TOPICS OF THE DAY.
WHAT ARE MINISTERS DOING?—" VERY FEW CAN TELL."
Is very large letters above " the leader" of the Sun newspaper, ad- vertising a map projected by that ingenious publication, appears
this heading : " War with China—Where is China ?—"Very few ean tell." The same might with at least equal force Lind truth be pre- dicated of the belligerent demonstrations of our rulers both in Europe and Asia: " What is all this ?—Very few can tell." The bloodshed and the expenditure of our operations in Syria are bad enough ; and the risk—not yet got over—of an eventual
war with France, is worse. But even a war with France is
an evil the extent of which might be calculated by an approximate ,onjecture ; whereas the hostile proceedings in the further Asia are of a nature to lead to consequences which bailie all conjecture. We are there embarking in an enterprise of which it is impossible to foretell where it may or may not entry us. There can with regard to it be no calculation of means to ends—no es- timate as to whether the undertaking lies within our power—for no one knows what that undertaking is. Our tetritories in Hindustan have been extended from a paltry district round Calcutta till they embrace the whole of the Indian peninsula. When we look back on the history of' their acquisition, we can point out no period at which the progress of our territorial acquisitions could have been arrested a ith any assurance of our being able to retain what we had already acquired. Our career in
India can only be compared to the proceedings of a man acting under a spell which doomed him to heap treasure upon treasure,
and not to desist even when he began to be haunted with the fear of being crushed and suffocated under his accumulations. We have been constantly protesting that our possessions in India were too extensive, and regretting the necessity which compelled us to ex- tend them, and going on to extend them still further. The first foot of land we acquired in Hindostan involved us in the politics of a half-civilized race : we felt that we must either relinquish it, or defend it by that aggressive policy, that mixture of treachery and force, which was brought to bear upon us by the native chiefs. Our more advanced civilization has hitherto enabled us to defeat all enemies, but has not enabled us to escape subjection to their, system. In our Indian policy we have been reduced to the level of their knowledge and morality. It is this consideration which renders our present operations in China and Afghanistan so alarming. They are necessary conse- quences of our Indian policy : as the acquisition of Calcutta could only be maintained by the conquest of the whole peninsula, so it would seem the possession of the wide empire bounded by the Indus and the Ganges can only be maintained by annexing to it neighbouring empires, each of them equalling itself in extent. According to the latest news from China, One British squadron has blockaded the Canton River, and another has been despatched to the Northward to occupy a post at the mouth of the Yellow River. These operations will make us masters of the two prin- cipal entrances to China from the sea. The avowed object of them is, by stopping the whole export and coasting trade of China, to excite disaffection against the Chinese Government; and to pro- mote this end, assurances of amity and protection to the inhabitants are distributed along the coast. What does the British Govern- ment anticipate or conjecture is to be the result of these opera- tions ? When and where are they to terminate ? Is it in its power to limit their duration or extent ? Can it say with certainty that they will not leave the government of China upon its hands ? or that, having undertaken the task of governing China for a time, it will be in its power to give it up again ? Our operations against China are not confined to those of ag- gression : the Anglo-Indian Government feels the necessity of placing its own frontier in a state of defence. Between us and the Nepaulese, on the Northern frontier of our Indian dominions, there exists but a hollow truce ; and so strong is the apprehension enter- tamed by the British authorities of an attack from the combined torces of China and Nepaul, that an army of observation has been stationed on that frontier.
Simultaneously with these proceedings, we are rapidly extending our operations to the West of the Indus. In Afghanistan we and our puppet King possess not a foot of land beyond what is covered by the range of our cannon. In Belooehistan our first successes have been reversed, mid it is found necessary to despatch ad- ditional forces from Bombay to the Indus. Suspicions are enter- tained of the attachment of the Governor of Herat ; and it is pro- posed to occupy that City (800 miles ill advance of our Indian fron- tier) by a British garrison.
We are maintaming and daily adding to two large armaments, carrying on war in China, and in the territories lying between the Indus and Persia. We are maintaining an army of observation on the Northern frontiers of Ilindostan. And while thus engaged in external war, it is discovered that the plots againA the British Go- vernment lately detected and defeated in Kurnaul and Sattara, had wider ramifications, and seem to have received encouragement and support from the Seiks, a warlike people who occupy an ex- tensive and difficult territory between our Indian frontier and our army in Afghanistan. We have every prospect, therefitre, of being obliged to maintain our position by force of arms against external and Internal enemies at the same time. In addition to this, our
stoppage of the China trade is likely to produce misunderstanding between us and the Americans, and indeed all nations in the habit of trading to China; while on the other hand, our occupation of Herat will bring us into direct collision with the Shah of Persia, strengthened by Russian subsidies, if not by Russian soldiers.
With these tremendous issues in the range of possibility, is it fitting that the English nation continue to repose a blind and un- questioning confidence in Lord PALMERSTON and Sir JOHN Hon- nousn? Is it not imperatively called to demand from the Govern- ment an explicit statement, what is the extent of operations con- templated? what are the objects proposed to be attained ? what are the means by which it is proposed to attain them? The inte- rest mid the honour of Great Britain require that we should no longer allow ourselves to be in our Indian relations the mere slaves of circumstances. The interest and honour of Great Britain re- quire that before engaging beyond power of retreat in extensive and costly hostilities, we should inquire whether we possess the power to fidlow out our undertaking to a successful issue, and whe- ther engaging in it be consistent with sound morality.