Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/230

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Law
Law
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this is more than doubtful, that Pollock on his own responsibility directed Nott to disobey the order for retreat. At any rate the retreat was not begun, and on 4 July Ellenborough sent fresh directions to Nott, giving him permission, if he thought fit, to retire from Candahar by way of Cabul and Peshawur. 'Nothing has occurred,' he wrote, 'to change my first opinion that the measure commended by considerations of political and military prudence is to bring back the armies now in Afghanistan at the earliest period at which their retirement can be effected consistently with the health and efficiency of the troops'—a phrase which has been fastened upon as conclusive proof of an attempt to reverse his previous policy under the disguise of adhering to its object and only varying its details. This, however, is unjust. He saw that the readiest mode of recovering the captives was to restore the English military superiority, and that this must be a work of time. Much he was obliged to leave to the discretion of the officer in command in the field, but his vigour inspired new energy in the disheartened armies, and it was upon the lines which he laid down that the victory was eventually won.

After the successful termination of the war he indulged in grandiose displays, which have been universally ridiculed. He arranged to receive the returning armies at Ferozepore on 17 Dec., with more than oriental pomp; they were to march beneath a triumphal arch and between double lines of gilded and salaaming elephants, but the arch was a gaudy and tottering structure, and the ill-tutored elephants forgot to salaam and ran away. He had ordered the sandal-wood gates of the temple of Somnauth, said to have been carried off by Mahmoud to Ghuzni, to be brought back by the army to India, and issued a proclamation, 6 Oct. 1842, to the princes of India, whom he addressed as 'my brothers and friends,' and congratulated on the restoration of the gates to India, and declared that 'the insult of eight hundred years is at last avenged' (cf. his letter to the Duke of Wellington, 17 May 1842, in The Indian Administration of Lord Ellenborough). Ellenborough seems to have sincerely thought that he would thus appeal to the oriental imagination, and would conciliate the Hindoos, whom he conceived to be our true friends in India, as the Mohammedans were, he believed, our irreconcilable foes. But it was doubtful if the gates had been carried away from India at all, and the temple of Somnauth, to which they were said to belong, had long been a deserted ruin; while their removal from a Mohammedan mosque might well offend the Indian Moslems, and would certainly be indifferent to the Brahmins, who, on the assumption that they were genuine, had forgotten their removal eight or nine centuries before. Finally, the recovered gates were found to be made of deal, and not of sandal-wood, and to be much later in date than the eleventh century. They were carried no further than Agra, and remain there still in a lumber-room in the fort. Another proclamation, published on 1 Oct. 1842, referred to Lord Auckland's administration, and boasted that 'disasters unparalleled in their extent, unless by the errors in which they originated,' had been avenged in one campaign—terms alike unwise in Lord Auckland's successor and ungenerous in his personal friend.

Ellenborough, however, has not yet had justice done him with regard to the Afghan campaign. On his arrival in India a 'political' agent was attached to each commander on the frontier, and in charge of every frontier district there was a separate officer, sometimes incapable, and generally anxious for decisive measures at all hazards. By this division of the responsibility, the military chief became lax and the political agent irresponsibly bold. Ellenborough to a large extent superseded the 'politicals.' The political functions of Rawlinson and Macgregor were transferred to the military chiefs, Pollock and Nott. This he was all the more glad to do because the 'politicals' as a body brought severe pressure to bear upon him to advance precipitately into Afghanistan, and to annex fresh territory in the direction of Candahar, contrary to his settled convictions. But such a general supersession, however honest an exercise of his powers of appointment, carried with it some appearance of harshness, notably in the case of Captain Hammersley, political agent at Quetta, and Ellenborough's unquestionable ill opinion of civilians generally and preference for military men excited an hostility from which his reputation as an Indian administrator has never recovered (cf. Kaye, History of the War in Afghanistan, which is written from the civilian's standpoint, and is very hostile, and Kaye's charges answered in the appendix to Durand's Life of Sir Henry Durand, vol. i.). Those, however, who have had access to special papers of Ellenborough, and have had military experience to inform their criticisms, speak in the highest terms of his knowledge of every detail of military administration, and of the zeal and energy with which from his position in the north-west he supported the armies in Afghanistan. His military dispositions one and all had the cordial approval of Wellington, and Greville records how the storm of censure which raged