Since that time we have had the Eastern Question breaking out again and again, and the settlement has yet to be found. The alarm about Russia and the Black Sea and Constantinople and the Dardanelles has passed away. Even about our Indian frontier our alarmists at present do not seem to trouble themselves nearly as much as it once was their wont to do. Russia is going on in her old way, developing her trade, pushing her empire, and maintaining her army, although her sovereigns of late years have not shown the passion for extended territory which animated some of the earlier descendants of Peter the Great. In the meantime Russia remains a solid and a stolid despotism. The Second Empire is gone - Louis Napoleon died an exile in England, his only son perished in an obscure encounter with a savage race in South Africa, where with a love for a military career he had taken service on the side of England. The maltreatment by Turkey of her Christian subjects took form at last in such outrageous massacre that scandalised Europe was compelled to interpose its authority, and Bulgaria was made an independent kingdom, as Roumania had been made after the Crimean War. The Turkish Government, however, still keeps up its policy of massacre, and the European Governments have only lately succeeded in compelling Turkey to let her Armenian populations alone, and to resign her control over the Greek island of Crete, which was left out of the European reckoning at the time of the battle of Navarino.
The Congress of Paris had hardly done its work in the temporary, and only temporary, settlement of the Eastern Question, when new and terrible troubles broke out in England's Indian Empire. England had always had to pay the ransom for her Indian Empire in the perpetual recurrence of trouble caused either by a mistaken policy or by the unquenchable hostility of native Indian rulers, or by the threaten-ings of foreign aggression. The early fame of the Duke of Wellington was won in the great Mahratta wars, when he saved for England her Indian Empire - through many a wild Mahratta battle like that in which the evil-starred father of the hero in Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" lost his life. Napoleon called Wellington in contempt a Sepoy colonel; but the Sepoy colonel proved too much for Napoleon on the field of Waterloo. Early in the reign of Queen Victoria came the grim disasters of Cabul and the Khyber Pass. There, no doubt, the disasters were brought on by the ill-advised policy which English statesmanship pursued in regard to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the great north-western region of Asia, through which all the great ways pass that lead from Persia to the Indian frontier. It was the unhappy policy of English statesmen at the time to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, partly because of the not unnatural dread which they entertained that Russia might endeavour to win over the Afghan ruler and the Afghan people into a friendship and an alliance which would open an easy path for Russian ambition towards the coveted Indian territory. The ruler of Afghanistan at the time was Dost Mohammed, a man of remarkable gifts both as soldier and ruler.
Dost Mohammed, however, had come to the rulership by means of a revolution which had set aside what we may call, to borrow a word from European history, the legitimate rulers of the country. He was, however, the favourite of the majority in Afghanistan; but his reign was regarded with alarm and jealousy by English statesmen, who looked on him as likely to become the instrument of Russia's designs. Therefore, England endeavoured to put him aside, and to set up a new ruler in his place. Out of that ill-omened policy came all the disasters that happened. Our Envoy, Sir Alexander Burnes, was ordered to carry out a policy of which he thoroughly disapproved. He was a friend of the Afghans, but he had to obey his orders; and he was treacherously murdered in Cabul. An army was sent from India to set up the puppet King and to avenge the murder of Burnes; and the army found the whole native population against them, and had to attempt a retreat through the Khyber Pass. Men and women are still living who can well remember the impression created in England by the accounts which reached London - news travelled slowly in those days - of the cruel sufferings and slaughter which our officers and soldiers, and many English ladies and children, experienced in that ghastly retreat. It is no part of our object to go through the details of that dreadful time; let it be enough to say that scarcely a handful of that army reached the Indian frontier. There was treachery on the part of some of the followers of Dost Mohammed; on the part of his son, Akbar Khan, among the rest; and the Afghans tried to excuse their treachery by declaring that England had behaved with treachery to them. The puppet King was himself assassinated; and the whole story is one of massacre and of suffering - all the more melancholy to read of, because the English officers and troops did their duty splendidly, and the English women showed bravery and endurance worthy of the bravest and most patient men.
Sir Henry Lawrence. I806-I857.
Lord Lawrence. 1811-1879.
Now again, in 1857, a new and far more widespread evil threatened the safety of the Indian Empire. There can be no doubt that for a long time a vast conspiracy against England had been spreading itself over India. English Viceroys and English statesmen at home had believed themselves, again and again, compelled by events to dethrone native princes, and to take possession of their dominions. Probably all that is but an inevitable part of the work of conquest, when conquest is once undertaken in a country of vast extent like India, and peopled, like India, by a variety of native races differing among themselves in language, in traditions, in religion, in usages, and in aspirations. England had lately been annexing new territories in India and dispossessing native rulers. The time, no doubt, seemed peculiarly appropriate for a general uprising on the part of the native populations against the English masters of the soil. England was actually engaged at the time in a war with Persia, and a large number of her troops were withdrawn from India to carry on that war. Then there can be no doubt that the events of the Crimean War had made a deep impression on the minds of some of the Indian rulers and of the Indian populations. An impression had gone abroad in India that England had not shown to great advantage in the Crimean War; that even with the help of France she had had enough to do to hold up against Russia; and that Russia, although technically defeated in the Crimea, was the great rising Power in the West. These facts combined would, at all events, give an appearance of probability to the theory that a great uprising against England was planned by the native populations, and was communicated by means of symbolical messages sent with astonishing rapidity, from village to village, all over the country. It has never been made quite certain whether the true history of the events that followed was brought about by such a widespread conspiracy, or whether the whole troubles only sprang from the discontent that existed among our native troops.