Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/19

This page has been validated.



Great Britain owes its territories in the Himalaya to the same cause which has given it dominion over the rest of India—the aggressions of native states against each other, The Nepaul hills were tenanted by a martial race, who, better acquainted with the art of war than the method of improving the agricultural condition of their country, sought to enrich themselves by foreign conquests, and turned their arms against districts inhabited by a timid people, who, living in small communities, isolated from each other, proved an easy conquest. The Ghoorkas, under an enterprising chieftain, Ammeer Singh Theppa, possessed themselves of very considerable tracts of country between the Ganges and the Sutlej; the princes of all the intermediate petty states, jealous of each other, and accustomed to continual aggressions, omitting to make common cause against the invaders, and allowing themselves, notwithstanding the great natural strength of the country, to be beaten at every point. Several of the sovereigns, thus driven out, sought refuge in the British territories: and we were made aware, by other circumstances, of the state of affairs in the hills; for the invaders, growing bold by success, attacked our out-posts, and seemed inclined to extend their conquests to our possessions in the plains. In our first attempts to repel the intruding Ghoorkas, we probably underrated their strength and talents, for the troops sent against them proved unequal to the contest, and the attacks upon the hill-fortresses were attended by very unlooked-for results. It became, therefore, necessary to undertake the war in earnest; and in 1815 Sir David Ochterlony, an experienced and able officer, assumed the command; and after a series of brilliant exploits, which added to his other titles of honour, that of "the Hero of Malown," compelled Ammeer Singh to capitulate, and accede to the terms proposed by the victorious party. By a subsequent treaty, the peace of the hill districts was established, the Ghoorkas abandoned the whole of the territory west of the Kelee, which, with some few exceptions, a portion of Kumaon, the Deyrah Dhoon, &c., was restored to the representatives of those families who had possessed it before the Ghoorka invasion. Some of the families of the original rulers, however, had become extinct, and the lands were in consequence bestowed upon chieftains who had co-operated bravely with their British allies in the recovery of the country.

The Ghoorkas, unacquainted with the true art of government, made a very ungenerous use of the power gained by their conquests, levying the most cruel taxations on an impoverished people, and selling whole tribes into slavery. The result of this barbarous policy was such as might be expected: the oppressed mountaineers eagerly desired to place themselves under British protection; and, as far as their limited means extended, and their unwarlike disposition would permit, aided the attempts made to drive the Ghoorkas out of the country. The invaders, though greatly superior in intelligence, and in moral as well as physical qualities, were not sufficiently advanced in point of civilization to be other than a frightful scourge to the conquered country; and, degraded as the mountain tribes must at this period be considered, their condition would have been still more deplorable under the continued rule of a people who treated them with the utmost barbarity. The British government pursued a very humane policy towards those Ghoorkas who were either unwilling or unable to return to their own country. They were invited to take service under the conquerors, and were embodied in several battalions engaged to occupy stations in the hill districts, and to maintain the quietude of the