OUR ASIATIC ALLY.
'THERE is one side of Sir Charles Trevelyan's budget which
Englishmen scarcely as yet understand. They comprehend perfectly the effect of a surplus upon Indian credit, and, therefore, upon Indian stocks—though they still with curious ignorance pre- fer debentures payable in gold, which is declining in value, to " enfaced" stock payable in silver, which is increasing—but they scarcely yet realize its influence upon the national strength. India -with a deficit is one of the most dangerous if magnificent of pos- sessions,—a country which may at any moment become a crushing burden, with an administration necessarily timid, a people natu- rally disaffected, and an army which, if the deficit be not at once supplied, would be the most irrecancileable and t'.e most exhaust- ing of foes. India with a surplus is an ally such as the ablest of Foreign Secretaries could not by the labour of a lifetime hope to secure. It is nothing less than a vast organized military monarchy, planted on the other side of the earth in the precise position any statesman would choose for dominion, and wielding resources which justify its claim to rank third among the Great Powers.
Its revenue, which in 1848 was but twenty-two millions, and supposed to be wholly inelastic, is in 18G3 forty-five millions, or less than that of Great Britain and France alone, probably ten millions more than that of Russia, certainly twelve millions more than that of Austria, and nearly two and a half times that of the Prussian monarchy. It is nearly double that of Italy, which claims to be the sixth Power, and six times that of the largest of all the remaining powers. This revenue, moreover, so far from having reached its limit, increases at the rate of a million a year, while the pr -e3sure of taxation, which in England is fifty shillings a head, and in Italy, a country not unlike India in many respects, twenty shillings, and in Egypt, a much poorer laud, eighteen shillings, is, in 1 ndia,—deducting the opium for which no Indian pays—less than four and sixpence. There are, be it remembered, no rates for county or Church expenditure, no charges for the poor, no local demands for physical improvement, and the proba- bility is that taxation in the valley of the Ganges is less per house than in the valley of the Nile per head. This revenue, more- over, is paid to the hour, half of it without the knowledge of those who pay it, and for fifty years there has not been one instance of overt resistance to the unarmed man who asks quarterly for the Government due, not one occasion for the employment of troops in taxation, except to guard the treasure so readily collected. With these vast means a Government which, though supported by all the strength derived from English freedom, yet possesses all the celerity of a despotic power, keeps up an army which includes as one division merely of its strength trained British soldiers twice as numerous as those who fought at Water- loo, all carefully acclimatized, all kept permanently in lighting order, and all so cantoned that next year one half may be collected at any one of the three Anglo-Indian capitals within seventy hours. This is no phrase introduced for effect. The instant the triangular railway and its great off-shoot into the Punjaub are complete, there will be no obstacle of time or distance to prevent forty thousand men being concentrated, say at Bombay, with all their impedimenta, within three days. Behind this van- guard stands a second army more than half as large again, and composed of material which if inferior to the Europeans is still superior to the very best troops the Asiatic monarchies can produce. There is no force in Tartary, or China, or Turkey, or Egypt, or Persia, which will face the Sikhs. Arabs alone are superior as soldiers in the field, and the only sovereign who rules an organized force of drilled Arabs is our own tri- butary of Hydrabad. This second army, moreover, is but the vanguard of a third, the million and a half of Sikhs, who have either passed or are ready to pass through the strange ceremonial which they call the " baptism of the sword," and which makes them soldiers till death. No call has ever been made upon this class which has not produced five applicants for every vacancy, and there is the strongest reason to believe that the whole body would, after six weeks' notice for drill, be at the disposal of the Government of India. Inside the peninsula this splendid auxiliary force loses some of its value, from the doubt felt as to its thorough loyalty, but outside Sikhs can be trusted as fully as Europeans. They do not mutiny abroad, and the Ceylon Government is now entrusting the island to Sikhs, with a just confidence that they must regain the mainland before they will even question their officers' commands. There is not another country on earth, not even Russia, which can at so short a notice produce so vast an array of troops so superior in physique, drill and courage to any enemy they can possibly have to encounter. This grand force is supported by an artillery as great and as complete as that of France, by a commis- sariat which, though costly has, in a century of campaigns never been charged with failure, by a free system of transport, which has carried thirty thousand men fifteen hundred miles without a blunder, a delay of an hour, or a death ; and which, resting as it does on the mercantile marine of a country with a trade of eighty millions, is capable of almost indefinite expansion. It is, too, no barbarian army in which number is no test of strength—no force even like that which Russia, when exasperated, employs to desolate
Poland. It is the army of a civilized power, with every officer an educated gentleman, to whom treason to England seems impossible, knit together by a civilized discipline, and obeying under all cir- cumstances a single central impulse. The new army of India has many imperfections ; but, from its constitution, it is incapable of a political thought, or of questioning the authority of an officer bearing the Queen's commission.
Thus armed, the Indian Government sits in the one place in all Asia which can be considered central. The statesman who wished to dictate at once in the Red Sea, on the China coast, and around Southern Africa, would instinctively choose some station within the peninsula, which, a continent in size, stretches into the Indian ocean as Italy into the Mediterranean. There is no part of the wide expanse of Southern Asia in an attack on which India is not the most convenient base. Lord Minto discovered that fact, when, without steam, he in two years, without military assistance from home, swept every European flag out of Asia, and issued orders on the same day to agents who were occupying Egypt, holding the Philippines, and teaching the Javanese that they had a right to the fruits of their own toil. And throughout Asia there is no point to which this power can be directed where England does not possess a half-way house, some possession in the sea where her forces can gather strength en route. If her aim is eastward, Aden half-way can protect the fleets of the world, westward the army must touch the settlements which control the Straits of "Malacca, southward the Mauritius offers all the resources of a highly culti- vated tropical garden. And of all points in India, the statesman, intent only on external power, would for his capital select Calcutta. The position of that great city is absolutely unique in the world. There is no other up to which a seventy-gun frigate can steam, yet which is absolutely inaccessible to an external foe. By land, armies like those of France would perish in the Sunderbunds before a hand had been lifted to assail them, and the fleets of com- bined Europe could not ascend the Hooghly without the permis- sion and the aid of English pilots. From this natural fortress ray out all railways, to it converges the river system, while it is the depot of boundless supplies of food, of the pro- duct of inexhaustible coal mines, of the only great stores of powder held by Europeans in Asia, and of the single great collection of saltpetre throughout the world. All these resources, again,—and when we use the word illimitable we are simply repeating well-known facts,—are at the disposal of English- men, of men, that is, turbulent and over-critical, and apt in the hour of need to demand great prices, but ready, rather than Eng- land should seriously suffer, to throw their wealth and their hopes and themselves into the gulf in the Forum. We have seen the resources of the Empire stretched in eight great campaigns, and it is our deliberate belief that, supposing Europe out of the quarrel, India could in three years conquer and hold in strong military occupation the whole of Southern Asia, and extend one unbroken chain of dominion from the Yellow Sea to Alexandria. She almost does it now, for within that tremendous semicircle Saigon is the sole port where a written menace from the Viceroy carried by an unarmed brig would not produce instant and servile compliance.
Our Asiatic ally, then, possesses the strength and the position which make great alliances valuable ; but she has one quality more. India is the only ally who needs no " management," demands in return no influence for herself. When England determines that England and India shall bring the Court of Pekin to reason, it is one only of the confederate powers who requires to be consulted or soothed. There is no need of careful protocols, elaborate self- denying ordinances, jealous precautions lest India should have too much pay for her work. No statesman has to consider whether India will be content with less than two-thirds of the conquered territory ; no soldier doubtfully ponders whether the "combined armies" will consent to obey one chief; no publicist hesitates to refuse the ally twice her due share of honour, or thinks himself bound to prove that he has slightly falsified facts in asserting her claim to the whole. This ally alone in the world is perfectly sym- pathetic, absolutely devoted, but asks nothing, and yet in her humility acts with as energetic a pride as if the whole success of war depended on her alone. India, by the mere fact of the affi- ance, enables England, without expending a shilling, to remain permanently supreme in Asia, and—as it yet may prove—to exer- cise a direct influence over Eastern Europe. Calcutta can strike an irresistible blow at Pekin three months before any other power could be ready to land in China, and for all military purposes will be next March nearer to Constantinople than Vienna. In 1864, a telegram, taking five hours in transmission, would place Sir W. Mansfield, with thirty thousand picked troops, in twenty days at Suez, in thirty in Asia Minor. Unfortunately, or:fortunately—for the feeling which makes ah Englishman glow as he recounts these facts is not of the healthiest\ kind—all this reality of power and possibility of dominion depends absolutely upon the healthy condition of the Treasury. With a budget like that which Sir Charles Trevelyan has this year pre- sented, India by merely stopping public works, could, for two years, mobilize her whole force, engage in a war of the first class on the Yang-tse-Kiang, the Tigris, or the Nile, without any dangerous, or at least without any incurable embarrassment. With such a budget she could raise loans which would protract her endurance for at least two years more, and enterprises which occupy four years are, in these days, hard to find. But her strength is based absolutely on money. With any deficit her councils become timid, her armies immoveable, her strength liable to be overstrained by the slightest extra exertion ; with a heavy one she would be powerless. Her army is mercenary, her people loyal for money, her energy developed only byhope of rupees. Six months' sus- pension of payments would reduce the European army to a faithful but helpless mass, unable to move for want of transport, or to fight for want of supplies, or to exist for failure of commissariat ; would turn the native army into a horde of exasperated mutineers, and throw the whole country, a hundred and fifty millions of people, into a fever of incipient revolt. So far from aiding our foreign policy, India would be the heaviest drain upon our strength, incessantly demanding money, and men, and ships expending generals, killing off statesmen, spreading everywhere the con- viction which encourages every foe, that the hour of England's decadence is at last at hand. With such a budget, the people of England may, if they are mad enough, contemplate a direct pro- tectorate over China, without a fear save for the responsibility they suffer their rulers to incur in silence ; with a deficit India might cost them to save more than China would ever cost them to acquire. The difference between a full and an embarrassed treasury is much even to a first-class European State. To India it is the difference between the status of third great power and that of a powerless and exhausting dependency.