THE COLLAPSE OF BITRMAH.
THERE is something very impressive to the imagination in the audacious calmness with which this conquest of Burmah has been carried through. From first to last the Indian. Government has acted as if it were doing a piece of work which had fallen to it in the ordinary way of business, and which hardly required discussion, far less any unusual strain of effort. It bore with the Court of Burmah, its bizarre insolences, its not unfrequent outrages, and its per- petual intrigues, for more than thirty years, until it became dangerous ; and then the Viceroy, hardly lifting his hand, and almost in silence, struck the dynasty of Alompra down. Even when the decision had been taken, the Government of India indulged in no fanfaronade, uttered no menaces, issued no proclamations, raised no extra troops, but quietly ordered an efficient officer of no high rank to submit an ultimatum to the King, and on its rejection "to take Burmah." It made no exaggerated preparations. Some three thousand Europeans and four thousand Sepoys were considered sufficient to conquer an
empire ; their transport to Rangoon was effected like that of an ordinary relief, and when King Theebau issued his declara- tion of war, General Prendergast was ready to strike straight at the heart of the Burmese kingdom. He steamed at once for Mandelay, captured almost without loss the only forts on the river which barred his road, and within fifteen days of quitting the frontier, arrived at Ave, the ancient capital. There the Burmese might have been expected to make their final stand ; and though the heart was out of them, they did make some effort to obtain terms. In a letter which whines audibly, they complained that the British were too prompt, and asked on what terms an armistice would be granted. The reply, alike in its quiet form and its amazing audacity, was thoroughly characteristic. General Prendergast, who had been dropping garrisons along his road, by this time had scarcely two thousand Europeans with him ; he knew the Burmese Army was still eighteen thousand strong, and he had two great capitals to take, both of them fortified in a way, and one still containing a population of 100,000 men, who for a century and a half have considered themselves, with much justice, one of the dominant races of Asia. Nobody fights better than a Burman when he sincerely intends fighting. Nevertheless, the General asked all. If the Burmese would surrender their King, their Army, their remaining fortresses, and their capital, he would grant an armistice, but not otherwise ; and when the astounded negotiators hesitated, he got up steam to start at once for Mandelay. That quiet, pitiless persistence, as of a mart wielding a force with which it was folly to contend, broke down all resistance. King Theebau "had heard the sound of the great guns at Minhla ;" and, under special orders from the Palace, the kingdom, with its resources still untouched, was laid quietly at the General's feet. The troops flung away their arms, the forts round Ava were thrown open, and on Novem- ber 29th Mandelay was occupied without a shot being fired in its defence. The Burmese Empire has, in fact, fallen, like Jericho, before the sound of an attack.
Lord Dufferin deserves the highest credit for his manage- ment of this bloodless campaign. He was, to begin with, thoroughly well informed. He must have sanctioned the plan of the campaign, which was in reality as audacious as Lord Wolseley's ascent of the Nile, and which, had there been
either heart or generalship among the Burmese, might have conspicuously failed. He chose the right man for command, —a man who would go straight to his end, and who under- stood that in Asia it is easier to secure unconditional surrender than any " terms," however moderate. And he limited the effort and waste involved in the expedition, which has overthrown a kingdom as large as France, and has probably cost less than any first-class ironclad in her Majesty's Fleet. There has been nothing, in fact, to pay for, except some transport and the cost of a few weeks' extra allowances to the troops on active service. The work has been splendidly done; but it must not be forgotten that Lord Dufferin was greatly aided by the internal condition of the Burmese kingdom. The structure which looked so stately in the eyes of its subjects, and which impressed even foreigners with a certain awe, so that up to the last moment a severe, if not dangerous, struggle was expected, must have been rotten through and through. It must have been dechying silently for a generation. The Burmese War Office did not even succeed in blocking the channel of the river, which General Prendergast, now that he holds Ava, would in a few hours render inaccessible to the strongest fleet. The Burmese soldiers clearly did not want to fight ; and when they threw their weapons away, openly confessed their delight in being rid of the whole business. The people along the river welcomed the English as deliverers. The officials and the populace of the capital must have been willing to submit, or they would have over- thrown the King ; and finally, Theebau himself must have been either panic-stricken or utterly unequal to the duties of his poli- tion. He might have embarrassed the invader either by fighting behind stockades, or by flying into the interior, or by abdicating in favour of a stronger Regent ; but he remembered the pleasures of Calcutta. and preferred an honourable detention in a palace on the Hooghly. He gave up hope at the sound of a cannonade thirty-five miles distant,—a strange commentary on his order, the ink of which is scarcely dry, to drive the English into the sea and reconquer Pegu and Aracan. In truth. all Burmah was weary of an independence which brought nothing eLcept to a few officials, and to them only the delight of murdering with impunity. With a cowardly tyrant on the throne, with the provinces given up to banditti. with prosperity at an end, and with the population slowly perishing at once of misgovernment and emigration, the people
saw no reason for fighting ; and as the invaders were British, no reason for fearing conquest. They knew what conquest meant. On every side, except the Eastern, Upper Burmah is girdled in by provinces, once her own, but now British, in which Burmans are living easy lives under the shelter of the British flag. Aracan has been British for sixty years, Assam for forty-seven years, Pegu for thirty-two years, and in them all Burmans are not only as safe, but as free as Londoners in London. If any man kills them, he is hanged ; if any man robs them, he works in chains upon the roads. No official interferes with, or even notices, their religious observances. They may travel without permits, set up shops without police permission, trade with all the world without hindrance or remark. So long as they pay their taxes, no official ever visits them ; and if they grow rich, as they habitually do, not only is there no extortion, but they are con- sidered praiseworthy citizens, and receive from their conquerors, in various ways, distinct marks of approval. Where is the temptation to avoid a fate like that, by fighting to the death for a Sovereign who next week may execute you out of pure wantonness, and who certainly will leave any soldier who plunders you unpunished and uncensured ? There is nothing in his creed to reward a Burman for fighting; and though proud of his race, he has little feeling of country, and none of that hatred of the European which in so many Asiatic countries does full duty for patriotism. Nothing was lost by submission except the freedom of the King to execute at will ; and from the Premier, who is only alive because Theebau's predecessor guaranteed him by patent against every known method of execution, down to the fishermen on the river, the whole population of Burmah decided that it was useless to contend. Colonel Sladen, there- fore, steps quietly into the King's place as Administrator of Upper Burmah, and the Viceroy only awaits a despatch from Lord Randolph Churchill to declare all Burmah; Native and British, a new Lieutenant-Governorship. We presume the order will be to annex, for there is hardly any other open path. The declarations of the Burmese, who have practically given a plebiscite in our favour, have removed the moral difficulty, and imposed upon us a certain obligation. We can hardly hand them over to native rulers again,—and, indeed, it is doubtful if a native could again rule. The organisation of the State has fallen to pieces. The Army no longer inspires any fear ; and if a Princelet of the dynasty could be found, he could not defend himself against the Shans of the interior. It is not fair to allow the Shans to conquer the people we have broken, and who avowedly choose us ; and we see no practical alternative to the acceptance of a new and onerous task. Burmah will cost nothing, for the people ask only government ; and in ten years it will be a rich and prosperous province. We are getting far too many of suela possessions, and some day shall find that our resources of energy are unequal to their task ; but still England is a reservoir of capacities, and the revenue we draw from these huge deltas helps us to carry on the work of civilisation in Asia. Nobody wanted Burmah, which Lord Dalhousie thirty-three years ago angrily refused to take; but it has thrown itself into our hands, and we must do with it the best we can. After all, there must be a gift somewhere in our disagreeable people, or races which fight the French to the death, and which have defied even China, would not swoon away as we approach, and ask only that we will please to mount the throne. Imagine a city like Mandelay opening its gates without a shot fired, that an Englishman may ride through its streets to its Palace, avowedly to arrest its King!