army mutinied, and all the valley of the Ganges from Patna to Delhi rose in open rebellion.
The various motives assigned for the Mutiny appear inadequate to the European mind. The truth seems to be that native opinion throughout India was in a ferment, predisposing men to believe the wildest stories, and to act precipitately upon their fears. The influence of panic in an Oriental population is greater than might be readily believed. In the first place, the policy of Lord Dalhousie, exactly in proportion as it had been dictated by the most honourable considerations, was utterly distasteful to the native mind. Repeated annexations, the spread of education, the appearance of the steam engine and the telegraph wire, all alike revealed a consistent determination to substitute an English for an Indian civilization. The Bengal sepoys, especially, thought that they could see into the future farther than the rest of their countrymen. Nearly all men of high caste, and many of them recruited from Oudh, they dreaded tendencies which they deemed to be denationalizing, and they knew at first hand what annexation meant. They believed it was by their prowess that the Punjab had been conquered, and all India was held quiet. The numerous dethroned princes, their heirs and their widows, were the first to take advantage of the spirit of disaffection that was abroad. They had heard of the Crimean War, and were told that Russia was the perpetual enemy of England. Owing to the silladar system, under which the native cavalry provided their own horses and accoutrements, many of the sowars were in debt, and were in favour of a change which would wipe out the existing régime and with it the money-lender.
But in addition to these general causes of unrest the condition of the native army had long given cause for uneasiness to acute observers. During the course of its history it had broken out into mutiny at recurrent intervals, the latest occasion being the winter of 1843-1844, when there were two separate mutinies in Sind and at Ferozepur. Moreover the spirit of the sepoys during the Sikh wars was unsatisfactory, and led to excessive casualties amongst the British officers and soldiers. Both General Jacob and Sir Charles Napier had prophesied that the Mutiny would take place. Sir Hugh Gough and other commanders-in-chief had petitioned for the removal of India’s chief arsenal from Delhi to Umballa; and Lord Dalhousie himself had protested against the reduction of the British element in the army. But all these warnings were disregarded with a blindness as great as was the incapacity that allowed the Mutiny to gather head unchecked after its first outbreak at Meerut. Moreover the outbreak was immediately provoked by an unparalleled instance of carelessness. It has recently been proved by Mr G. W. Forrest’s researches in the Government of India records that the sepoys’ belief that their cartridges were greased with the fat of cows and pigs had some foundation in fact. Such a gross violation of their caste prejudices would alone be sufficient to account for the outbreak that followed. (For the military incidents of the Mutiny see Indian Mutiny.)
The Mutiny sealed the fate of the East India company, after a life of more than two and a half centuries. The Act for the Better Government of India (1858), which finally transferred the entire administration from the company Transfer to the Crown. to the crown, was not passed without an eloquent protest from the directors, nor without acrimonious party discussion in parliament. It enacts that India shall be governed by, and in the name of, the sovereign of England through a principal secretary of state, assisted by a council. The governor-general received the new title of viceroy. The European troops of the company, numbering about 24,000 officers and men, were amalgamated with the royal service, and the Indian navy was abolished. By the Indian Councils Act 1861 the governor-general’s council and also the councils at Madras and Bombay were augmented by the addition of non-official members, either natives or Europeans, for legislative purposes only; and by another act passed in the same year high courts of judicature were constituted out of the existing supreme courts and company’s courts at the presidency towns.
India under the Crown.
It fell to the lot of Lord Canning both to suppress the Mutiny and to introduce the peaceful revolution that followed. As regards his execution of the former part of his duties, it is sufficient to say that he preserved his equanimity undisturbed in the darkest hours of peril, and that the strict impartiality of his conduct incurred alternate praise and blame from the fanatics on either side. The epithet then scornfully applied to him of “Clemency” Canning is now remembered only to his honour. On November 1, 1858, at a grand durbar held at Allahabad the royal proclamation was published which announced that the queen had assumed the government of India. This document, which has been called the Magna Charta of the Indian people, went on to explain the policy of political justice and religious toleration which it was her royal pleasure to pursue, and granted an amnesty to all except those who had directly taken part in the murder of British subjects. Peace was proclaimed throughout India on the 8th of July 1859; and in the following cold season Lord Canning made a viceregal progress through the upper provinces, to receive the homage of loyal princes and chiefs, and to guarantee to them the right of adoption. The suppression of the Mutiny increased the debt of India by about 40 millions sterling, and the military changes that ensued augmented the annual expenditure by about 10 millions. To grapple with this deficit, James Wilson was sent out from the treasury as financial member of council. He reorganized the customs system, imposed an income tax and licence duty and created a state paper currency. The penal code, originally drawn up by Macaulay in 1837, passed into law in 1860, together with codes of civil and criminal procedure.
Lord Canning left India in March 1862, and died before he had been a month in England. His successor, Lord Elgin, only lived till November 1863, when he too fell a victim to the excessive work of the governor-generalship, dying at the Himalayan station of Dharmsala, where he lies buried. He was succeeded by Sir John Lawrence, the saviour of the Punjab. The chief incidents of his administration were the Bhutan war and the terrible Orissa famine of 1866. Lord Mayo, who succeeded him in 1869, carried on the permanent British policy of moral and material progress with a special degree of personal energy. The Umballa durbar, at which Shere Ali was recognized as amir of Afghanistan, though in one sense the completion of what Lord Lawrence had begun, owed much of its success to the personal influence of Lord Mayo himself. The same quality, combined with sympathy and firmness, stood him in good stead in all his dealings both with native chiefs and European officials. His example of hard work stimulated all to their best. While engaged in exploring with his own eyes the furthest corners of the empire, he fell by the hand of an assassin in the convict settlement of the Andaman islands in 1872. His successor was Lord Northbrook, whose ability showed itself chiefly in the department of finance. During the time of his administration a famine in Lower Bengal in 1874 was successfully obviated by government relief and public works, though at an enormous cost; the gaekwar of Baroda was dethroned in 1875 for misgovernment and disloyalty, while his dominions were continued to a nominated child of the family; and the prince of Wales (Edward VII.) visited the country in the cold season of 1875-1876. Lord Lytton followed Lord Northbrook in 1876. On the 1st of January 1877 Queen Victoria was proclaimed empress of India at a durbar of great magnificence, held on the historic “Ridge” overlooking the Mogul capital Delhi. But, while the princes and high officials of the country were flocking to this gorgeous scene, the shadow of famine was already darkening over the south of India. Both the monsoons of 1876 had failed to bring their due supply of rain, and the season of 1877 was little better. The consequences of this prolonged drought, which extended from Cape Comorin to the Deccan, and subsequently invaded northern India, were more disastrous than any similar calamity