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The English In India
by [?]

[Footnote 4:
Loodiana:’–The very last station in Bengal, on going westwards to the Indus. In Runjeet Singh’s time this was for many years the station at which we lodged our Affghan pensioner, the Shah Soojah–too happy, had he never left his Loodiana lodgings. ]

But, having thrown a glance at the shifting aspects of the danger, now let us alight for a moment on the cause of this dreadful outbreak. We have no separate information upon this part of the subject, but we have the results of our own vigilant observations upon laying this and that together; and so much we will communicate. From the first, we have rejected incredulously the immoderate effects ascribed to the greased cartridges; and not one rational syllable is there in the pretended rumours about Christianising the army. Not only is it impossible that folly so gross should maintain itself against the unremitting evidence of facts, all tending in the opposite direction; but, moreover, under any such idle solution as this, there would still remain another point unaccounted for, and that is the frantic hatred borne towards ourselves by many of the rebellious troops. Some of our hollow friends in France, Belgium, etc., profess to read in this hatred an undeniable inference that we must have treated the sepoys harshly, else how explain an animosity so deadly. To that argument we have a very brief answer, such as seems decisive. The Bengalese sepoy,[5] when most of all pressed for some rational explanation of his fury, never once thought of this complaint; besides which, it is too notorious that our fault has always lain the other way. Heavily criminal, in fact, we had been by our lax discipline; and in particular, the following most scandalous breach of discipline must have been silently connived at for years by British authorities. Amongst the outward forms of respect between man and man, there is none that has so indifferently belonged to all nations, as the act of rising from a sedentary posture for the purpose of expressing respect. Most other forms of respect have varied with time and with place. The ancient Romans, for instance, never bowed; and amongst orientals, you are thought to offer an insult if you uncover your head. In this little England of ours, who could fancy two stout men curtseying to each other? Yet this they did, and so recently as in Shakspere’s days. To use his words, they ‘crook’d the pregnant hinges of the knee.’ Sometimes they curtseyed with the right knee singly, sometimes with both, as did Romeo to the fiery Tybalt. Many and rapid, therefore, were the changes in ceremonial forms, at least with us, the changeable men of Christendom; else how could it happen that, two hundred and fifty years back, men of rank in England should have saluted each other by forms that now would be thought to indicate lunacy? And yet, violent as the spirit of change might otherwise be, one thing never changed–the expression of respect between man and man by rising from their seats.

‘Utque viro sancto chorus assurrexerit omnis’

is a record belonging to the eldest of days; and that it belonged not to the eldest times only, but also to the highest rank, is involved in a memorable anecdote from the last days of Julius Caesar. He, the mighty dictator–

‘Yes, he, the foremost man of all this world’–

actually owed his assassination, under one representation, to the burning resentment of his supposed aristocratic hauteur in a public neglect of this very form. A deputation of citizens, on a matter of business, had found him seated, and to their immeasurable disgust, he had made no effort even to rise. His friends excused him on the allegation, whether true or not, that at the moment he was physically incapacitated from rising by a distressing infirmity. It might be so: as Shakspere elsewhere observes, the black silk patch knows best whether there is a wound underneath it. But, if it were not so, then the imperial man paid the full penalty of his offence, supposing the rancorous remembrance of that one neglect were truly and indeed what armed the Ides of March against his life. But, were this story as apocryphal as the legends of our nurseries, still the bare possibility that ‘the laurelled majesty'[6] of that mighty brow should have been laid low by one frailty of this particular description–this possibility recalls us clamorously to the treasonable character of such an insolence, when practised systematically for the last eighteen months by a Pagan hound, by a sepoy from Lucknow or Benares, towards his British commanding officer. Shall it have been possible that the founder of the Roman empire died for having ignored the decencies of human courtesy, perhaps through momentary inattention, by wandering of thoughts, or by that collapse of energy which sometimes steps between our earnest intentions and their fulfilment–this man, so august, shall he have expiated by a bloody death one fleeting moment of forgetfulness? and yet, on the other hand, under our Indian government, the lowest of our servants, a mass of carrion from a brotherhood of Thugs, shall have had free license to insult the leaders of the army which finds bread for him and his kindred? That the reader may understand what it is that we are talking of–not very long ago, in one of the courts-martial occasioned by some explosions of tentative insubordination preliminary to the grand revolt, a British officer, holding the rank of lieutenant, made known to the court, that through the last twelve or eighteen months he had been struck and shocked by one alarming phenomenon within the cantonments of the sepoys: formerly, on his entering the lines, the men had risen respectfully from their seats as he walked along; but since 1854, or thereabouts, they had insolently looked him in the face, whilst doggedly retaining their seats. Now this was a punishable breach of discipline, which in our navy would be punished without fail. Even a little middy, fresh from the arms of his sisters or his nurse, and who does not bear any royal commission, as an ensign or cornet in the army, is thus supported in the performance of his duty, and made respectable in the eyes of his men, though checked in all explosions of childish petulance–even to this child, as an officer in command, respect is exacted; and on the finest arena of discipline ever exhibited to the world, it is habitually felt that from open disrespect to the ruin of all discipline the steps of descent are rapid. This important fact in evidence as to the demeanour of the sepoy, throws a new light upon the whole revolt. Manifestly it had been moulding and preparing itself for the last two years, or more. And those authorities who had tolerated Colonel Wheler for months, might consistently tolerate this presumption in the sepoy for a year.