The Indian War.
The anticipated overthrow of the British Empire in India seems likely to be indefinitely postponed. The tone of our latest advices is much more hopeful, and although the actual gravity of the position of affairs in India seems to be beginning to be adequately appreciated in England, the confidence of the English in their power to control the situation, and to compel the restoration of tranquility in Bengal, without compromising the quiet of the Madras and Bombay Presidencies, is rising rapidly. There was a rumor current among the Madras passengers by the last overland mail that Delhi had fallen, but although this rumor was circulated upon the strength of the “Bazaar news,” which is held in India to be as much superior in authenticity and velocity to “Government news” as private expresses in America are known to surpass the national mails, yet it does not come to us in a shape which demands belief.
That Delhi should have been carried by assault is not in itself improbable. The place is defended by walls, which though formidable enough, when properly defended, are not calculated to resist heavy artillery, and might be breached with no great difficulty. Such is their construction, too, that if the insurgent Sepoys should have risked a battle outside of their fortifications, and have been followed up in their flight, and so have been taken within the very palace of their projected Empire.
But the probability of these things is contingent upon the display by General BARNARD, the English Commander, of just those audacious qualities which won India for England a century ago, but which have not been very conspicuous in the recent history of English generalship.
The most important feature of the news continues to be the apparently unorganized character of the revolt. Although there can be no doubt that a certain concert of action existed among the disaffected Sepoys of the Bengal army, and extended even to the population-Hindoo and Mohammedan- of the disturbed districts, there still appears to be no efficient leader of the enterprise, and as we have before observed, any rising in India, however vast may be its proportions, must end as a mere mob unless it gathers consistency and coherence around one strong and supreme central will. The King of Delhi has evidently had his “ancestral greatness” thrust upon him much against his will and is already known that he has displayed as strong a desire to repress the violence of his Preterian supporters, as was compatible with his own safety. An Eastern King, who rides on an English saddle and dotes upon pale ale, is hardly the man to take the place of NADIR SHAH OR HYDER ALLY. The King of Oude is a prisoner in Calcutta, and if he were at large, is quite too imbecile a person to be seriously feared-and the Rajah of Gwailor, in whose dominions the fever of the rebellion had first manifested itself, seems to have shown no disposition to accept the chances of a distinction so dangerous as would be conferred upon the active head of a general Indian war against Britain.
Very exciting and very perilous the situation of the English in Bengal undoubtedly is. The practical truth is that they are contending there for an empire with a vast conspiracy, the right arm of which they have themselves made strong and swift to smile. But they are contending with the prestige of a hundred years of victory behind them, and under the pressure of an absolute necessity of success. For it is essential to the position of England, and to her policy throughout the world, that she should put down the insurrection of the Sepoys at whatever cost of men and money. The resolution introduced by Lord JOHN RUSSELL into the House of Commons, and immediately east by that somewhat intolerable body as a wt blanket upon the zeal of Mr. DISRAELI, embodies the determination of the English people. “Her majesty’s government will be supported in any measures for calling out the militia at home, and thus increasing the force of regular troops at the disposal of the War Office. Sir COLIN CAMPBELL will have the whole English army at his command, if necessary, and the final result of the actual contest is merely a question of time.
But the contest over-a more solemn, if a less sanguinary conflict must determine the fate of British India-a conflict between the prejudices and the petty interest of a knot of commercial politicians who have heretofore controlled that mighty empire, and the common sense and civilized instincts of the people, who are really responsible in the last resort for the peace and the welfare of millions whom England has taken under her dominion in the East.
What the military service of the East India Company in Bengal was, has been shown to the world in the pages of Oakfield, a narrative of life in that service within three or four years ago by a son of Dr. ARNOLD, of Rugby, and republished at the time in this country. EDWIN ARNOLD, though not always the most discreet of writers and of men, is acknowledged to be a worthy heir of his father’s great qualities of truth and honor, and his revelations of the utter demoralization and debasement of the English officers in the Company’s service should be perused now by everyone who would understand how empires may be lost in the hour of their greatest apparent consolidation, and thunder-storms of vengeance break from skies seemingly without a cloud. If anything, excepting justice and common sense, could be astonishing in the proceedings of a close corporation, we might be astonished that the publication of this book should have produced an effect upon the management of a Company which gave to its author a virtual endorsement by continuing to employ him in its service! The civil service of the Company has not been much more respectably conducted than the army and in fact the ranks of the civil service have been largely recruited from among the inferior officers of the army-the one army being thereby weakened, that the other might be more thoroughly paralysed, when the excuses of the Sepoy insurrection shall have been curbed and its victims avenged, it is certainly hoped that the government of India may be taken in hand seriously and in the imperial spirit which becomes a great Christian nation, dealing with the resources of a magnificent continent, and swaying the destinies of a race of men.