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plained cause, had been published as accurate. Burnes told Lord Auckland that he meant publicly to correct these grave errors, but he was dissuaded by the representations of the Viceroy, who argued that now his country was committed to a momentous course of policy, it would be held unpatriotic in a confidential servant to cast doubt on its accuracy and good faith. He could not suppose that the misrepresentations had been intentional, and as all was well that ended well, he had much better resume diplomatic functions in Afghanistan, than worry himself and others about discrepancies of statement that had become historical. At the moment all looked bright with triumph, and Burnes felt that his name would for ever be associated with the notable changes that had been brought about by a combination of diplomacy and arms; and he contented himself with reprinting privately the more important of his original despatches, with the corrections needed, for circulation among his friends at home. And this is the way history is made. There were in those days no electric means of collation, correction, or confutation; and the people of England, without means official or unofficial of understanding what the quarrel was about, read only of conflicts worthy of their flag, and listened to the guns firing for victories gained, and lay down thankfully to sleep, unconscious of what manner of deeds were doing in their name.
A large Sikh force joined the British army under Sir Willoughby Cotton, at Ferozepore; and, proceeding through the Bolan pass, formed a junction with the main army under Sir John Keane at Quettah. Thence they moved on Candahar, where they proclaimed the restoration of the Afghan King early in May 1839. The fortress of Ghuzni was attacked soon afterwards, and taken; Dost Mahommed abandoned the capital, and on the 7th August, Shah Sujah
what they had to expect so soon as their turn should come. How could the most trusting, credulous, or peaceful amongst them believe that they were safe? Already their subjugation had been publicly discussed in the British Parliament as a question only of time. Within two years from the annexation of Scinde, it had been openly foretold that the Country of the Five Rivers would be ours. The forecast had not been uttered by official lips, indeed, for such candour would have been without precedent; and Sir Robert Peel, above all men, trod faithfully in the way of Parliamentary usage. But the assertion made by Mr Roebuck' was not repudiated; and whatever may have been the confidential counsel given by his colleagues to Sir Henry Hardinge, it would be vain to pretend that his approval, as a soldier of experience and repute, for the post of Governor-General, was likely to tranquillise the misgivings of the Sikhs. The new Viceroy would gladly have deferred the apprehended collision, and those who knew him well will probably contend, with excellent reason, that he was of a nature too just and generous to incur the terrible responsibilities of a sanguinary conflict through any motive of military ambition or personal vainglory. Like the great master of strategy he had served so long, he had seen too much of the realities of war to wish to see Had there been any man among the
any more of them.
Sikhs of ascendant
Had there been
intellect and capacity for great affairs, he might have led them to restrain their fears, consolidate their resources, and wait for events; in which case, it is by no means clear that they would have been early molested or easily reduced. But it was not to be so; and the first duty of Sir H. Hardinge was to organise prepara
1 Debate on Lord Ashley's motion for liberation of the Amîrs of Scinde, February 1844,
a zenana. Little, if any care seems to have been taken to lay in stores on the approach of winter, or to arm the forts in the neighbourhood, which might have rendered the camp ordinarily safe from attack. On the 2d November, without any known provocation or notice, the Residency of Sir A. Burnes was beset by an armed mob, by whom, after vain expostulation, he and his staff were slain. A detachment ordered to occupy the quarter where the outrage had been committed, was hemmed in for hours in narrow streets, and after considerable loss was compelled to fall back. Incapacity and irresolution paralysed those in command. Macnaghten sent urgent appeals for relief to Nott at Candahar, and to Sale, who was still at Jellalabad ; but some of his messages were never received, and the answer of Sale, when at length made acquainted with the exigency, was that he had neither commissariat or ammunition sufficient to justify his undertaking a winter march through a hostile country. Six weeks were wasted in fruitless negotiation. Food grew more scarce, and the severity of the weather more intense; while every day the compassing hosts grew more numerous and menacing, and the terms of accommodation demanded by their Chiefs grew more humiliating to yield. The situation had become desperate, when on the 23d December the Resident was beguiled into an interview by an invitation from Akbar Khan-now at the head of the insurgents-and on a signal given, seized and butchered in cold blood. No attempt was made to avenge his death; but some days later terms were agreed to by which fourteen lacs of rupees were paid as ransom, all the guns but six were surrendered, and six officers were given as hostages for the immediate retreat of the entire army from Afghanistan. Even this failed to secure the immunity so dearly bought. Hardly had the troops
quitted their cantonments, when they were assailed by their implacable foes. On the third day, Akbar Khan appeared to deprecate the imputation of treachery, and to offer protection to the families of the officers if they were given up to him, declaring his inability to restrain the mountain clans through the midst of whom the retreating corps had to pass. Ten days later General Elphinstone, a few of his staff, and the ladies thus surrendered, alone survived. Four thousand troops, and eleven thousand camp followers, perished in the futile effort to reach Jellalabad; one officer only gained that fortress to tell the miserable tale. A disaster like this had never befallen the countrymen of Clive and Wellesley, and wherever the tidings were made known they spread mortification and dismay. Lord Auckland's term of office had already expired, and he was but too glad to leave to other hands the task of retrieving the results of his ill-fated policy.
Lord Ellenborough was sent out as Viceroy, with instructions from Sir Robert Peel to bring the Afghan business to an end as quickly as was compatible with honour; and, for the rest, to keep the peace towards all our neighbours. The first news that greeted him on his arrival was the repulse, with heavy loss, of General Wild's division in an attempt to relieve Jellalabad. This defeat was followed by the surrender of Ghuzni, and the repulse of General England while endeavouring to succour Nott at Candahar. Amid great difficulties Lord Ellenborough acted with energy and judgment. Fresh troops were concentrated under
Pollock and Nott. Akbar Khan was defeated and driven from Cabul, which, having been re-occupied and dismantled, was finally abandoned. Shah Sujah had perished early in the struggle, and the claims of his dynasty were thought of no more. Dost Mahommed was set at liberty, and continued
to reign over Afghanistan without molestation for more than twenty years. For all the blood and treasure wasted, and all the shame and grief endured, the Government of India had nothing to show but the gates of Somnath, which Lord Ellenborough boasted that our troops had reft from the tomb of Mahmud at Ghuzni, where they had stood for eight hundred years, as a trophy of Afghan spoil; but which it was afterwards discovered were not, as he supposed, the doors which belonged to the Guzerat shrine, but substitutes of modern workmanship made of the pine wood in which Cabul abounds.