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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 34.djvu/395

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and Sir Colin Scott Moncrieff as virtual chiefs of administration. Early in 1878 the famine had ceased in most districts. It remained to provide against its recurrence. Lytton appointed a commission, under the presidency of General Strachey, with the object of studying facts and placing principles on record. Its report resulted in the enactment in every province of India of a code of rules prescribing, always with reference to special local circumstances, the system to be pursued on the occurrence of dearth. A great scheme was at the same time devised for the rapid extension throughout India of railways and works of irrigation. But the home government thought Lytton too bold, and the expenditure he deemed necessary was greatly curtailed. To make provision for the future, it was also determined, in the words of Sir John Strachey, ‘that, in addition to the necessary margin of revenue over expenditure, a surplus of 1,500,000l. must every year be provided on account of famine relief alone, and that this sum, when the country was free from famine, must be regularly devoted to the discharge of debt, or the prevention of debt which would have been otherwise incurred for the construction of railways and canals.’ This system of famine insurance, as it was called, has since been modified, and sometimes suspended in crises of financial pressure, but in essentials it has been maintained and has worked successfully.

Scarcely had famine retired from India before war appeared in its place. Difficulties with Afghanistan had arisen in 1873, when it had been found impossible to grant the ameer the guarantees of protection which he was anxious to obtain from the British government. His estrangement consequently followed, and, in view of the danger to be feared from the possible action of Russia, Lytton was commissioned to attempt a restoration of friendly relations. But neither his instructions nor his inclination disposed him to grant the ameer the assurances he sought without exacting equivalents, the most important being the appointment of British officers as residents on the Central Asian frontier of Afghanistan. These agents were needed in the view of Lytton and his advisers to furnish trustworthy information, which was almost completely wanting, respecting the proceedings of Russia in those regions. A tedious and unsatisfactory negotiation ensued, which was abruptly, and, as some thought, injudiciously, broken off by Lytton just as the ameer appeared about to yield (March 1878). In August a Russian envoy appeared at Cabul, and was cordially received. No course was left to the Indian government but to insist upon the immediate reception of a British embassy; and the contumelious refusal of this demand equally necessitated the invasion of Afghanistan in November and the short triumphant campaign which overthrew Shere Ali, raised his son Yakoub from a prison to the throne, and, by the treaty of Gandamak (26 May 1879), gave India what was known as ‘a scientific frontier’ and a British residency at Cabul. The latter proved the weak point of the arrangement. Afghan ferocity and fanaticism had not been sufficiently reckoned with. The massacre of the British envoy Sir Pierre Louis Cavagnari [q. v.] and his entire suite (3 Sept.) reopened the war. Thereupon Lytton showed extraordinary energy. Winter was approaching, the army was on a peace footing, the difficulties of transport were almost insuperable; nevertheless, almost immediately upon the reception of the news at Simla, General Roberts left it to take command of an avenging force, and, greatly favoured by the fortunate acquisition of the new frontier, entered Cabul as a conqueror on 12 Oct. Yakoub Khan, suspected of complicity, or at least connivance, surrendered, abdicated, and was sent to India. Lytton's personal concern with Afghan affairs after this date was mainly confined to the selection of a successor to Yakoub. With characteristic boldness he chose Abdurrahman, a pensioner of Russia. ‘The greatest leap in the dark on record,’ says Mr. Forbes; but Abdurrahman still reigns, and his relations with England have hitherto been fairly satisfactory. Had Lytton remained in India his plans would have been completed by the annexation of Candahar and the extension of railway communication to this point, but his policy was reversed by the succeeding English administration.

Few questions have provoked more difference of opinion among competent judges than the retention of Candahar; but the soundness of Lytton's views respecting the strategic railway was proved by its hasty resumption upon the menaced war with Russia in 1885. The brilliance of the final military operations in Afghanistan during Lytton's government was somewhat overcast by the discovery that the expenditure was greatly in excess of the estimates. On 24 Feb. 1880 a surplus of 417,000l. in the estimates for the Indian budget of 1880–1 was announced, but the accounts for the year subsequently disclosed a deficit, owing to the expenses of the war and of the frontier railway, of 4,044,139l. (see Accounts appended to Major Baring's Financial Statement for 1882–3). The financial condition of India was at the time generally prosperous, and but for the war and fron-