thiTORN. The History of British India. From 1805 to 1835. By Horace Hayman Wilson. M.A.. Borten Professor of Sanscrit in the University of Oxford, &c. &c.
Volume 1 Madden and Co. Marlow.
The Chevalier; a Romance of the Rebellion of 1745. By Mrs. Thomson, Author of " Widows and Widowers," " Ragland Castle," "The White Mask," &e. In three volumes Bentley. orrav,
Reynard the Fos: a Renowned Apologue of the Middle Age reproduced in Rhyme.
Longman: and Co.
FillIODICAL LITERATI:1RK, The Railway Register, and Record of Engineering and Public Enterprise, for Rail- ways, Canals. Harbours, Docks, Mines, Steam Navigation, Banks, Assurance, Patents, Inventions. Edited by Hyde Clarke, Esq. No. I . Weale.
PROFESSOR WILSON'S CONTINUATION OF MILL'S BRITISH INDIA. Tars work is intended to complete Professor WILSON'S edition of MILL's British India, by continuing the narrative from the time when Mr. MILL closed his task, to the last renewal of the Com- pany's Charter. The delay which has occurred between the pub- lication of MILL'S text and the appearance of the present volume Professor WILsoN ascribes to a misconception of his task. When be undertook the continuation, he conceived, that as a residence in Bengal " during nearly the entire interval" had made him familiar with the general course of events, it would be no difficult matter to narrate them. When he began to investigate for specific informa- tion, he found that his residence had no: superseded the labour of research ; and, besides publications by individual authors and the Parliamentary reports, he had recourse to the manuscript records at the India House and the Board of Control, through the permis- sion of Sir JOHN HOBHOUSE and Mr. BAYLEY the first " Chair." Indeed, the chief advantage of a residence in India would seem to be, to give accuracy and spirit to the narrative and a practical test to the judgment ; though the mind is perhaps in more danger of being biassed in its conclusions, by Anglo-Indian prejudices and laxity of public morale, than guided to a just decision.
The period embraced in Professor WiLsosis first volume extends
from 1805, when the Marquis WELLESLEY quitted the government, and the Marquis CORNWALLIS succeeded him to die, till the re- newal of the Charter in 1813. Its main subject is the government of Lord MINTO; for the short period during which Sir GEORGE BARLOW held the office of Governor-General, and his timid and money-making policy, necessarily render the account of his govern- ment brief. His policy, however, is incidentally discussed in the elaborate survey of the condition of every state in India in the opening chapter ; and the mutiny of the Native troops at Vellore is noticed at large in the direct account of his government. A final chapter narrates at length the preliminary public discussions and Parliamentary debates attendant upon the renewal of the Charters ; and the volume ends with the epoch of a new Charter, and a new Governor-General for India—Lord Monts..
Judged by a comparison with other Anglo-Indian governments,
the rule of Lord MIRTO was one of those periods which have been said to be happy for nations, for their characteristic is " no history." The most striking occurrences were foreign and episodical,—the capture of the Isles of France and Bourbon, and the conquest of Java. The home event of the most striking character was the conspiracy or mutiny of the officers of the Madras Army ; dis- satisfied with some retrenchments and offended with the tone of some public documents. The other incidents of a stirring nature were merely disputes with subordinate princes and banditti, which sometimes came to a fight, and sometimes terminated by a timely submission.
To render a narrative of such a period very interesting was
hardly possible; or if attainable, was only to be accomplished by a pithy condensation, or a picturesque and powerful style, where the personal portraiture of individuals and classes superseded the grand historical manner. Mr. WILSON has not chosen either of these modes of composition, whilst he has adopted an elaborate narrative that scarcely excites the impulses of the reader. There is nothing of verbiage in his style, nor is his account minute : it is elongated. Subordinate events are narrated at too great length : the capture of a hill-fort held by some freebooting noble, or a squabble with some petty potentate, is told at a length that would suffice for a distinguished action or an important negotiation. When the event is anomalous or rare, like the outbreak of the Native troops at Vellore or the conspiracy of the Madras officers, or when it il- lustrates human character or Indian customs, as do some of the nar- ratives which Mr. WiLsols introduces, such peculiar circumstances rather than the inherent greatness or actual results of the subject are to be considered, and may properly entitle it to a place in the most artistical or critical history. Without these conditions, oc- currences that contribute to no general result, and do not leave any strong impression upon the mind, should be handled briefly, or altogether passed over. These remarks do not, however, apply to some chapters on the financial and fiscal condition of India, and the state of society which governs its land-tenure and taxation.
The style of Mr. 'WiLsoN is clear and rotund; not so pompous
as the Marquis of WELLESLEY'S, but formed upon his school, or ra- ther upon that of his master, GIBBON. We are not indeed sure but that the plan of the Decline and Fall has influenced the treat- ment of Mr. WilsoN's history, without a due consideration of the respective subjects. When peoples or persons are introduced upon the historic stage who are to influence the fortunes of the Roman empire and even the present form of European civilization, it is well to have a preliminary account of them; but no such necessity exists in the case of Indian adventurers or local sovereigns, whom nine readers in ten have never heard of before or care to hear of again. The artificial style, moreover, has a disadvantage in its want of variety and flexibility. Where the interest of the subject is sufficient in itself to excite attention and impress the mind, the want is not so much perceived. But where the writer is dealing with lesser events, the disproportion of the stately manner to the more common matter is felt. The true dramatic poet selects his topics and varies his style according to the charac- ter of the speaker. In the same way, the true historian should allow his composition to reflect the nature of his subject ; a trait which the more formal or studied manner does not permit. The defect of Professor WiLsoa's History of British India is its elongation ; but for many purposes fulness is no fault, and those who wish to enter into the particulars of the period will find this volume well adapted to their use. Its successors will embrace more stirring topics in the Indian wars of the Marquis of HASTINGS, the expedition against the Burmese under Lord AMHERST, and the civil reforms of Lord WILLIAM BENTINCK. But unless the limit originally intended be put aside, nearly a quarter of a century of momentous affairs will have to be packed up into one volume, whilst seven years of a rather jog-trot time will have been ex- panded into the same space.
From the character of the work, our extracts will run upon the more incidental parts—rather the exceptions to history than history itself.
Ali Bahadur, to evince his determination not to relinquish the siege until the capture of the fortress, caused a house to be built near the fort for his residence. The Kiladar, not to be surpassed in bravado, sent him a present of some mango-seeds to sow in the garden to be attached to the new edifice, with an intimation that he might hope to take Kalinjar when the seeds should have grown to trees and the trees should have borne fruit. [The Kiladar had i the best of the joke, for Ali Bahadur died before the place, in the second year of the siege.] THE LAST EFFORT OF THE HOUSE OF TIMOUR.
A principal object of his Majesty's ambition was the presentation of khe- lats, or honorary dresses, to the Princes of Hindustan, and, above all, to the Governor-General. As the acceptance of such a compliment is an admission of inferiority, it was of course declined. Having, however, obtained leave to send an agent to Calcutta to represent to the Government matters of public and private interest, Shah Akbar endeavoured to carry the point of the khelat by a little ingenuity. His envoy was instructed to present to Lord Mint° an old cloak, which the King himself had worn, as a mark of personal regard ; but he was to contrive to do this at a public audience, when the present would have assumed the character of an honorary distinction conferred upon the Governor-General by the King of Delhi. The device was easily seen through, and as easily frustrated : the cloak was thankfully accepted as a private gift, but the bearer was compelled to transmit it through the usual channel of communication, through the office of the Persian secretary. Such were the stnuite vicissitudes of fortune, that the Great Mogul was reduced to the necessity of trying to trick the chief functionary of a trading company into the acceptance of the greatest honour in native estimation which it was in his power to bestow !
A STRANGE KIND OF SURETY—RATTIWAR.
The sum of nine lakhs and a half of rupees was promised in perpetuity; and security was given for a term of ten years, renewable at its expiration. The security was characteristic. The sureties were persons boasting neither rank nor wealth, but who derived from the usages of the country inviolable sanctity, and were entitled to implicit trust. They were selected from the tribe of Chamns or Bbits, the hereditary bards, genealogists, and chroniclers of the principal Hindu races of the \Vest of India ; whose sacredness of person had been received as a substitute for law in a condition of society which, whilst it felt the necessity of social obligations, could submit to none of the human re- straints by which they are maintained and enforced. Superstition supplied the defect. The Chfiran, if his pledge was violated, murdered himself or some member of his family : and the retribution for blood was believed to fall upon the head of him by whose default he had been impelled to make the sacrifice. The dread of such a destiny was generally of power to deter the least scrupulous
from the violation of an engagement so guaranteed. •
The following illustration of this usage is narrated by Lieutenant Macmnr- do. " In the year 1806, a Bbit;of Veweingaum, named Kunna, had become security on the part of Dossajee, the present chieftain of Mania in Muchoo- kanta, for a sum of money payable to the Gaekwar Government : the time specified for pay ment arrived, and Dossajee refused to fulfil his engagement. Government applied to the surety, who, after several fruitless attempts to per- suade Dossajee to comply with his bond, returned to his house, and after pass- ing some time in prayer, assembled his family, and desired his wife to prepare a daughter, about seven years of age, for traga. The innocent child, taught from her earliest infancy to reflect on the sacred character and divine origin of her family, and the necessity which existed for the sacrifice, required no compulsion to follow the path by which the honour of her caste was to be preserved. Having bathed and dressed herself in her best clothes, she knelt with her head on her father's knee, and, holding aside her long hair, she resigned herself with- out a struggle to the sword of this unnatural barbarian. The blood of a Bhtt
being sprinkled on the gate of the chieftain, produced an instantaneous payment of the money : presents of land to the father, and a handsome mausoleum or doree to the daughter, marked the desire of the Rajput to avert the punishment supposed to avrah the spiller of a Charan's blood."
The Anglo-Indian official should not have spent all his censure upon the " unnatural barbarian," who was merely fulfilling what he deemed a sacred duty, or at least a point of honour, which not upheld rendered life worthless ; but have bestowed some of his gall upon the Government, which knowingly stimulated the deed, and reaped the profit of it.
A RELIGIOUS DISPUTE.
In one part of the city [of Benares] an Imam-barn, a building for the occa- sional devotions of the Musselmans, was built in immediate proximity to a lit or stone column typical of Bhsirava, one of their subordinate deities, but held by the Hindus in peculiar veneration. As the lit and its neighbour were both much frequented by the followers of the different religions, their encounters gave frequent rise to angry feeling and reciprocal objurgation. On the morning of the 21st October, a number of both parties having been assembled,teir proceeded from abuse to blows; and in an interchange of missiles which eni part of the ornamental architecture of the Imam-bars was injured, and a but , serving as a temporary temple to the deified monkey Hanunsfawaerlernaliaked, and the idol was knocked ewer. The intervention of the police prevented fur- ther mischief on the spot; but the affray was renewed in another part of the town, and swords and clubs being had recourse to, several persons were killed or wounded before the disturbance could be suppressed.
The presence of the Magistrate and a small detachment of Sipahis restored the appearance of tranquillity; but they were no sooner withdrawn than the tumult recommenced. The Mohammedan weavers assembled in the evening in great numbers, and repairing quietly to the Hindu litt, heaped a quantity of combustibles round it and set them on fire, and when the stone was hot threw cold water upon it by which it was split to pieces. Intelligence of this pro- fanation reached the Hindus late in the evening, and filled them with horror and fury. Measures were taken to prevent the effects of their resentment on the following morning; but before a sufficient force could arrive, an enraged multitude had set fire to the Imam-bara, killed four or five of the persons at- tached to it, and sprinkled with the blood of a hog the tombs of those who had been interred in its consecrated vicinity.
Although extraordinary talents, zeal, and perseverance, were displayed in the discussion [of the Charter] on both sides, yet we are now able to decide from events that there was little of sound judgment or prophetic prescience in any of the contending parties. The twenty 2. cars of the renewed charter rolled. away ; and colonization, which was so confidently predicted as its unavoidable consequence, was as little probable at its close as at its commencement. Neither had it been found more difficult than before to protect the native population from the turbulence or violence of European settlers. The predictions, equally confident, that the trade was unsusceptible of extension, and that no new article of export could be introduced—predictions in which the most intelligent officers of the Company concurred, and to which even the advocates of free trade, however reluctantly, assented—were signally falsified. The trade, both export and import, did obtain a considerable augmentation under the new sys- tem; and articles entirely unknown in the annals of Indian imports were ex- ported thither from Great Britain to an immense amount, to the extinction of several similar products of domestic labour.
One point of some importance comes out in a perusal of this volume—the inferiority of the Directors of the East India Com- pany to their fortune and elevation. CLIVE treated them as so many nobodies, without the affectation of reverence ; the Marquis WELLESLEY behaved with more external ceremony, whilst his high rank, his brilliant abilities, and his equally brilliant success, seem to have given them the appearance of statesmanlike qualities, if not the reality,—as an ill-bred man in polite company is more restrained, and consequently better-behaved : their contentions with HASTINGS were indecent enough, and the jobs very scandalous ; but the Company's political timidity shows off against the unscru- pulousness of the proconsul ; whilst in most, perhaps in all of these cases, the reader feels that their position was anomalous and new. When the Marquis WELLESLEY withdrew, he left them the virtual sovereignty of India, and there were no risks or fears to intimidate them by the dangers of a large or direct policy : but the narrowness of the trader, and the jobber's good-nature to negligence or cor- ruption against the public, still prevail, and show more offensively by contrast with their condition. Remittances seem to be their main idea, to which every thing else is to give way ; and though the ringleaders of the Madras Army ought to have suffered condign punishment, and all military prospects have been cut off from the , inferior actors, yet the lenient sentences of the Court-martial (whose members were partly concerned in the crime) were not really carried out, but most of the cashiered and suspended re- volters were restored to the Army.