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'SADDLING THE RIGHT HORSE

A DIALOGUE.

A. Have I read the debates? Read a hundred columns of condensed talk for and against the conduct of the Government? I read Cranbrook's despatch, and Beaconsfield's summing up. That was enough for me. The long and the short of the matter is, that the Government had no choice but to act as they did, unless they wished to see Russia mistress of Afghanistan. India would soon have followed. We ought to have done it long ago; but these peace-atany-price people, who make morality an excuse for cowardice and indecision, could not see their way to it. They ride their crotchets into everything. The idea of scrupling about the dignity of a miserable savage when the substantial good of millions of civilised people is in the question!

B. Ah, I am not a party man. I ask only for information. But can you tell me why the Conservatives didn't put Afghanistan on a proper footing when they were in office before?

A. Because the Viceroys and other officials whose business it was never let them know that there was any danger. Mere red-tapism. They had got into a groove about India and the frontier and so forth, and never looked out of their nests to see what was going on in Central Asia. As Lord Beaconsfield said in his last speech-thorough-going speech that was- they were not fit to be Viceroys.'

B. But did the Viceroys make no suggestions about Central Asia to Mr. Gladstone's Government?

A. They sent home see-saw minutes and things. But of course Gladstone did nothing. They all put their timid heads together, and came to the conclusion that things were very well as they were. That was their policy of masterly inactivity. Masterly

rubbish!

B. Did you read Gladstone's speech at Greenwich?

A. Oh! Gladstone is only jealous of Dizzy. We should have made him an Earl at the same time, and then we should have heard nothing of this.

B. But did you read his speech?

A. I should think not. Who cares what Gladstone says? Accusing the Government of misrepresentation and what not. Surely they are English gentlemen. You don't mean that I am to believe that her Majesty's Ministers are not to put too fine a point upon itliars?

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B. Hush! No such thing. All men are liars,' up to a certain point, without meaning any harm. When a man is his own advocate, he is apt to see things through a coloured medium. However, without entering into a dissertation about truth, I will say this much, that the account given by her Majesty's Ministers of what took place before they entered on office does not correspond in all material respects with what I have read in the Blue-books. If their account is accurate if it is the case that all Viceroys before Lord Lytton's time were blind or indifferent to what was going on in Central Asia-if the present frontier was fixed at haphazard without reference to any danger from Russia, I admit that their defence is complete, and that, as you say, they had no choice but to do what they have done. Have you looked into the Blue-books?

A. Why should I? Hasn't Lord Cranbrook given a summary of them? And have not the Times, and the Telegraph, and the Standard, and half a dozen other papers said that it is correct? Perhaps you want me to believe that they also are

B. Coloured mediums. Well, we will put that on one side. At least, you will admit that in the Blue-books

A. Blue-books! Blue-books! I am tired of hearing about Bluebooks. What do I take my newspaper for, if not to be saved the trouble of reading that sort of thing for myself?

B. Blue-books are cheap-almost cheaper, bulk for bulk, than the newspapers and some of them are very entertaining. In a matter of this sort, being a simple record of facts, they have the advantage of being colourless. I should like to go over some of the main points with you. I won't trouble you with details. spare me an hour or so, and let us go over them together each armed with a copy?

Can you

A. What is the good? Time is too precious.

B. Even when the substantial good of millions of civilised people is at stake?

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A. Well, business is rather slack at present. I don't mind if I do give you half an hour or so since you wish it.

B. Will you meet me at the club to-morrow? I will bring the books.

A. Agreed-though I don't see the use of it after all that bas been said.

B. I think you said yesterday that the Viceroys before Lord

Lytton never alluded to the progress of Russia in Central Asia as a thing to be considered with reference to our Afghanistan frontier?

A. Well, they might have sent minutes and things.

B. They did, and now let us see what they sent. The subject was first brought under the notice of the Home Government by Sir John (now Lord) Lawrence and his Council, in a despatch dated the 3rd of September, 1867. You will find the passage at p. 20:

The intelligence now communicated suggests the discussion of another subject, which has latterly from time to time forced itself on our attention. We allude to the present position of Russia in Central Asia. From circumstances which Russia alleges to have been to a great degree beyond her control, and to have forced upon her an aggressive policy, her advances have been rapid. And by the late victory she is reported to have achieved over Bokhara, her influence will no doubt soon, if it has not already, become paramount at Samarcand and Bokhara, as it has for some time past been in Kokand. However, some of her own statesmen assert that the true interests of Russia do not consist in the expansion of her posts and frontiers among the bigoted and uncivilised populations south of the Oxus, and they aver that the late advances have been prosecuted, not in fulfilment of any predetermined line of aggressive progress, but by the hostile attitude and schemes of Bokhara, and in opposition to her normal policy. If these representations be a correct exposition of the views of Russia, then it is as much in harmony with her interests as it is with those of British India, that up to a certain border the relations of the respective Governments should be openly acknowledged and admitted as bringing them into necessary contact and treaty with the tribes and nations on the several sides of such a line. If an understanding, and even an engagement of this nature, were come to, we, on the one hand, could look on without anxiety or apprehension at the proceedings of Russia on her southern frontier, and welcome the civilising effect of her border government on the wild tribes of the Steppe, and on the bigoted and exclusive governments of Bokhara and Kokand; while Russia, on the other hand, assured of our loyal feeling in the matter, would have no jealousy in respect of our alliance with the Afghan and neighbouring tribes.

If such be the line of policy advantageous to the interests of both Empires, the time would now appear to have come when the subject might with great advantage be brought under discussion in Her Majesty's Cabinet. And should you coincide with us in these views, we would respectfully suggest that a communication might be made in the sense of what we have now written to Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

A. That seems tolerably thorough. And what was the answer of the Government?

B. You will find that at p. 25, in a letter from the Secretary of State to the Governor-General:

Having thus conveyed to your Excellency the general views of Her Majesty's Government, I have only to add that they place the most implicit confidence in your prudence, and in your intimate acquaintance with the political condition of Afghanistan, and feel assured that they may safely leave it to your discretion to act as you may think right upon any emergency that may arise.

I now proceed to the second question, to which your Excellency refers, namely, whether it is desirable to make any communication to the Government of Russia, in order to obviate any possible inconvenience that might be apprehended from the progress of that Power in Central Asia.

Up this point Her Majesty's Government see no reason for any uneasiness or

for any jealousy. The conquests which Russia has made, and apparently is still making, in Central Asia appear to them to be the natural result of the circumstances in which she finds herself placed, and to afford no ground whatever for representations indicative of suspicion and alarm on the part of this country.

A. Is not that what I told you? That comes of having such a Manchester lot as Gladstone and Bright at the head of affairs.

B. Pardon me. Mr. Disraeli was then Prime Minister. If you turn over the page, you will see that the despatch is signed 'S. H. Northcote'

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A. Impossible. It must be a misprint. They here profess the most implicit confidence' in Lord Lawrence, and it was only the other day that Beaconsfield hinted he was not fit to be a Viceroy.

B. Lapse of memory. Circumstances have changed so much.

A. Yes, no doubt that explains it. Change of circumstances. Lord Beaconsfield told us that Russia was then two thousand miles from our Afghanistan frontier.

B. Colour of the medium, my dear Sir, I fear. It is not circumstances in Central Asia that have changed. If you look again at these passages, you will see that when Lord Lawrence wrote in 1867, Russian influence was already paramount in Bokhara and Kokand. Russia had advanced with great rapidity on and after the year 1853, and by 1867 had either annexed or made absolutely dependent on her favour every government in Turkestan.

A. I thought it was only within the last few years that she had done that.

B. It is only within the last few years that much has been said in England about her doings in Central Asia, though Sir Henry Rawlinson and Mr. Grant Duff did all that they could to draw attention to them, and predicted that if we did not observe how Russia was advancing, we should wake up one day in a panic and do something foolish. But at least you must admit that Lord Lawrence did his duty in bringing the subject under the notice of the Home Govern

ment.

A. Yes, yes; and the Government did-nothing.

B. Absolutely nothing. No, stay-before they went out of office Sir Henry Rawlinson sent a Memorandum to the Government about the steps that should be taken in view of the progress of Russia, and they transmitted it to Lord Lawrence.

A. They had implicit confidence in him, of course. But come now, Sir Henry wanted something done like what is being done now. Why didn't Lawrence take his advice? That is what Beaconsfield said-it ought to have been done long ago.

B. You will find that forty pages of the Blue-book are filled with the reasons why the Indian Government did not approve of Sir Henry Rawlinson's suggestions. Lord Lawrence did not rush and act upon the advice of one man, as Lord Beaconsfield admits that his Government has done, but consulted every Indian official of position

entitled to an opinion on the subject. Their opinions are contained in these thirty-five closely printed pages of minutes and observations on Sir Henry Rawlinson's Memorandum. Read them at your leisure. You will find there a full discussion of the question of a scientific frontier.

A. Yes, but that was before Russia had advanced where she is

now.

B. Before she had consolidated her advance. But the question was not discussed by the Indian officials with reference to her actual position, but distinctly on the supposition that Russia should have done her utmost in Turkestan and should be in a position to contemplate an invasion of India. The main object in raising the question was to consider how England might best prepare herself in India against such a contingency, as you will see in the despatch from the Indian Government, p. 44:

We venture to sum up the policy which is recommended or supported, in various language and by various arguments in our minutes, somewhat as follows:We object to any active interference in the affairs of Afghanistan by the deputation of a high British Officer with or without a contingent, or by the forcible or amicable occupation of any post or tract in that country beyond our own frontier, inasmuch as we think such a measure would, under present circumstances, engender irritation, defiance, and hatred in the minds of the Afghans, without in the least strengthening our power either for attack or defence. We think it impolitic and unwise to decrease any of the difficulties which would be entailed on Russia, if that Power seriously thought of invading India, as we should certainly decrease them if we left our own frontier, and met her halfway in a difficult country, and possibly in the midst of a hostile or exasperated population. We foresee no limits to the expenditure which such a move might require; and we protest against the necessity of having to impose additional taxation on the people of India, who are unwilling as it is to bear such pressure for measures which they can both understand and appreciate. And we think that the objects which we have at heart, in common with all interested in India, may be attained by an attitude of readiness and firmness on our frontier, and by giving all our care and expending all our resources for the attainment of practical and sound ends over which we can exercise an effective and immediate control.

Should a foreign Power, such as Russia, ever seriously think of invading India from without, or, what is more probable, of stirring up an element of disaffection or anarchy within it, our true policy, our strongest security, would then, we conceive, be found to lie in previous abstinence from entanglements at either Cabul, Candahar, or any similar outpost; in full reliance on a compact, highly equipped, and disciplined army stationed within our own territories or on our own border; in the contentment, if not in the attachment, of the masses; in the sense of security of title and possession, with which our whole policy is gradually imbuing the minds of the principal Chiefs and the Native aristocracy; in the construction of material works within British India, which enhance the comfort of the people, while they add to our political and military strength, in husbanding our finances and consolidating and multiplying our resources, in quiet preparation for all contingencies, which no Indian statesman should disregard; and in a trust in the rectitude and honesty of our intentions, coupled with the avoidance of all sources of complaint which either invite foreign aggression or stir up restless spirits to domestic revolt.

This despatch is dated the 4th of January, 1869, and now that you

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