of Neemla drove him from the throne of Cabul.* But so far were the Indian authorities of that day from conceiving themselves bound to aid their ally in the then comparatively easy task of expelling his usurping brother Mahmood, that not even an asylum in the British dominions was offered him, and he was compelled for many years to purchase, by humiliating sacrifices of dignity, and the surrender of his treasures and diamonds,† the treacherous hospitality of Runjeet Singh.
In 1832-3, when the Shah, who had some time before escaped from Lahore to Loodiana, made his last effort to re
See the article "Persia, Affghanistan, and India," in our January No. last year. † Shooja was even subjected to personal violence, to extort from him the Koh-inoor, or "mountain of light," one of the largest diamonds of Asia.
cover his crown and kingdom, by the aid of some of the Doorauni clans who were favourable to him, Lord William Bentinck, then GovernorGeneral, expressly refused him all as sistance. To a second request, urged when he was in possession of Sinde, and on the point of advancing on Candahar, a still more decided negative was returned, though the scale was then so nicely balanced, that (as stated by an able writer in the Asiatic Journal) " even the indirect countenance of our Government, by the presence of a Bri tish agent in the camp of the Shah, might have placed Candahar, if not Cabul, in his possession." There can be no doubt that the designs entertained at that period by the cabinet of Calcutta, tended rather to the opening of relations with the de facto rulers of Affghanistan, the Barukzye brothers, of whose character and resources the information of Sir Alexander Burnes has left a favourable impression; and that this consideration influenced the denial of support to the Shah's expedition, which, as is well known, terminated in his overthrow by the Barukzyes near Candabar; and it was only when Dost Mohammed proved less subservient to our views than had been anticipated, at the juncture when the advance of a Persian force, guided by Russian generals and diplomatists, against Herat, made a speedy settlement of Affghan politics indispensable, that our old ally" was drawn from the apparently hopeless obscurity into which his late defeat had plunged him, and sent, surrounded by the ensigns of royalty, and accompanied by an overwhelming British force, to reascend the throne of his ancestors.
The plain state of the case then is, that it was not till it became a mere question of time from which side of the Indus the first blow should be struck, and the Shah presented himself as a convenient pretext on which to ground our aggression, that any thought of espousing his cause was entertained; and of this fact both the -Shah himself and his nominal subjects are fully aware, as the demeanour of prince and people sufficiently proves. All the private correspondence from -India agrees in declaring that "Shah Shooja is detested by all his subjects; and that the people of his own tribe
even would be the first to cut his throat, if left to their hands," as the sole cause of the calamities and humiliation which have befallen their country: and this feeling, in a haughty and martial nation, is not surprising; but it can scarcely be credited that the monarch whom we have raised from indigence to a throne, and who is entirely dependent on us for support and security, should repay the benefits received otherwise than by unbounded gratitude and confidence. The vanity and arrogance, however, which mainly contributed to the past misfortunes of Shooja, do not appear to have been corrected either by time or adversity. Instead of labouring to unite and conciliate the fierce tribes, of which he is placed at the head, he has been principally occupied since his restoration in instituting a tinsel Order of the Doorauni Empire! and in reinstating as far as possible the pomp and ceremonies of the ancient court, which had fallen into disuse under Dost Mohammed. Even in the vital point of the political arrangements, he is said to have evinced much wayward impatience at the control to which he found himself subjected; and the insolence of language and manner which not only the Shah himself, but the Affghan Sirdars whom he has attracted to his court, permit themselves to use towards the Europeans in command of the subsidiary force, is described as so insufferable, that several of these officers have thrown up their commissions in disgust. Yet this subsidiary force, which the Shah is bound by treaty to maintain and pay, will form his only protection against a revolt of the discontented Affghans. It will certainly be the only security for the continued predominance of British interests after the main army has been withdrawn, if, indeed, the state of affairs north of the Hindoo-Koosh does not render it necessary that permanent British garrisons should be established in the vicinity of the passes.
It is evident, therefore, that we can only succeed in retaining the necessary ascendency in Affghanistan by keeping the Shah in subserviency, and overawing the chiefs and population; and similar measures, as passing events
*Asiatic Journal, Feb. 1840.
seem to indicate, will at no distant period be requisite in the neighbour ing Seik kingdom of the Punjab. In the few months which have elapsed since the death of the founder of the monarchy, the Maharajah Runjeet Singh, the country seems already to have arrived at the verge of a stormy revolution. Khurruck Singh, his imbecile son and successor, has been virtually deposed after a reign of a few months, not, as was expected, by his brother-in-law Shere Singh, but by his own son No-Nihal Singh, a youth of twenty-one, characterised as "the Hotspur of the Seiks," who has, by the aid of Runjeet's favourite minister, Dhian Singh, reduced his father to the condition of a state prisoner, though he allows him to retain the titles and insignia of royalty. This change of government is not looked upon in India as favourable to the stability of the British alliance, to which the old Maharajah, from policy perhaps rather than inclination, had always steadily adhered; but these prudential motives are less likely to influence his fiery grandson, surrounded as he is by Seik military chiefs and French officers,* and apparently apprehensive, besides, that the British Government may consider itself bound, in virtue of treaties, to guarantee to his father the inviolate exercise of the rights of sovereignty. Though no interruption of amicable relations has yet taken place, it is clear that a rupture is viewed by all parties as the probable result of the late occurrences at Lahore; it is even rumoured that permission to cross the Seik territories has been refused to the troops returning from Cabul, and that a Bengal force of 8000 men has been in consequence assembled on the Sutlej, to watch the course of events. In the mean time, the Seiks are at strife among themselves; and it is suspected that
No-Nihal will prove to have been merely a tool in the hands of his uncle Shere Singh, who aspires to mount the throne through his means. Thus the fate of the Punjab is at present in suspense; but should it become either the seat of an unfriendly government, or a prey to anarchy and civil war, the Anglo-Indian administration will have no alternative but a prompt and decided armed intervention, either taking the country into their own hands, or restoring Khurruck Singh to his throne under British protection, before Russian intrigue has time to step in and play the same part at Lahore which has already been so successfully acted at the court of Teheran. alliance with Runjeet has cost us suffi ciently dear, if (as it is reported) it was the principal obstacle to the conclusion of a treaty with Dost Mohammed, (which would have rendered the Affghan war needless,) because the Dost† could not be induced to enter a league to which his hereditary enemy was to be a party. But our successes in Affghanistan will, after all, be worse than useless, if we permit the communication with this boasted "bulwark of India" to be cut off by the existence of a hostile and independent state, whose territories, lining nearly the whole length of the eastern frontier of Cabul, intervene like a wedge between our new dependencies and the dominions of the Company, and furnish a road by which a northern invader in possession of Turkestan might avoid the Affghan country altogether, and advance unopposed by Badakshan and Attock to the Sutlej.
We have endeavoured to lay before our readers the existing state of the Asiatic question, in which England and Russia are the actors; abstaining as far as the nature of the subject would permit from speculations on the future, which every day might
The adhesion of General Ventura and the French officers to No-Nihal, is particularly remarked by Le Commerce, which adds-" The English are doubtless far from pleased at seeing a resolute and independent prince on the throne of the Punjab. Though the change be not directly hostile to them, it will defeat their intention of availing themselves of the weakness of the dethroned Khurruck, and the disturbances it might create to interfere in a country which they are desirous to place under their own domination."
† The terms Dost, (Turkish,) and Yar, (Persian,) both implying “friend or companion," are used in Central Asia as analogous to the well-known Arabic prarnomen Saheb, which has primarily the same signification,
prove to be futile or erroneous. The events of the last few years have tended in a great measure to dispel the ignorance of every thing relative to the Eastern world, by which, (to use the words of the able author of the Progress of Russia in the East,) "from the earliest times in which Russia has had a share in the politics of Europe, her views in the East have been promoted, and which made other powers her dupes and the instruments of her aggrandizement." But this tardily acquired knowledge has at the same time shown, that throughout the whole extent of Asia, from the Bosphorus to the Indus, (and probably to Canton,) British influence has been sapped and supplanted by the ever active machinations of Russia; and that nothing but vigorous and uncompromising resistance on our part, can now prevent these intrigues from reaching their final accomplishment. The Cabul expedition has been the first symptom of recovery from our long-passive policy; and its good effects have appeared not only in the
success of its immediate objects, but in lowering the tone of the Burmese and Ghorkhas; while the prompt dethronement of one or two refractory native princes in India has overawed the rising spirit of insubordination, and left us at the close of the year, what we could scarcely be called at its commencement, the acknowledged and uncontrolled masters of the country. Still the march to Cabul is but a beginning; the gauntlet has been thrown down, and accepted by Russia in her movement on Khiva; but the combat which will decide the destinies of India and Asia is yet to come; and it remains to be seen whether, by perseverance in the career we have at length resumed, we shall hurl our antagonist from the height which our supineness alone has allowed her to attain, or whether, through indecision or false security, we shall lay ourselves open to a blow which will change the future history and fate, not of India or Asia only, but of Europe and the world.
HYMNS OF A HERMIT.
THE shapes of earth are passing still away, The seas with sullen rage their bounds devour, The rivers waste their banks from day to day, Rocks cannot last, nor stars outlive their hour.
The gnarled trees, of deep undated root,
Not long the building tells its founder s name,
Each generation yields in turn to death
Decay and desolation's thunderous cloud