AN INDIAN CONTINGENT.
A GREAT want in the Crimea, says an Anglo-Indian, has been men ; and he gives us a paper in the Bombay Quarterly Review, show- ing us how we may obtain men from India. That region cer- tainly has been a fertile " officina gentium" ; but many objections have been felt to drawing troops from India. Sir De Lacy Evans proposed to obtain a reinforcement ; but he sank the idea of using the Native troops, and would have brought away several Euro- pean regiments. Now, Native India may ultimately be governed by public opinion, and indeed she now appears about to be born into the world of opinion. Some very interesting evidences of that birth have come before us even recently. But hitherto she has been go- verned by the bayonet as the tiltima ratio. Any statesman who proposes to withdraw European regiments from India forgets this fundamental axiom of Indian polity ; and, as the writer to whom we have referred says, the insurrection of the Sontals proved.that when the bayonets are removed out of sight the Natives forget ft too.
The reasons why the Native 'population has been overlooked have been manifold. In the first place, the Sepoys, organized as they are in irregular regiments, are accustomed to a mode of life which would render their mobilization almost impossible. They require arrangements and a camp-following that would immensely impede transport. Their physical strength has been thought in- capable of enduring. distant warfare. And the inexpediency of diminishing the obvious strength of the Native army has prevailed with reference to the Natives as well as to the Europeans. The plan suggested by the Bombay writer, however, appears to us in a great degree to overrule those objections ; and certainly to open the way by which a very useful contingent could be drawn from India and its dependencies. There would be three ways of organizing an Indian contingent. The first would be, to draft from the three Presidencies regiments already organized. The second, to raise new levies, officered by European officers, on the system which prevails in irregular forces. The third, to call for volunteers from every regiment in India, and form these into other regiments, also on the irregular system. The first plan is objectionable, inasmuch as it would, in the sight of the Natives, diminish the total force ; the second would be very slow ; the third would avoid most of the difficulties incident to an Indian contingent—not diminishing the number of regiments, but the individual vacancies in the ranks to be filled up by recruit- ment. It would draw out the pick of the men for distant enter- prise. The irregulars in India have answered very well ; they have shown good capacity for service with a very small allowance of European officers. Even the lower class of Sepoys, under European drill, have exhibited no difficulty in facing those Arabs who have been considered by Native sovereigns the stoutest and most formidable mercenaries, the possession of which rendered conquest certain. By the forming of the corps into irregulars, the Sepoys would know from the first, that they are not to enjoy those accompaniments which are thought essential for the regular. And notwithstanding the strong impression that the Hindoo will stick to his ancient customs,—which are, after all, perhaps not so very ancients—recent experience has proved that the men can be weaned from their ways. In the Bombay Army, for example, as we have had occasion to mention before, the positive refusal to recognize Native religious incapacities and tabooings, and the mixing of castes, have emancipated the men themselves from many barbarisms and burdensome restraints, and hays decidedly conduced to European discipline ; the Bombay Army forming a contrast with the Bengal in that respect. Would not the return of a Native contingent from abroad greatly conduce to the welfare of India, in strengthening the discipline and morale of the Native Army ? The Sikhs, pointed out by Sir Erskine Perry, would be usefully called into service in an Indian contingent. Taking " India" in its widest sense, an almost exhaustless draft of picked men would thus be opened to the aid of our Government. Corps could be raised, for example, like the Ceylon Rifles, recruited from Malacca, and peculiarly fitted both for a distant service and for the use of a formidable weapon. The Bombay Quarterly .Review reckons that a force of 30,000 men, including a valuable Light Horse corps, could be in this manner obtained from India.
The subject is worth inquiry ; but we agree with the writer in thinking that the inquiry would be far better conducted in India than in this country. We may add the further opinion, that the inquiry would be much better conducted by one highminded, ex- perienced, active, and conscientious officer, such as Sir Joseph Thackwell or Colonel Outram, than by any committee or commis- sion of several men.