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absolutely dangerous to all readers who are not blessed with Mr. Mathews's organization of lungs.
We must now close Mr. Turner's volume. We have perused it with alternate feelings of indignation, derision, and sorrow; but sorrow predominates. We regret that a writer, who has deserved so well of literature, should have been seduced by prejudice to prostitute his pen to the praises of a tyrant, who, to use Heylin's langaage, “never spared woman in his lust, nor man in his wrath; so that, if all the patterns of a merciless prince had been lost in the world, they might have been found in this king;” and to whose splendid, but sanguinary reigo, might be well applied the satire of Ablavius on Constantine
Saturni aurea sæcula quis requirat?
Considering the assumed importance of ourIndian Empire, it is somewhai surprising that so few persons should be found, who are even tolerably conversant with its management, its interests, or its relations. The public know little of India, and the Indian Government itself appears, on many occasions, to have known little more than the public. It is true that within the last twenty years our Oriental policy has become a subject of study; and some few works have been published,well calculated to inform the general reader of its peculiar character: an honourable proprietor may now make a very tolerable speech at the India-house, and talk fluently of Ryot, Zemidar, Rajahs and Nawaabs, without having swung in a palanquin or sailed on the Ganges; but the materials for forming an Oriental Statesman are yet wanting; and we are still left to chance, court intrigue, or parliamentary influence, for the creation or selection of Governors who are to rule a territory as extended, and more populous, than any in Europe. Sometimes the viceroyalty is entrusted to a soldier-war and conquest become the order of the day; sometimes a politician is preferred-cessions and abdication take place of guns and bayonets: a short interregnum sometimes occurs, during which the rule is confided to a civil servant of the Company—and then, an empire is governed by invoice and ledger ;-a laudable attempt was recently made to transport an ex-secretary of state; it failed, and as cabinets, influenced by intrigue, like individuals governed by passion, are apt to fly from extreme to extreme, a lord of the bedchamber was selected in his place, as Governor General of India. What the character of such a government would be, it was not easy to anticipate, as it would, in all probability, depend on the profession, passion, or prejudice, of the first favourite his Lordship might find upon his landing. In this case, however, as in most others, the ruling passion has prevailed, and the empire has been involved in war on a point of etiquette,--not indeed that any native prince has refused the customary salaams, koo-toos, or prostra
Narrative of the Burmese War, containing the Operations of Major-General Sir Archibald Campbell's Army, from his landing at Rangoon in May 1824, to the conclu. sion of a Treaty of Peace at Yandaboo, in February 1826. By Major Snodgrass. London; Murray, 1827,
tions, whether of body or spirit; but that a tribe of semi-barbarians have committed trespass on our territory and refused an apology. The main quarrel—for in this, as in all other national differences, there have been secondary subjects of disputemarose out of the invasion of the island of Shoporee, a spot scarcely to be discerned on the map, and, if all accounts be true, as barren of product and as destitute of importance, as it is insignificant in point of magnitude; but nations determined upon war seldom want a cause of contest, and it appears that our Indian government had provided an ample source of dispute with their Burmese neighbours, by granting refuge, and that too on the very frontiers, to the Mugs, a predatory tribe which the Birmans had driven from their native territory. This was in all probability a most cruel and tyrannic act, and we are by no means disposed to quarrel with the government which gave refuge to the unfortunate fugitives; that to which we object, was the impolicy of allowing the conquered tribe to remain in immediate contact with their conquerors; perpetual animosities were the necessary consequence; and that we should sooner or later be drawn into the quarrel, ought to have been anticipated, and perhaps was intended. Our government in India has always acted the wolf in the fable,-it has never wanted a pretence for the augmentation of its territory. But whether the matter was or was not concerted in the case of Birmah, it is evident that former Governors General have been unwilling to hazard a rupture. In 1794, the Birmans crossed our froutier with tive thousand men, in order to punish the predatory incursions of the pirates and freebooters whom we had permitted to settle on the borders of the river Naaf; but by the prudence of Sir John Shore, the then Governor General, a war was avoided, without any compromise of our national dignity; more recently, the Marquis of Hastings wisely determined rather to wink at some petty aggressions, than to involve the empire in hostilities. Lord Amherst has pursued a different policy, and on the first opportunity rushed into a war.
That the termination of the contest was not as fatal, as its com-mencement was rash, is to be attributed, not to the wisdom of our Indian government, but to the courage, steadiness, and, above all, to the discipline of our troops and their leaders.
The Narrative of Major Snodgrass, military secretary to the commander of the expedition against the Burmese, professes in its commencement to correct the misrepresentations which had at different times appeared relative to the situation and operations of the army lately serving in Ava, under Major General Sir Archibald Campbell; it is to this narrative that we shall principally refer, in order to prove our proposition, that the merit of a successful termination is not to be attributed to the civil government.
Considering that Birmah is immediately contiguous to our territory, so near indeed, that one of the Burmese excursions excited no inconsiderable alarm for the safety of Calcutta, we are astonished to find that so little was known of the character of the country or its inhabitants by our Indian rulers. This ignorance however is manifest, even from the narrative of Major Snodgrass; and we cannot impute to a military writer, and still less to a military secretary, that he would speak lightly in condemnation of authorities; we shall therefore take his own words in support of our charge.
It has already been observed, that the army came unprovided with the necessary equipment for advancing either by land or water; indeed it was anticipated, that the capture of Rangoon alone, or at least with that of the enemy's other maritime possessions, would induce the king of Ava to make overtures for peace, and accede to the moderate demands of the Indian government, or, at all events, that the country would afford sufficient water transport to enable a considerable corps to proceed up the Irrawaddy towards the capital, when little doubt was entertained of a speedy submission to the terms required; nor were the reasons upon which these expectations of aid and assistance from the natives were founded without some weight. It was urged, that they were not Burmese, but Peguers, and a conquered people, living under the tyrannical sway of a government with wbich they had for centuries, and often successfully, waged war; deprived of their court, and governed by despotic and mercenary chiefs, whom they obeyed from fear alone ; they were represented as discontented with their present situation, and ever longing for their former independence; and finally, that they would easily be induced to join the invading force, and to aid it, by every means in their power, in humbling the tyrant, under whose arbitrary rule they had so long suffered every species of degradation. But in these calculations, the wellconsolidated power and judicious policy of the government towards its conquered provinces were overlooked, and the warlike and haughty character of the nation was so imperfectly known, that no correct judgment could be formed of our probable reception, With an overgrown opinion of their own prowess and military genius-fostered by frequent victories over all their neighbours, and numerous unchecked conquests during half a century, was it to be wondered at that they should consider the disembarkation of six or seven thousand men upon their coast as a hopeless business, in a country, too, where every man was by profession a soldier, liable at all times to be called upon for military service at the pleasure of the sovereign. The expectation of deriving resources or assistance of any kind, from a nation so constituted, and living under such a form of government, could no longer be indulged ; indeed, from the day the troops first landed, it was obvious that we had been deceived by erroneous accounts of the character and sentiments of the people, and that decided hostility from both Burmese and Peguers was all we had to expect.
In a single passage, therefore, we find that the Governor General and his Council were utterly ignorant of the character and opinions of the people whose country they were about to invade; they confounded the warlike and energetic Birman with the soft and languid Hindoo they calculated on revolutionizing the conqnered province of Pegu, by offering to the inhabitants their ancient independence; a political trick which has often succeeded in Europe as in Asia ; but it has become stale. Norway, Sicily, and Genoa perhaps, had never been heard of in Rangoon, Ava, or Aracan; but the subtle Peguers had probably taken their estimate of British sincerity in such matters from the fate of more neighbouring nations; or if not, their conquerors had left them nothing to desire in change; an enemy had nothing to expect in exciting them to revolution.
The character of the country itself was equally unknown, and its means of transport and subsistence to an enemy equally miscalculated. The troops were landed without equipment, almost without provisions, at the most unhealthy season of the year, in a most unhealthy climate ; in a country where they could not advance either by land or water, except under circumstances of almost incredible difficulty—when they were soon to seek their own subsistence, the country being first driven by their provident enemy, and so closed with wood and jungle, that, even if it bad not been driven, no ordinary foraging party could have ventured to penetrate it to a sufficient distance for adequate supply.
Deserted, as we found ourselves, by the people of the country, from whom alone we could expect supplies, unprovided with the means of moving either by land or water, and the rainy monsoon just setting in-no prospect remained to us but that of a
long residence in the miserable and dirty hovels of Rangoon, trusting to the transports for provisions, with such partial supplie's as our foraging parties might procure, from time to time, by distant and fatiguing marches into the interior of the country.
In the neighbourhood of Rangoon itself, nothing beyond some paddy, or rice in the husk, was found : the careful policy of the Burmese authorities had removed far beyond our reach everytbing that was likely to be of use to an invading army; and it will appear hereafter with how much vigilance and care they followed up the only system which could have rendered the situation and prospects of the invaders seriously embarrassing, or have afforded to themselves a hope of ultimate success.
For many days after the disembarkation of the troops, a hope was entertained that the inhabitants, confiding in the invitations and promises of protection that were circulated about the country, would return to their homes, and afford some prospect of local supplies during the time we were obviously doomed to remain stationary; but the removal of the people from their houses was ouly the preliminary to a concerted plan of laying waste the country in our front, in the hope that starvation would speedily force the army to leave their shores--a system long steadily persevered in, with a skill and unrelenting indifference to the sufferings of the poor inhabitants, that too clearly, marked to what extremes a Burmese government and its chiefs were capable of proceeding, in defence of their country. Every day's experience only increased our disappointment, and proved how little was known of the character of the nation we had to deal with.
The very writer who thus condemns the cruelty of the Burmese gove! nment, would no doubt applaud to the skies the similar policy of the Emperor of Russia, and, amid the deplored depopulation of Rangoon, praise the heroic policy of the burning of Moscow.
Thus is our judgment eternally misled by our interests, our passions, and our prejudices. The rainy season of Ava is, perhaps, the longest, and certainly the severest, that is experienced in any part of todia; the commencement of this season was the period chosen for landing on the swampy banks of a great river, covered with wood and reeds : even in Europe such a situation would be in the highest degree dangerous to the troops employed in it. We have not now to learn that all alluvial soils are unhealthy, and that a bed of earth, fortified by decayed vegetable matter, is the nidus of disease. But as Castlereagh was thanked by both Houses for sacrificing his thousands at Walcheren, why should Lord Amherst be censured for devoting a few hundreds at Rangoon? especially when success in the one case, and failure in the other, have marked his superiority in good luck, though it may not have added to his reputation for good judgment.
The effect on our troops did not long remain problematical; in three months one half of the army were dead, or in the hospitals.
The rains continued during the whole month of September, and sickness had arrived at an alarming height. An epidemic fever, which prevailed all over India, made its appearance among the troops, which, although in few instances of a fatal tendency, left all those whom it attacked in a deplorable state of weakness and debility, accom. panied by cramps and pains in the limbs : men discharged from the hospitals were long in repairing their strength; and too frequently indulged in pine-apples, limes, and other fruit with which the woods about Rangoon abound, briuging on dysentery, wbich, in their exhausted state, generally terminated in death.
The incessant rains,' with severe and indispensable duty, no doubt added to the sickness; and although the climate is perhaps as favourable to Europeans as that of any part of our eastern possessions, they, in particular, suffered most severely, dying in great numbers daily.
Our situation at this time was, indeed, truly melancholy; even those who still continued to do their duty, emaciated and reduced, could with difficulty crawl about. The hospitals crowded, and with all the care and attention of a numerous and experienced medical staff, the sick for many months continued to increase, until scarcely three thousand duty-soldiers were left to guard the lines. Floating hospitals were established at the mouth of the river, bread was furnished in sufficient quantities, but nothing except change of seasou, or of climate, seemed likely to restore the sufferers to health.
By the end of October the rains bad ceased ; and the return of the cold season, at all times so ardently hailed with pleasure in warm climates, could not fail to receive a double welcome from men who had for five months experienced so much misery and inconvenience. It however proved, as it generally does, in countries subject to periodical rains, that the most unhealthy period is that which immediately follows their termination ; when the unwholesome exhalations from the ground, and noxious rapours from sheets of stagnant water, are pregnant with disease and death. This was felt to be particularly the case at Rangoon; and in October, the sickness and number of deaths were greater than in any previous month.
Nor were the detached corps of the army more fortunate than the main body.
From Arracan we had reason to expect that the force under Brigadier-general Morrison, which had subdued that province, would be able to co-operate with the forces on the Irrawaddy, by crossing the mountains and descending into Ava by the pass of Sembeughewn, either forming a junction with Sir Archibald Campbell, or advancing on the capital by the left bank of the river, as circumstances might render most expedient: local difficulties, however, and the unhealthy state of the Arracan army, prevented this movement from taking place; and Colonel Pepper, with his utmost exertions, was unable to obtain sufficient means of transport, for carrying his orders into effect. In Assam, the corps of Colonel Richards, after driving the enemy from the province, was prevented from pushing his successes farther on that side, by the insalubrious and desert regions, which still separated him from Upper Ava: unprovided with adequate stores or ineans of carriage, his troops, in any attempt to enter the Burmese territories, would have been exposed to the risk of sickness and starvation, with scarcely a prospect of accomplishing avy object, even that of a diversion in favour of the main attack.
This exceeding insalubrity of the climate could not have been practically unknown to our Indian government, even if its probability had escaped their penetration; for it appears that “on the return of the sickly season in March and April," (thus we have two sickly seasons in the
year,) our troops were compelled to withdraw from the lower part of the district, leaving at Ramoo, a post about sixty miles to the southward of Chittagong, only a small force, consisting of eight weak companies of Sepoys of the line, a provincial battalion, and a levy of five or six hundred armed Mugs.”
We should not perhaps have dwelt so long on this subject, had we not observed, both in our Indian and European history, too constant a disregard of this most important point. The quantity of blood to be spilt in any expedition, may have been a subject of calculation with our rulers ; but death by disease makes no figure in the Gazette, and forms no part of our politico-military computations. Major Snodgrass estimates the cost of every white man lost in the Burmese war, at 2001.; if our humanity is not excited by his narrative, our economy, at least, ought to be alarmed by his calculations.
Having thus discussed the demerits of the civil administration, a more pleasing task remains. In the purely military conduct of the expedition, we only find matter of commendation. It is possible that errors may have been committed; and the preface of the Major's Narrative implies that there had been misrepresentations respecting the operations of the army. As no charge has reached us in an authentic form, we will not seek for subjects of accusation, when we find so many opportunities for praise; we will rather believe that the same since