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was to be given the option of remaining at Cabul, or accompanying the British army to India ; an amnesty for all political opponents and the partisans of the Shah'; and that no British force should again be sent into Affghanistan, unless called for by the Affghan Government-were the main features of the treaty. Mahomed Akbar, distrustful of Macnaghten, would not accede to an engagement, which bound the rebel party to furnish provisions for the force without any stipulation for the immediate evacuation of the Bala Hissar and cantonments; and he forced the Envoy to specify three days as the period, after which the troops were bound to quit the cantonments. Upon this compact, the terms of the treaty were accepted: but, as there was a thorough want of confidence in the Envoy's sincerity, Captain Trevor had to accompany the Chiefs as hostage for the good faith of Macnaghten.
Cold weather was now set in, but snow had not fallen : and, as it was sure to fall in the course of a few days, it was of the greatest importance, after once retreat had been decided, that all further delay should be avoided. Thus, not only did the obligations of good faith impose a necessity for the rapid withdrawal of the troops, but every consideration for their safety and existence imperatively urged the most prompt fulfilment of this condition. Four thousand and five hundred fighting men, and from twelve to fifteen thousand followers, by an immediate march, might surmount the lofty Passes between them and Gundamuck, whilst still free from snow; and thus, with comparatively less hardship and suffering, make good their way over a country which, when once enveloped in snow, could only be passed with extreme difficulty and the severest misery and loss. The loose manner in which the treaty was worded, and the insertion of conditions in terms so general as to render (if not their import) their fulfilment, matter of easy cavil, afforded Macnaghten specious grounds for delay. He still clung to the hope of receiving aid from Nott, who had dispatched Maclaren with a brigade ; and he was not sorry at being able to allege the irresolution of the Shah, and the non-fulfilment on the part of the enemy of their agreement to furnish provisions and baggage-cattle, as reasons for procrastinating and prolonging his stay at Cabul. In despair at the disgrace, with which so ignoble a treaty overwhelmed himself and the British name, he clung to the faintest hope of retrieving events.
The Shah, perplexed at the position in which the treaty placed him, was still further embarrassed by the conduct of the rebel Chiefs, who, on the 12th, invited him to remain as king -only stipulating the interinarriage of his daughters with the leaders of the revolt, and the discontinuance of some of the ceremonials of royalty, to which Shah Shuja was attached, but which were particularly distasteful to the Affgban nobles. Whether this proposal were made as a test of the sincerity of the Shah's generally alleged aversion to British domination, or to confirm the impression, by inducing him at this juncture to make common cause with the rebels, or, as is most probable, to ascertain, by the mode in which such a decided separation from British connection was received, the ultimate real purposes of the Envoy is uncertain. Shah Shuja, after deliberation, consented to hold his throne upon the proffered conditions, and signified his assent to the Chiefs accordingly.
On the 13th and 14th, the Bala Hissar was evacuated, but in a manner so ill-conducted, that the greater part of 1,600 maunds of wheat and flour, which Captain Kirby had had the foresight to collect for transport to cantonments, where provisions were very scarce, instead of being taken with the garrison, were left in the fort for the enemy's advantage. Ten days' supply for the whole force was thus madly deserted, at a time when the utmost dearth prevailed in cantonments, when the camp-followers were feeding upon the flesh of the animals dying from starvation, and when there were barely two days' supply of four on half rations for the fighting men.
Shah Shuja, always timid and irresolute, now refused to accept the throne, which the rebel Chiefs had, on easy conditions, permitted him to retain. As the moment for the departure of the British troops appeared to draw near, his heart failed him, and he shrunk from the dangerous allegiance of such men as Mahomed Akbar and the banded Chiefs. His change of purpose increased their suspicions; and they declined to furnish provisions to the force, unless, in fulfilment of the compact, cantonments were evacuated.
On the 18th, snow fell, but Macnaghten still procrastinated; and, the distrust of the Chiefs waxing greater in proportion as the specified time was exceeded, their demands also increased ; and, on the 20th, the delivery of guns and ammunition and of Brigadier Shelton as an hostage was required. The engineer, Sturt, perceiving that every day's delay was fraught with peril, now urged that the treaty, which had been broken by both sides, should be no longer considered binding, and that, making every possible arrangement for the conveyance of the sick, the wounded, ammunition, and stores, the army should march to Jellalabad. The Envoy's hopes of aid from Nott had now vanished, as Maclaren had countermarched with his brigade, finding snow upon the highlands as he drew towards Ghuzni, and despair
ing at that season of effecting his march to Cabul. Macnaghten, therefore, had now no motive for putting off the march of the force, the destruction of which from starvation was imminent, and could only be avoided by a movement of decision such as the engineer recommended. Elphinstone and his advisers thought otherwise. There was an unearthly faintness upon their hearts; and it was, as though some great crime had caused the wrath of God to settle down upon the host, withering the hearts of its leaders, unnerving the right arms of England's soldiery, and leaving them no power to stand before their enemies.
On the 21st December, the Envoy again met Mahomed Akbar and other Chiefs; two hostages, Conolly and Airey, were at once given over, and two more were to follow. The dilatory conduct of the Envoy and of the military leaders had now so confirmed the suspicions of Mahomed Akbar and the principal rebels, that they determined to test the intentions of Macnaghten, whose secret schemes for the destruction of the most influential Chiefs had never been forgotten, and whose present conduct, ignorant as the enemy were of the utter prostration of energy and courage among the military authorities, seemed inexplicable, except on the supposition of the existence of some deep design against the lives and power of the Chiefs.
Captain Skinner, an officer to whom Mahomed Akbar had given protection, was sent by the latter with secret proposals to Macnaghten to the following effect :--that Mahomed Akbar undertook to seize Anin Ullah, one of the most obnoxious and powerful of the rebel leaders, and deliver him up to the En. voy; that Shah Shuja, remaining king, was to reward Mahomed Akbar for this important service, and for supporting his throne, by making him Wuzir ; that the Bala Hissar and Mahmud Khan's fort were to be immediately re-occupied by the British troops, who were to remain in their then position until the Spring, upon the arrival of which they were with honor to evacuate the country-Mahomed Akbar receiving from the British Government for these services a donation of thirty lacs of rupees, and an annual pension of four lacs. Skinner did not himself deliver the message ; but he was accompanied by one Mahomed Sudiq and two other Affghans in the confidence of Mahomed Akbar, who were entrusted with sounding the Envoy, and to whom Skinner, ignorant of any hidden design, referred Macnaghten for the particulars of his mission. Mahomed Sudiq, in the course of stating the foregoing propositions, made one, which should have put the Envoy upon his guard, betraying, as it did, a reference to foregone events; the head of Amin Ullah was to be presented to the Envoy for a certain sum of money. Macnaghten's eyes were, however, not opened by this remarkable offer of Amin Ullah’s head, coupled with the promise of Mahomed Akbar's co-operation in subduing the other Khans: and, failing to observe that Mahomed Sudiq's language was an ominous echo of Conolly's early instructions to Mohun Lal, he eagerly caught at the general proposal, disclaiming, however, in the presence of auditors, any willingness to give a price for blood, and therefore rejecting the specific offer of Amin Ullah's head, though not of his capture by treachery, in which the Envoy and the British troops were to play a conspicuous part. The distinction was too nice to weigh with men, conversant with the degree of scrupulousness evinced by the Envoy in the case of Abdullah Khan and Mir Musjidi, and who judged of his sincerity by the eager readiness, with which he was captivated by an offer too specious to have imposed upon any man of sound thought and principle, and which involved the perfidious sacrifice of one of their own members. Hitherto, however shaken by what was known of Mohun Lal's proceedings, acting with the cognizance of Conolly and Macnaghten, the British character for integrity and good faith stood high enough to command some respect for the representative of the Anglo-Indian Government. But the deliberate faithlessness, which led the Envoy to accept Mahomed Akbar's proposal, sealed his doom. The worst suspicions of the confederate Chiefs and their exasperated leader were confirmed; and they resolved, as no dependance after such proof could be placed on the most solemn and formal engagements, to ensnare Macnaghten in the net he was spreading for another, and to take vengeance upon him and the starving disorganised force, for the insults and injuries, which an injudicious, selfish, and ambitious policy had heaped upon Affghanistan.
On the 23rd December, Macnaghten with a courage undimi. nished by the sense that, like a desperate gamester, he was risking all upon a hazard cast, went out to hold conference with Mahomed Akbar, and to carry into effect the projected measures. The Envoy, accompanied by his three brave companions, Mackenzie, Trevor, and Lawrence, heedless of the warning which the first mentioned officer gave him, boldly met the assembled Chiefs, among whom was a brother of Amin Ullah's. No suitable preparations had been made in cantonments on the part of the military; and even the Envoy's escort were so backward in assembling and following him, that he had ridden on and confidently entrusted himself to the mercy of his enemies, without his body guard being at hand to protect him. When warned of the danger of the meeting and the perfidious character of Mahomed Akbar, the Envoy had replied—“Dangerous it is; but, if it succeeds, it is worth all risks ; the rebels have not fulfilled even one article of the treaty, and I have no confidence in them; and, if by it we can only save our honour, all will be well. At any rate, I would rather suffer an hundred deaths, than live the last six weeks over again.” Thus felt Macnaghten, as he rode forth to meet his murderer.
The violation of the treaty had been mutual; the first infraction being on the part of the Affghans under Mahomed Akbar, who attacked the troops, when they evacuated the Bala Hissar ; but, instead of immediately breaking with them on this plea, Mac. naghten had continued to treat and negociate, as if the compact were valid, although,by prolonging the stay of the troops at Cabul, he himself violated its most essential specification. After having made the customary salutations, and presented a handsome Arab horse to Mahomed Akbar, both parties dismounted ; and Macnaghten, with his three companions, seated themselves beside Mahomed Akbar, and surrounded by Affghans, upon a small hillock, which partly concealed them from cantonments. Lawrence, eyeing with suspicion the numbers of armed attendants which encircled them, remarked to the Envoy, that if the conference were of a secret nature, they had better be removed. Macnaghten spoke to Mahomed Akbar, who replied, —"No, they are all in the secret.” In an instant the three officers were seized, overpowered, disarmed, and carried off: whilst Macnaghten, struggling on the ground with Mahomed Akbar, was shot by the latter, and then cut to pieces by his followers. The escort instead of charging to the rescue, fled to cantonments, and left the Envoy and his brave companions to their fate. In cantonments all was apathy and indecision. Although within sight of the scene, no attempt was made to avenge the slaughtered Envoy, and to recover his body from a cowardly mob, who bore off in triumph his mangled remains to parade them in the city of Cabul.
Energy might still have saved the wretched force; and Pottinger, now called upon by Elphinstone to renew negotiations with the enemy upon the basis of the treaty violated by Macnaghten, made a last effort to rekindle the military spirit of the Council of War convened by the General. Declaring his own conviction, that no confidence could be placed in any treaty with the Affghan Chiefs, he disapproved of all humiliating negotiations; and, instead of binding the hands of Government by ignoble promises to evacuate the country, to subsidize the Rebel Chiefs, and to restore Dost Mahommed, he counselled,