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The English In India
by [?]

[Footnote 2:
‘A sight to dream of, not to tell.’–Coleridge. ]

[Footnote 3:
Twenty-three and twenty-eight thousand of these two orders we have in our Bengal army. ]

* * * * *

Now let us descend into the circumstantialities of the case, explaining what may have been obscure to the general reader. By which term general reader is meant, that reader who has had no reason for cultivating any acquaintance whatever with India; to whom, therefore, the whole subject is unbroken ground; and who neither knows, nor pretends to know, the merest outline of our British connection with India; what first carried us thither; what accidents of good luck and of imminent peril raised us from a mere commercial to a political standing; how we improved this standing by prodigious energy into the position of a conquering state; prospered rapidly by the opposition which we met; overthrew even our European competitors, of whom the deadliest were the French; pursued a difficult war with an able Mahometan upstart, Hyder Ali–a treacherous and cruel prince; next with his son, Tippoo Sahib, a still more ferocious scoundrel, who, in his second war with us, was settled effectually by one thrust of a bayonet in the hands of an English soldier. This war, and the consequent division of Tippoo’s dominions, closed the eighteenth century. About 1817 we undertook the great Mahratta war; the victorious termination of which placed us, after sixty years of struggle, in the supreme rank amongst Indian potentates. All the rest of our power and greatness accrued to us by a natural and spontaneous evolution of consequences, most of which would have followed us as if by some magnetic attraction, had we ourselves been passive. No conquering state was ever yet so mild and beneficent in the spirit of its government, or so free from arrogance in its demeanour. An impression thoroughly false prevails even amongst ourselves, that we have pursued a systematic course of usurpations, and have displaced all the ancient thrones of Hindostan. Unfortunately for this representation, it happens that all the leading princes of India whose power and rank brought them naturally into collision with ourselves, could not be ancient, having been originally official dependants upon the great Tartar prince, whose throne was usually at Agra or Delhi, and whom we called sometimes the Emperor, or the Shah, or more often the Great Mogul. During the decay of the Mogul throne throughout the eighteenth century, these dependent princes had, by continual encroachments on the weakness of their sovereign, made themselves independent rulers; but they could not be older than the great Mogul Shah himself, who had first created them. Now the Mogul throne was itself a mere modern creation, owing its birth to Baber, the great-grandson of Tamerlane. But Baber, the eldest of these Tartar princes, synchronised with our English Henry VIII. In reality, there was nothing old in India that could be displaced by us; at least amongst the Mahometan princes. Some ancient Hindoo Rajahs there were in obscure corners, but without splendour of wealth or military distinction; and the charge of usurpation was specially absurd, since we pre-eminently were the king-makers, the king-supporters, the king-pensioners, in Hindostan; and excepting the obscure princes just mentioned, almost every Indian prince, at the time of our opening business in the political line, happened to be a usurper. We ourselves made the Rajah of Oude into a king; we ourselves more than once saved the supreme Shah (i. e. the Great Mogul) from military ruin, and for many a year saved him and his from the painful condition of insolvency. But all this is said in the way of parenthesis. In another number, a sketch of our Indian Empire, in its growth and early oscillations, may be presented to the reader, specially adapted to the use of those whose reading has not lain in that direction. Now let us return to the great domineering question of the hour–the present tremendous revolt on the part of seventy or eighty thousand men in our Bengal Presidency.