Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

! formation. By education I do not mean a course of scholastic I training; but some sort of training at least should be imparted 'to sepoys, whom, of all others, it is most absolutely requisite • to humanize and to bring under the fear of God. The soldier's

occupation is with arms; his daily business lies in tactics and physical force. Unless he is taught in some shape the duties he

owes to his God, his sovereign, and to his immediate employers, " he becomes, when infuriated, worse than a cannibal, as has been " to our shame demonstrated in the recent rebellion."

It is scarcely necessary to mention and refute the accusations brought against the“ fanatical,” the “ bigotted ” zeal of Lieut.Col. Wheeler. Lord Canning has been led to declare that officer unfit for military command. But such unfitness has only now, in these days of panic and confusion, come to be discovered, though the uncompromising “methodistical” soldier can never have been a favorite with the powers that be, and must have had many enemies. And it must be borne in mind, that he has now been condemned in the face of an honorable acquittal by a Court of Enquiry, not composed of fellow methodists. As to the connection of the Colonel's preachings with the mutiny, the fact is absolutely decisive, that the sepoys have never once bethought themselves of turning the Colonel's religious zeal into a grievance, never mentioned his religious activity, though the subject was almost suggested to them by the harangue of General Hearsey, in April. Had they said a word, had they audibly murmured against the proselytism of their Colonel, the grievous charge would, perhaps, have been set forth in general orders. But the world has heard nothing of the kind. The shrewd, the seditious sepoys were too dull, it appears, to perceive the shocks, which Lieut.-Col. Wheeler gave to their Hindu or Mussulman prejudices, and their extreme jealousy of religious interference, week after week.

But we must protest altogether against the attempt to connect the deplorable events of the last six months with religious feelings, prejudices, jealousies, fears, or anything purely religious whatso

How, in the name of common sense, could Mohammedan fanaticism and Hindu fanaticism agree, as the Mussulman and Brahmanic mutineers have done ? Could fanaticism, for the first time in the history of mankind, have submitted to compromises at the time when it burst forth in uncontrolled fury against a race, professing a foreign religion ? Could the spirit of the Koran and the spirit of the Shastras fraternize? It is abundantly evident, whatever may be the theoretic possibility or impossibility of such a phenomenon, that no such compromise has been entered into by the two great parties of the mutiny. The spirit of Mohammedanism has displayed itself in its traditionary character of fanatic violence at Delhi and other places. Hindus, Brahmans, yea Brahman sepoys, and fellow mutineers, have been forcibly converted. The phantom king of Delhi, during the short-lived resurrection of the dead power of the house of Timur, has ordered every Seikh or Hindu or Punjabi prisoner to be slain. Had religious fanaticism been a primary element of the revolt, the camps of the mutineers would bave been divided against themselves after the first day of the outbreak. Or, bad the progress of Christian missions operated powerfully upon the minds both of Mussulman and Hindu sepoys, had the near prospect of the Christianization of Hindustan goaded the native army into rebellion, how is it, that the Presidency, in which Christian converts are now counted by thousands year after year, should have remained tranquil, and that the scenes of the mutinies should have been laid in those parts of the country, where the progress of Christianity has been almost imperceptible ? Were any further proof of the non-religious character of the mutiny required, we should point to its moral aspect, which has, throughout, presented features never found blended with genuine fanaticism. The fanatic may burn or slay, he may flay alive or torture on the rack his wretched victims; he may be carried to the wildest excesses of mad hatred, or the strangest freaks of refined cruelty—but he will never choose the victims of his religious rage for objects of his sensuality. Satiated bestiality may, often does, turn in murderous passion against its victims, but the cruelty of the fanatic is of another kind. Destruction, swift or slow, is its single aim. It rushes upon blood and deåth too impetuously to be detained and diverted by enervating licentiousness. Fanatical murderers would never have hit upon the hellish whim of putting in a row, like pairs of shoes, as was done at Cawnpore, fifty pair of white men's and thirty of women's feet, carefully cut off at the ankles.

ever.

Let us, then, discard, resolutely and entirely, from our minds every solution of the dreadful enigma, drawn direct from any purely religious consideration, from the effects of Christian missions, or any acts of British officers, civil or military, done by them in private and in their private character.

Others, chiefly military men of experience and discernment, have laid the blame at the door of the present radically defective system of military administration, to which they trace the real causes of the mutiny. Their complaints may be summed up

under the following heads, viz:

1. The more and more prevailing principle of centralization, The bureaucratic system of the Commanders-in-Chief absorbing, or at least weakening, and often neutralizing the powers of subordinate officers, especially of commanders of regiments, has done much of late, they say, to loosen the bonds of discipline,

and to deprive regimental officers of the authority and the influence they possessed in former times, when Colonels held almost absolute jurisdiction and power within their regiments, when they could promote or punish according to their own discretion, and act vigorously according to the exigencies of the moment. Then commanding officers, it is said, had much

. power, but also much responsibility; they were then loved by many of their sepoys, feared by some, respected and obeyed by all. Now-a-days a Colonel in command of a regiment has little or no power, neither is he burdened with much responsibility. The sepoy appeals from him to a court martial, to the General of division, to the Commander-in-Chief, and such appeals are not very unfrequently successful. The loss of power hereby entailed on the military authorities in sight, is not compensated by the uncertain action of a scantily informed Board or Chief, at an invisible distance. The influence of the other regimental officers must be impaired in proportion. This is one of the causes of that unruly spirit, which has so much increased of late among the native army.

2. In olden times, officers joined their regiments for life. They entered young, and stuck by their sepoys, grew old among them, and obtained a familiar knowledge, inconceivable almost to people of the present generation, of every thing that concerned their men. They were not overburdened, it is added, with religious principle, had of Christianity little more than the name, and many of them being attached to native women, were almost naturalized among their sepoys by a perfect knowledge of their language, a half-heathen sort of religion, and, Europe and home being well nigh forgotten, by a great similarity of sentiment and principle.

Now-a-days the connection of the regimental officer with his sepoys is very loose. The young Ensign lands with letters of recommendation in his pocket, if he can obtain them through relatives and friends, on which he rests his hopes of exchanging ill-paid and uninteresting garrison duties for staff employment, or some civil appointment, yielding higher salary and honor, and affording greater opportunity for distinguishing himself. He stays with his regiment until he has qualified himself for examination in one or two languages, or until, by interest or favour, he obtains some coveted berth. His heart and mind are away from the regiment, even during the time of his bodily presence, and when he takes leave at last, it is with the earnest wish to stay away as long as possible.

3. But there are general causes, good and hopeful in them. selves, which act unfavorably on the ancient sympathies between the sepoy and his European officers. Religion-true, personal, practical religion bas, (who will deny it ?-)made great progress

[ocr errors]

among the Christian residents in India. In every part of India, and in all professions, men are to be found, who honor and are an honor to the name of Christ. The establishment of Bi-hoprics, the multiplication of chaplains, the growing strength of Christian missions, have, under the blessing of the divine Head of the church, contributed much to raise the religious, and still more to raise the outwardly moral character of the European community. Licentiousness and drunkenness are now as much proscribed, as in days of old, they were tolerated, yea encouraged.

The steady increase of matrimonial habits among military 'men, the greater facilities now afforded for revisiting home, the !

constant, and lively and close interchange, not of letters only,

but of mind and spirit between all parts of India, and between • India and England, kept up by steam, by the rail and by the • telegraph, and the spirit of European ascendancy peculiar to

the second generation of this nineteenth century, all tend insensibly, but surely, to Europeanize and Christianize the sepoy

officer, and to deprive him more and more of the ancient leaning • towards native ways, native customs, and native religions."

4. The absenteeism of officers has been noted by many well informed men, as one of the main sources of mischief in the management of the native army. It has been justly said, that officers cannot have influence upon their men without familiar and constant intercourse, and sepoys cannot be expected to esteem, to love, or to fear officers, of whom they see little, and know less. The paucity of officers present with a number of the mutinous regiments, has been pointed to as an ominous circumstance. The following tabular statement was given in the Friend of India of May 28th, shewing the number of officers present with each of the revolted regiments at the time when they mutinied :

Command
Regts.

Captain.

Cornet or

Lieut. ing Officer.

Ensign. 3rd Cavalry.... 1

6
7

none.
9th N. I.
1

5

3 lith ditto

1

2
8

2 19th ditto

1

4
7

1 20th ditto

1

3
6

3 34th ditto

1

2
8

1 38th ditto

1

2
3

3 45th ditto

1

4
6

3 54th ditto

1

4
6

3 57th ditto

1

2
6

2 74th ditto

3
6

2

[ocr errors]

.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

We have, that journal remarked, cleven regiments, belonging to the regular Bengal army, with a complement of 251 officers, excluding medical men, and out of that number, but 136, or little more than half, were present with their respective corps at the time when their aid was most needed. 17 per cent. of the number are ensigns, and eighty officers, or 30 per cent. of the entire number, bearing commissions, are in civil employ or hold. ing detached stations on the staff !

5. The evils of the seniority system have also been pointed out as collateral causes of the revolt, productive of inefficiency in the highest posts of military administration, and mischievous among the native portion of the army, through the constant check laid by it upon every impulse of military ambition, and the inevitable inefficiency of superannuated men, filling stations of great importance and responsibility, thus forming an isolating dead weight rather than a living conductor between the European officer and the sepoy.

There is no doubt, that all the causes here enumerated, have conduced to diminish the hold, which European officers ought to have, and which in former days they had, in a greater measure than now, upon the minds of their sepoys, but they do not explain the Bengal mutiny. The system of centralization has been equally dominant and rampant in all the presidencies. Staff employment and civil employments have been sought after, as eagerly by the Bombay and the Madras officers, as by their brethren in Bengal. The influences tending to un-Hinduize, to Europeanize and Christianize, the British officer have been as strong, if not stronger, in the western and southern presidencies, as in the northern. Regimental absenteeism, and the principle of seniority have prevailed all over India, for years, in the same degree. It must be confessed too, that the comparatively young General Anson has been of as little service to India as General Hewitt, and that Bengal regiments have mutinied, whether they had many European officers with them or few. Remembering the infamous 6th regiment B. N. I., who first mutinied, then feigned loyalty, and begged to be led against Delhi; first swore eternal fidelity to their officers, hugging them with tears, and then in the evening shot twenty of them dead at the Messhouse at Allahabad, we rather rejoice in the number of British officers saved by their happy absence from the treacherous and cruel fangs of the Bengalis.

One great, fatal defect, for which the home authorities, and they alone, are responsible, has prevailed to a greater and more inexcusable extent in Bengal and the north, than in Bombay and Madras,—the paucity of European regiments, which has, in Dec., 1857.

B1

« PreviousContinue »