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Art. II.--A Review of the Operations of the British Force at
Cabul, during the outbreak in November 1841, and during the retreat of the above Force in January 1842. By William Hough, Major, Bengal Establishment. Englishman Press. Calcutta. 1850.
We doubt if Cæsar, whether asleep or awake, were much of a dreamer. At all events, with a convenient treaty just concluded with Cassivellaunus, the British hostages all safe in the Roman camp, the ships, such as they were, ready for the embarkation of the wearied legionaries, and, above all, the channel sea flatteringly smooth for the occasion, his slumbers on the eve of departure from our rough coast were likely enough to be sound; or, if disturbed at all, visions of the already-rumoured Gallic revolts were more likely to haunt his imagination than the array of England's future greatness.
Had he been granted a spectral glimpse of the regions of the earth to be peopled or won by the future races of the misty storm-beaten land he was so gladly leaving, we may suppose that, as America, Australia, and India were shadowed forth to his sleeping thoughts, the empire-loving Cæsar would have sprung to his feet, and sworn that, hap what hap, England must be won and kept for Rome. His second invasion of Britain had, as it was, already endangered Gaul; and, with a clear perception of his military position in both countries, Cæsar (barely in time however) threw up the one to keep the other, and hastened to where the warstorm was brewing. To the present day we feel the thrilling force of that description, where he relates the slaughter of the legion under Titurius, and the gallant stand of that under Q. Cicero. Ages have since elapsed, yet the narrative of those events, be the reader who he may, is vivid with deep interest. What then must have been the emotion, with which the “pauci ex prælio elapsi" perused this record ? What the sorrow of the friends of Titurius, and what the grief, albeit a proud grief, of the friends of Cotta ? If we can suppose that a single one of those bold right-thinking soldiers, who, in the council of war, had given it as their opinion " quid esse levius aut turpius, quam, auctore hoste, de summis rebus capere consilium,” outlived that night, when “ ad unum omnes, desperata salute, se ipsi interficiunt," and that, having outlived it, he reached the winter quarters of Labienus, how must his blood have boiled in after times, when Cæsar's page brought back to his mind the weakness, which had blighted the honor of a Roman legion, and ignominiously swept it from the face of the earth! The future general historian, with
a circumscribed page and much to cram into it, may indeed often content himself with such a summary account, as Con. sul, fuso exercitu, captus est, or, Consul cum exercitu cæsus est;" but the contemporary narrator of such dire events scarce ever dismisses them in this manner, for he knows that many a heart amongst the living remembers them, and, whether with grief or pride, beats with emotion at their recollection. Father, brother, or friend, fought and fell then and there.
However sufficient such motives for dwelling on remarkable reverses, there is yet a higher and more important one. Taci. tus, contemplating the series of war-disasters, which had occurred to Rome since her foundation, with the view of comparing them with those inflicted by the German nations, uses the expression, " Ne Parthi quidem sæpius admonuere.” They are indeed admonitions and of a kind to which it beboves a nation, its statesmen, and its commanders to advert. Pride may disrelish the contemplation of humiliating events, but such "admonitions" (we thank Tacitus for the application of this word) are meant by the Ruler of events to humble pride, teach wisdom, impress justice, and to warn the strong arm of one stronger and mightier, which needs but to be stretched out in retribution, when the power of armies withers into mean and pitiable weak
We think, we need offer no excuse to the readers of this journal, whether among our English or our Indian friends, for again touching on events, which, to many of them, must have a deep and melancholy interest. The work at the head of this article has recalled our thoughts to a subject, which must ever remain a warning and example to our rulers, and upon which we looked for much more to be said, than we have found in the pages of Major Hough’s compendium. Its close, and the quotation from Arnold, bore us back to the time of youth, when the deeds of an Arminius, or of an Ambiorix, were matters of stirring story only, and when sad experience had as yet to make them to the man in some respects apposite parallels.
Cæsar in Gaul and Varus in Germany were, however, differently circumstanced from the British Generals in Affghanistan ; and, in proceeding to pass a few remarks on Major Hough's little volume, we must commence by adverting to that, which, not only the writer, but his authorities, treat very inadequately— the causes of the outbreak. Before entering upon these, we have, however, a few words to say on a much (and rather bitterly) contested subject. On this matter our remarks shall be as concise as possible.
The civil administration of India forms the rich patrimony of the Directors of the East India Company, and affords affluent provision for their sons, immediate relatives, and the few
having most interest with that body. The name-Civil Servicewas well chosen ; for though Bentham styles the epithet, Civil, one of the most unmeaning Protean terms in all jurisprudence, yet, it is so consonant with English constitutional ideas to strengthen to the uttermost the civil power, and jealously to weaken and subordinate the military, that, although in reality there was little or no analogy between a free and a conquered country, yet, provided the patrimonial branch bore the honoured, though vague, designation of " Civil,” the Court of Directors ran no risk of having the tendency of the rules and orders, by which all officers of power and emolument in India are restricted to that line, called in question. Governor-Generals, free from parental solicitude for the interests of the Civil Service, and actuated by a desire to insure success and the efficient performance of duty, have often been constrained by accidental circumstances to employ military men in posts of power and influence: and, accordingly, some of the most distinguished servants of the Company have been officers of their army; but it has always been in spite of the injunctions and precautions of the Court of Directors for their exclusion, that such men have risen to eminence and fame. As a general rule, the civilian stands no risk from the competition of the military man; power and emolument are his by virtue of his favoured service; whilst the military competitor, if he rise at all, must do so in contravention of the rules and orders of the Court of Directors. In the purely civil administration of the Company's provinces in India, no objection (provided that the wants of the people were fully met at no overwhelming cost) could reasonably be raised to this arrangement. Civil Service has never been content with such restriction to its pre-eminence. It is so accustomed to regard the monopoly of power and emolument as its right, that where a GovernorGeneral is weak enough to permit it, and makes no stand against the class-interest, which immediately surrounds him, its members will be thrust into places, where common sense and the experience of all ages show that their employment must be productive of confusion, ridicule, or disaster. Accordingly, whether it be to set up such a puppet-king as Shah Shuja, or to pat on the head a boy Maharajah, and make him go through the farce of signing away the Punjab already taken, we find a Civil Servant put forward on the occasion, in order that he may win his spurs, and become a belted knight.
If Leadenhall Street and its influences are in part responsible for such a system, the Home Government and the Horse Guards can by no means be exempted from each bearing their own share as part originators, or at least promoters, of a baneful source of error :-and error is defeat in military affairs.
A Governor-General of India is seldom invested with the authority of Commander-in-Chief. The constitutional jealousy of uniting in one hand the highest civil and political, with the highest military, authority of a great empire, and the unwillingness of ministers to forego the patronage of two such prizes, as the several offices of Governor-General and Commander-inChief, have constantly operated against their being conferred upon one person. In peaceful times, there is advantage from the arrangement, as a Governor-General's attention can be concentrated on measures for the general improvement of the countries under his rule; but in times of war there has frequently resulted much inconvenience. We shall not enter upon a detail of these embarrassments; for at present we have only to lay before the reader one of the consequences of the severance of the highest political from the highest military authority, when armies are in the field. Although virtually the Governor-General plans and determines all great military operations, yet, when not Commander-in-Chief, the voice of the latter must ne. cessarily have weight in the selection of the officers to whom important commands are to be entrusted ; and, as such selection more frequently under these circumstances depends on the accidental rank of individuals, rather than on their general skill and ability, a Governor-General is often tempted to aim at securing the complete execution of his political and strategetical measures by the employment of a man of his own choice, to whom, under the title of Envoy, or some other civil or political designation, controlling authority is in fact given. The attempt indeed to separate the conduct of political affairs in a military expedition from that of the army is futile; the two are essentially conjoined, and do not admit of severance, because one man is styled Envoy, and the other Commander-in-Chief, or General. The distinction between strategetical and tactical operations is well known to every tyro in the military profession. The distinction however is one of the science of war, where classification is as necessary for a distinct apprehension of the subjectmatter, as in any other branch of science : there is in the practice of war no such positive, absolute separation. The strategetical measures are the preliminary steps by which a certain amount of force is best brought into tactical operation against an enemy-in other words, thrown into immediate conflict in the best order, and under the most favourable circumstances. If the connection between the strategetical and the tactical be close, that between the political and the strategetical is, in the East, fully
Where a single military mis-hap may entail consequences very difficult to estimate or foresee, it is imperatively
necessary that the commander be thoroughly conversant with every piece and every move upon his chess-board; no sane person can expect him to take up the game and to play it well, at a moment’s notice and without a pause, from the hands of one who has thoroughly embroiled it. In support of this separation of the political and strategetical from the nerely tactical came the additional fact, that the officers in command of armies and divisions, belonging most frequently to the royal army, were held debarred from the exercise of political functions by their inacquaintance with the general policy of the Government, and their ignorance of the languages, feelings and habits of the people of India and its neighbouring countries.
Various therefore were the influences, besides the ambition of the individual, which placed a Macnaghten at Cabul; and it must be allowed, that however objectionable might be the sys. tem above adverted to, a Cotton and an Elphinstone were not calculated, either by their mental or their physical capacities, to be entrusted with the conduct of affairs in Affghanistan. Men of a higher order of intellect were essential for such a command ; and, along with intellect, physical energy was indispensable. Men of this stamp were not wanting, had there been either the will or the ability to select them : and such reasons and motives, as have been alleged, must be considered a very insufficient apology for shackling a military commander in Affghanistan with a civil Commander-in-Chief, influenced by similar motives to those which lead Governor-Generals to employ envoys and agents. Macnaghten, in order systematically to keep the thread of events under his own cognizance, and to maintain the exercise of general supervision and controul, was forced to have a large staff of subordinate political functionaries, to whom, as his lieutenants, the guidance of such operations, as he could not himself superintend, were to be entrusted. These deputies were for the most part young men, zealous indeed, but ignorant of the country and the people, and having yet to purchase that experience in men and practical wisdom in affairs, which, moderating the thirst for personal distinction and enlarging comprehensiveness of view, can alone mature into safe instruments the political servants of a Government. They have been much blamed; but the system, rather than the agents, was at fault; and some of them were not only very able men, but did important service in the line prescribed for their exertions.
The remoter causes of the insurrection trace back to an early date in the occupation of Affghanistan; and, before entering upon the more immediate and proximate causes, it is essential for