Page images

the public is entitled to, and always willing to reward. With its nominal capital, its sounding names, and its being an object of minor interest to most of the shareholders, it is enabled to keep the field against individual competition, and thus to compel the public to pay heavily for slovenly service; whereas, were it taken out of the way, and men allowed to bring their abilities fairly to the market, competition would have its proper effect, and the greatest possible good would be done at the least possible expense.

That there are instances in which a joint-stock company may be desirable, we do not deny; but in all cases where that which it professes to do could be done without it, it is a nuisance, a conspiracy against the liberty and the prosperity of mankind; and the cases to which it ought to be restricted, are those in which a number of men may lessen the embarrassment or divide the loss which would be ruinous to individuals; or where the object in view is of such expense, such magnitude, or such doubtful success, as that individuals would be incapable of carrying it into effect, or would shrink from it, as being too hazardous. Of ordinary business, the proper subjects for joint-stock companies are banking and insurance; because, in order to render proper assistance and security, they require larger funds than an individual is supposed to possess. Great public works, too, such as canals and bridges, when they are not constructed at the national expense, and where a life-time may be spent ere they yield any thing like a fair return, are probably better done by joint-stock companies: but even in these cases, the security and the undertaking are always obtained at a considerable expense; and if we take an estimate of even the best regulated of them, we shall invariably find that there is about them an extra expense, which nothing but the impossibility of getting them conducted in any other way, could justify. Of the joint-stock companies of 1824 and 1825, there were but few of this description; and even of these few, there are still fewer that have the appearance of affording much profit to any of the share-holders now living. It is therefore to be hoped, that the lesson will not be lost upon the country; and, certainly, that country is under some obligations to Mr. English, for having brought the result of so much labour, and, we may add, the exposure of so much mischief, into so small a


ART. V.-Memoirs of Zehir-ed-din Muhammed Baber, Emperor of Hindustan, written by himself, in the Jaghatai Turki, and translated, partly by the late John Leyden, Esq. M. D., partly by William Erskine, Esq.; with Notes, and a Geographical and Historical Introduction: together with a Map of the Countries between the Oxus and Jaxartes, &c. 4to. pp. 501. London: Longman and Co. 1826. We opened this volume with little affection for its probable contents. The history of the Tartarian-Muhammedan dynasties of

Asia is written in blood, and the mind is fatigued with contemplating only the shifting limits of vast empires which had no durability, and disgusted with the unvaried tale of desolation and slaughter, that were relieved by no fairer intervals of civilization and happiness. We track the exterminating course of Zingis and Timour, and their successors, horror-striken, indeed, at the immensity of pitiless carnage, and the tremendous waste of human life, but not otherwise interested in the circumstances and the issue of their ephemeral conquests. We are accustomed to view these Tartarian sovereigns and their followers only as the destroyers of mankind. The scholar acquaints himself with all this portion of Asiatic history, once in his life, as a duty, and a task: but few readers desire to recur to its study in search of pleasureable occupation.

A closely-printed quarto, devoted only to a fragment of this history, and narrating the reign of but a single Tartarian prince, promised, therefore, no inviting associations; and the first sight of these Memoirs of Baber appalled us by a chaos of barbarous names, that seemed to float in hopeless confusion throughout every page. We called to recollection all the experienced infelicities of the subject, and applied ourselves with many misgivings to this new encounter with Tartarian etymologies, pedigrees, and dynasties. But in truth we have found ourselves rather agreeably disappointed by the event: the book is one of the most lively pictures of oriental life which has ever fallen in our way; and the reader, who shall have courage to enter on a narrative so interlarded with unspeakable appellations of persons and places, may be assured of being rewarded with a great deal of entertainment in its perusal. As partially illustrating the geography of certain regions of Tartary which are least known to Europeans, and as connecting, in some measure, the contemporary history of Persia, Hindostan, and the interjacent countries, the work will unquestionably have its utility. But it is its unpremeditated development of a curious condition of oriental society, that constitutes the charm of the volume. It is a vivid exhibition of Tartarian manners and life, in that stage of advancement, in which the restless hordes had modified their wandering habits into some taste for the possession of cities and palaces, and the cultivation of arts; while their love of adventure and their passion for extending their conquests, were yet ardent and triumphant; and before the corruption of luxury, indolence, and servitude, had destroyed the impatient freedom and bold simplicity of character, which are the only virtues of the migratory tribes of the deserts. But we shall best be enabled to give an idea of the tenor of the narrative before us, by some explanatory reference to the historical fortunes of the imperial auto-biographer.

Zehir-ed-din Muhammed Baber was the founder of, what has rather inaccurately been termed, the Moghul empire of Hindostan. He was a Tartarian prince, lineally descended from the imperial

line of Zingis and Timour, and was born in the year 1482 of the Christian æra. His father was the sovereign of the petty Tartarian kingdom of Ferghana, (situated about two hundred miles northeast of Samarkand) to the possession of which Baber succeeded at the age of twelve years, on his parent's decease in the year 1494. His youth and early manhood were passed in incessant activity, and innumerable reverses of fortune, amidst the perpetual wars and turbulent revolutions of Tartary. Three times he adventurously and successfully asserted in arms some questionable rights to the throne of Samarkand itself; and each time was he ejected from his unstable conquests. Meanwhile his own hereditary kingdom of Ferghana was as often lost and won; and at length, in the year 1504, before he had "begun to apply the razor to his face," the youthful sport of high destinies was overpowered by the Uzbeks and their Khan, and compelled to bid adieu for ever to his native country and paternal throne. He was then attended, in his flight, as he informs us, by a wretched train of no more than between two and three hundred followers; and, so great was his destitution and theirs, that among them all they had only two tents. Crossing the mountains from Ferghana southward, Baber boldly sought, notwithstanding his weakness, to seat himself in some new possession; and his object was accomplished with that incredible rapidity which in the oriental world characterizes the flight of revolution and the march of conquest. By intrigue and by violence, by the junction of disaffected chieftains and the array of arms, he established himself, in the course of a few months, in the kingdom of Cabul, which he preserved to the termination of his life; and before the end of the very year in which he had been expelled a fugitive and a wanderer from Ferghana, his indefatigable activity and restless ambition had already prompted him to make his first triumphant forage into Hindostan. The horses of his predatory cavalry had drunk of the waters of the Indus, before he returned to Cabul.

It was some years after this that he made his last attempt to place himself on the throne of Samarkand; but after gaining possession of the country, with the aid of the Persians, in the year 1511, he was finally expelled by an immense army of his old enemies the Uzbeks. From this epoch, he seems to have abandoned all views on Tartary, and to have seriously turned his whole thoughts to the more inviting conquest of India. After trying his strength at intervals for several years, in desultory incursions, he ultimately, in the year 1525, descended for the last time into the plains of Hindostan, with an army of only 12,000 men, crossed the Indus, and advanced upon Delhi, then the capital of the degenerate dynasty of the Gaurian Afghans. On the plains of Panipat, which, two centuries and a half later, were to become the scene of a more tremendous defeat of a Mahratta host, Baber encountered the whole force of the Afghan empire of Hindostan. The army of

Sultan Ibrahim numbered one hundred thousand fighting men, with a thousand elephants: the adventurer Baber counted only twelve thousand followers of all kinds. Yet the Tartar prince and his little army gained a complete victory, and inflicted so bloody a slaughter in the pursuit, that forty thousand of their enemies were computed to have fallen by their swords. The sultan himself was among the slain; and Baber took possession of the imperial throne, which his descendants were to fill through near two centuries of splendour and power, and a third of degradation and imbecility. Thus, the founder of a new, and, as it was to prove, the last, Muhammedan empire of all Upper India, Baber had reached the summit of his glory. The remaining five years of his life were passed in extending his authority and consolidating his dominions; and he died in 1530, at the early age of forty-eight years.

Such formed the prominent vicissitudes of Baber's life, and the conspicuous part which he played in oriental history. His character certainly stands the fairest of any among the Tartarian conquerors; and it has been drawn, upon the whole, with so much truth and judgment, by the surviving translator of his memoirs, that we shall merely abridge and adopt his estimate:

'Zahir-ed-din Muhammed Baber was, undoubtedly, one of the most illustrious men of his age, and one of the most eminent and accomplished princes that ever adorned an Asiatic throne. Having been early trained to the conduct of business, and tutored in the school of adversity, the powers of his mind received their full developement. He ascended the throne at the age of twelve, and before he had attained his twentieth year, the young prince had shared every variety of fortune; he had not only been the ruler of subject provinces, but had been in thraldom to his own ambitious nobles, and obliged to conceal every sentiment of his heart; he had been alternately hailed and obeyed as a conqueror and deliverer, by rich and extensive kingdoms, and forced to lurk in the deserts and mountains of his own native kingdom, as a houseless wanderer. Down to the last dregs of life, we perceive in him the strong feelings of an affection for his early friends and early enjoyments, rarely seen among princes. Perhaps the free manners of the Turki tribes had combined with the events of his early life, in cherishing these amiable feelings. He had betimes been taught, by the voice of events that could not lie, that he was a man, dependent on the kindness and fidelity of other men; and, in his dangers and escapes with his followers, had learned, that he was only one of an association, whose general safety and success depended on the result of their mutual exertions in a common cause. The native benevolence and gaiety of his disposition, seem ever to overflow on all around him; and he talks of his mothers, his grandmothers, and sisters, with some garrulity, indeed, but the garrulity of a good son and a good brother. Of his companions in arms he always speaks with the frank gaiety of a soldier; and it is a relief to the reader, in the midst of the pompous coldness of Asiatic history, to find a king who can weep for days, and tell us that he wept, for the playmate of his boyhood. Indeed, an uncommon portion of good nature and good humour runs through all his character, and even to

[blocks in formation]

political offences he will be found, in a remarkable degree, indulgent and forgiving.

In the character of the founder of a new dynasty, in one of the richest and most powerful empires on earth, we may expect to find an union of the great qualities of a statesman and general; and Baber possessed the leading qualifications of both in a high degree. But we are not, in that age, to look for any deep-laid or regular plans of civil polity, even in the most accomplished princes. Baber's superiority over the chiefs to whom he was opposed, arose principally from his active disposition and lively good sense. Ambitious as he was, and fond of conquest and of glory, in all its shapes, the enterprise in which he was for the season engaged, seems to have absorbed his whole soul, and all his faculties were exerted to bring it, whatever it was, to a fortunate issue. His elastic mind was not broken by discomfiture, and few princes who have achieved such glorious conquests, have suffered more numerous or more decisive defeats. His personal courage was conspicuous during his whole life, but it may be doubted whether, in spite of his final success, he was so much entitled to the character of a great captain, as of a successful partizan and a bold adventurer. In the earlier part of his career his armies were very small. Most of his expeditions were rather successful inroads than skilful campaigns. But he shewed a genius and a power of observation, which, in other circumstances, would have raised him to the rank of the most accomplished commanders. As he had the sense to perceive the errors which he committed in his earlier years, so, with the superiority that belongs to a great mind, conscious of its powers, he always readily acknowledges them. His conduct, during the rebellion of the Moghuls of Kâbul, and the alarm of his army in the war with Rana Sanka, bears the indications of the most heroic magnanimity. The latter period of his life is one uninterrupted series of success.

'But we are not to expect in Baber that perfect and refined character which belongs only to modern times and Christian countries. We sometimes see him order what, according to the practice of modern war, and the maxims of a refined morality, we should consider as cruel executions. We find him occasionally the slave of vices, which, even though they belonged to his age and country, it is not possible to regard in such a man without feelings of regret. We are disappointed to find one possessed of so refined an understanding, and so polished a taste, degrading both, by an obtrusive and almost ridiculous display of his propensity to intoxication.It may palliate, though it cannot excuse this offence, that it appears to have led him to no cruelty or harshness to his servants or those around him, and that it made him neglect no business, and that it seems to have been produced solely by the ebullition of high spirits in his gay and social temper. We turn from Baber, the slave of such vices, which probably hastened on a premature old age, and tended to bring him to an early grave, and view him with more complacency, encouraging, in his dominions, the useful arts and polite literature, by his countenance and his example. We delight to see him describe his success in rearing a new plant, in introducing a new fruit-tree, or in repairing a decayed aqueduct, with the same pride and complacency that he relates his most splendid victories. No region of art or nature seems to have escaped the activity of his research. He had cultivated the art of poetry from his early years, and his Diwân,

« PreviousContinue »