OUR LATEST LITTLE WAR.
WE entirely approved Lord Kimberley's action in selling our reserved rights in Sumatra, which were of no use to anybody, for the Dutch settlements in Western Africa, which made us masters of the whole of that coast, and we still approve it ; but its first result has certainly been disastrous to each Power. It has imposed on Holland, and now on England, one of those expensive, tedious, and inglorious little wars which always seem to precede the final victory of Euro- peans over barbarians. The Dutch, in a great harry, and without sufficient shells, began operations against the Mussulman chief of Acheen, the strongest ruler in Sumatra, were compelled to retire, and are now getting up a great expedition, under the new embarrassment that the Sultan of Turkey as Khalif does not like seeing the only, strong Mussulman State in the Eastern Archipelago blotted out, and seems to be sending remonstrances and threats about his ironclads. The Dutch are as tenacious as the English, and will win eventually, but their victory will cost them 1,000 men and a year's revenue of Java. The English, on their aide, owing, we believe, originally to a military punctilio which refused full information to the Governor, Mr. Pope Hennessy, managed to affront the amour propre of that horrible potentate the King of Ashantee, who raised a force, it is said, of 50,000 warriors, divided into two armies. The smaller of these marched on Elmina, the Dutch capital and most important trading station on the coast, and despite some sharp checks from the native police, reached it in force. The Elminan
have never liked the exchange of rule, owing, we are informed, to our confirmed dislike of slavery, and were strongly suspected of favouring the Ashantees, to whom they cer- tainly sold all manner of provisions. As, moreover, the town protected the Ashantees in any attack on Elmina Castle, Colonel Festing, the new commandant of all troops on the Coast, made a forced march from Cape Coast Castle to Elmina Castle, and sanctioned the desperate step of burning down Elinina itself, a town with 10,000 inhabitants. At the date of the latest advices the Ashantees remained within a mile of Elmina, and the Castle was in a way besieged.
All this while the main body of Ashantees, with the King, it is said, at their head, have been marching on Cape Coast Castle itself, destroying all friendly villages on their way, and after a great battle, driving in the Fantees, who to the num- ber of 30,000 are now stated to be in the town, in the greatest distress for food and water, of neither of which can the Governor or Colonel Harley, who is in command there, have too large a supply. Indeed, local advices report only a few inches left. In fact, they have no water which the Europeans can use except the water stored in tanks, with which it would be madness to part, as all other water gives the Europeans dysentery. If, therefore, the Ashantee King has the time for a blockade, or the courage for an attack, the British power on that coast may for an hour be totally destroyed.
We have taken this account mainly from the Times, but Lord Kimberley, when questioned on the subject, had to admit that he feared the statement was true, and to account for his official ignorance by announcing the loss of two African steamers, but his reply does not content us at all. He did, it would seem, think that troubles might arise upon the Coast, and send for the 2nd West India Regiment, which on June 22 was anxiously expected at Cape Coast Castle, but his statement on Thursday shows that he still underrates the necessities of the occasion. Originally, he intimates, he was misled by Colonel Barley's under-estimate of the force opposed to him—the sort of thing that occurs in India every day—but Colonel Harley's later reports had been of the most anti-sanguine kind. Neverthe- less, he was only sending out a steamer with provisions and stores, instead of at once making serious defeat impossi- ble, and placing the Coast, with a new Governor, armed with complete authority over both civil and military officers, in a position to bring this shameful Ashantee war to a final end. Let the steamer which carries the provisions carry also an Indian Major-General, with rank enough to obviate all military jealousy, and authority enough to do as he pleases, and. 500 soldiers and marines, who will volunteer for the service, who will fully support the West Indians, and who can be used to reform and supply officers to the Houssas and friendly Fantees. Is that too much for British strength ? He has not the man ? We -venture to say that the Military Under-Secretary of the India House will lay his hand in an hour on a dozen thoroughly qualified officers, with sufficient rank, and quite enough prestige to call up volunteers who will be delighted with such a commission. They are not afraid of the climate, and would feel themselves amply recompensed by a reward in honour. There is a man, to take a single instance, on the Prince of Wales's Staff whom it would be a shame to send on such an expedition, but who would as certainly succeed in it as if success could be secured by mere volition. We believe, if more West Indians are unattainable or indispensable to the islands, that the kind of volunteers required could be obtained in London in a week, for ten pounds a man, and that with such a General, such a force, the 2nd West Indian Regiment, and the Fantees, who will recover their courage at the first gleam of victory, a punishment may be administered to the Ashantees such as will make the Coast safe for years, and will not seri- ously burden the Estimates. The Ashantee King has wanted extinction for a long time. The secret of success in wars like this, and muddles such as occurred in Jamaica, is to use the Anglo-Indians, who have been through all that before, who care very little about climates, and who, being, as they are here, neglected men, are wild for service and distinction. As for the future garrison of the Colony, a Fantee militia, once encouraged by victory and officered by civilised negroes, would do very well ; but there should be one regiment either Arab or West Indian, and a few British Artillerymen, with the lightest possible guns. The climatic dangers of the Coast are, no doubt, frightful, but so were those of Pegu and Arracan, and they have all been overcome by clearances
and rough drainage. If we do not want the Coast, very good, let the consent of Parliament be asked to give it up ; but if we do want it, let us put it in the sort of order an Indian officer usually produces in a new province in three months.
If we hesitate, the only consequence will be that we shall have to reconquer the Coast of Western Africa,—not exactly the work the taxpayer will like.