Page images

and by making large advances, to enable the cultivators to resume their long-interrupted labours, and trade to re-open its channels and activity, he succeeded in winning, from the avarice of Kamran and his minister, an unwilling assent to the articles of the proposed treaty.

Macnaghten, bent on counteracting Russian influence, had determined to spread the web of his ever-radiating diplomacy to the shores of the Aral and the Caspian. Todd therefore, shortly after his arrival at Herat, sent a letter to the Khan of Khiva, with the tender of British friendship and alliance. The Khan was at the time under the dread of Russian invasion; and he consequently received favourably the advances of the British authorities, and deputed an ambassador to Todd, with a reply, and propositions, to which he desired the assent of the British Government: but they were of a nature which Todd could not countenance; and he therefore alleged his inability to entertain them without a reference to Macnaghten and the orders of his Government.

Kamran and his unscrupulous minister, Yar Mahomed, with the example of the military occupation of Affghanistan before their eyes, had viewed with keen suspicion the eager interest displayed to acquire a thorough knowledge of the strength of the place and the resources of th Herat territory.

Their apprehensions were not allayed by the diplomatic activity, which sought to form alliances with the states on the Oxus, and thus threatened to envelop Herat in a mesh inimical to its independence and importance. The British agent was liberal of money, and Kamran's necessities and love of lucre, combined with the fear of incurring the hostility of the British power, did not permit him to break with Todd; nevertheless, he knew that such profusion was not disinterested, and he apprehended that the wide expansion of diplomatic relations was only the forerunner of a proportionate extension of military activity, as soon as the state of Affghanistan admitted of the diversion of a part of the troops to the regions of Herat and its vicinity. Such an advance had been the subject of repeated discussion; and the desire of Macnaghten was well known to Yar Mahomed and his master. The fear of Persia now became secondary to that of a foreign and infidel yoke ; communications were consequently re-opened with the Shah of Persia ; and the expulsion of the British power from the countries to the west of the Indus became the topic of correspondence. Yar Mahomed never seriously anticipated such a result; but he sought to counter-balance the preponderating influence of the British power, about to ally itself with the countries on the Oxus, by initiating a friendly understanding with Persia, and rousing her jealousy against the sweeping ramifications of British negociation and intrigue.

Yar Mahomed did not confine his communications to Persia. When he drove Stoddart from Herat, he had done his utmost to excite the apprehensions of the Bokhara ruler, who was so far acted upon, that he cast Stoddart into confinement. As the measures of Macnaghten became more developed, Yar Mahomed, pointing to the activity of the British agents at the heads and near the mouth of the Oxus, sought to kindle the Bokhara ruler's jealousy, who, although not deeming the danger to him. self imminent, could not but view with distrust the march of the Envoy’s exertions. In a similar manner, Yar Mahomed endeavored to counteract the negociations, which Todd had opened with Khiva, and sought, by intrigue, by misrepresentation, and by palpable and undeniable truths, to instil into the Khiva Khan the same spirit of wakeful suspicion and hostility to British influence, which animated his own breast. To the Khan, however, the Russian advance from Orenberg had been a positive and a pressing danger, and the alleged ambitious machinations of the British power were a less definite and more remote source of alarm; their scope was evidently and avowedly antagonistic to those of his older and nearer foes, the Russians; and their tendency was therefore rather advantageous than the reverse to Khiva, which, separated by six hundred miles of barren wastes from Herat, and by about the same extent of difficult country from Khúlum, felt that British desire for territorial aggrandisement had to appropriate vast and unproductive regions, before it could think of absorbing the Khiva State. Its ruler was accordingly not unwilling to derive any benefit, which might accrue from the countenance of the Anglo-Indian Government, and still less averse to share in that lavish expenditure of money, for which the British political agents were famed throughout Central Asia. The Khan of Khiva therefore received Abbott, whom Todd sent from Herat in the end of December 1839, if not very cordially, still with more of consideration and attention than the malevolent representations of the Herat minister, and the exaggerated rumours of British aggression on Khúlúm and of ulterior designs on the line of the Oxus, were likely, but for Russian operations on the Yembah, to have secured for Todd's deputy.

Fortunately, also, Abbott was a man of temper; and, thougb not qualified for his mission by acquaintance with the languages of the country, and therefore labouring under sore disadvantage, he made himself respected by a conduct alike creditable to

him as a Christian gentleman and a resolute officer. He had been sent, on the spur of the moment, without even credentials from his Government, and found that the seeds of distrust and suspicion had been sown by Yar Mahomed, in order to frustrate the objects of his mission. These indeed were not very clearly defined; for, with proffers of friendship and alliance in his mouth, Abbott was powerless to incur engagements, or to accept and encourage any of the demands, which the Khan of Khiva, with practical notions of international compacts, naturally made. The Khan remarked, almost in the same words which Dost Mahomed had once addressed to Burnes—" What then have you come hither for ? If you will grant none of our demands, of what use is it to call yourselves our allies ?" Abbott and Burnes were two very different men; and, though nothing could well seem more hopeless or chimerical than Abbott's extemporized mission, at a time when the regions of the Oxus and Jaxartes were rife with alarm, and the Moslem rulers seemed menaced with conquest either by the Russians from the Caspian, or the Anglo-Indian army from the Hindu Kúsh, yet the patient, truthful, and pious lieutenant of artillery won the confidence of the Khivan ruler, and ultimately became his ambassador on a message of peace and of restitution of captive slaves to the Czar of Russia.

Todd had discovered Yar Mahomed's correspondence with the Persian Assuf Ud Dowlah at Meshed in October, and had acquainted his Government with the fact; but Lord Auckland, perceiving that it was attributable to the jealousy and apprehension caused by the diplomatic measures of Macnaghten and his subordinates, and that it was neither practicable nor expedient to take serious notice of this early infraction of the treaty, forgave the minister of Herat: and, foreseeing that such breach of faith would probably not be the only one brought to light, and that the political agents on the spot, angered and excited by the irritating conduct of Kamran and his minister, might attach undue importance to such events, and seriously compromise the British Government by a breach, which would still further embroil and embarrass the Trans-Indus affairs, extended his pardon to every such offence, which might have occurred previous to the receipt of the Governor-General's letter. Being received in February 1840, this pardon embraced the communications made to Persia in the preceding January, on which occasion Kamran addressed his late besieger to the effect" that he, Kamran, merely tolerated the presence of the English Envoy from motives of expediency, and from the necessity in which he and his people stood of the money liberally provided by the English Envoy; but that his hopes centred in the aid and favour of the Shah of Persia." The advances to the people and Government of Herat at this time amounted to £100,000—a sum, in respect to the country, about equivalent to the subsidy of a million to a petty German State. It had saved ruler, chiefs, and people from starvation, and had moreover replenished the ruler's coffers ; but the instinct of power, dreading British encroachment, was too sensitive to allow such munificence to outweigh the fear, which our political measures and the military occupation of Affghanistan had called into being.

The Shab, accompanied by Macnaghten, quitted Cabul early in November and marched to Jellalabad, there to pass the winter. The capital and its fort bad disappointed his expectations. He often sat at a window of the palace, wiling away time, his eye wandering over the different objects which the city and its plain offered. On one of these occasions, after a long silent pause, Shah Shuja made the remark—" that everything appeared to him shrunk, small, and miserable; and that the Cabul of his old age in no respect corresponded with the recollections of the Cabul of his youth.” He was glad therefore to escape from the severity of the winter of a place, the ideal charms of which age and the experience of the reality had banished. Jellalabad, though a still more wretched town, enjoys, from its lower altitude above the sea level, a warmer climate, and the winter is far less severe.

After the fall of Kelat and the conclusion of negociations with the Khyberis, the setting in of the winter season caused a lull in Affghanistan: and Macnaghten and the Shah for a time flattered themselves with the hope that affairs would settle into order and quiet. There was boundless activity over the whole field of diplomacy, which, extending from the shores of the Caspian to the banks of the Indus, effectually alarmed and unsettled the minds of rulers and people : but for the moment the British soldier had rest. That rest however was not to be of long continuance: for the presence of a considerable body of troops at Jellalabad encouraged Macnaghten to assert the authority of Shah Shuja over the surrounding districts, the petty chiefs of which, awed by the British force, gave in their adherence, and submitted to the Shah's supremacy. The Chief of Kúner was an exception; and the Envoy was under the necessity of sending a detachment under the command of Colonel Orchard, with the view of making the contumacy of this refractory chieftain an example, and of replacing him by one more subservient to the Shah's interests. The failure of the coup de main attempted upon Kúner we shall not enter upon in detail ; but the event was so far unfortunate, that it gave the Affghans an early lesson, that British troops could be opposed with success; and subsequently, in the neighbouring district of Bajore, it was shown that the lesson had not been thrown away. For the moment, the occurrence was only a trifling break to the lull of winter. More stirring events were however at hand: and the Shah, accompanied by the main body of the British troops from Jellalabad, had no sooner returned to Cabul in April, than it became evident that the repose of Affghanistan was to be of short continuance, and that with the spring came rebellion.

The Ghiljies are a fine muscular race, characterized by an untamed ferocity of disposition, the result of ages of habitual rapine, and of constant petty warfare. Ever jealous of their wild independence, and for a short time once supreme in Affghanistan, they have never failed to prove the most obstinate opponents to invaders, whether from the east or the west; and have, when themselves the aggressors, recorded their prowess on the plains of India by many a sanguinary contest. Hardy, confident and expert in the use of musket, sword and knife, they are, to a man, at the beck of their chiefs, for any expedition which affords a prospect of booty. The Chiefs had never submitted to the authority of the Cabul and Candabar rulers ; for, although Dost Mahomed had made tributary a portion of the Suliman Khel Ghiljies, holding districts to the east of Ghuzni, and though the Andari Ghiljies were his subjects, yet these formed but an inconsiderable part of the tribes, who, in a mass, disowned all submission or obedience to the Amir or his brothers, and, des. pising their retainers and followers of other Affghan tribes, continued, with perfect impunity, the long-established system of Ghiljie transit fees and plunder.

The advance of Keane from Candahar by the line of the Turnuk had, as is well known, excited the hostility of the Ghiljies, who, jealous of independence, and mistrustful of the Shah and the formidable power, which had seated him on the throne, rejected Macnaghten's advances and proposals. The ill-timed attack by the Suliman Khel Ghiljies on the British camp, the day before Ghuzni was taken; the fall of this strong hold; Outram's subsequent raid through a part of their country; and the setting in of the winter--curbed for a while any overt acts of habitual resistance to the Cabul and Candabar authorities. But it was impossible for the Ghiljies to view with patience the apparent consolidation of a power, which threatened entirely to annihilate their authority on the highways between Candahar, Cabul, and Jellalabad, and therefore to strip them of the fee

« PreviousContinue »