Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

ridicule. The first was to ask for a body of six thousand Frenchmen, with which he engaged to drive the English out of Hindostan. On the proposition being made to Louis XVI. he observed, “This resembles the affair of America, which I never think of without regret. My youth was taken advantage of at that time, and we suffer for it now; the lesson is too severe to be forgotten. Of the latter, nearly six hundred died of the plague ; and out of eleven hundred of which the embassy consisted, sixty-eight only returned to India. Notwithstanding the failure of both, Lord Cornwallis saw, early in 1790, that Tippoo was again resolved on war. His attack on the Raja of Travancore hastened it. Colonel Floyd found himself suddenly engaged with the main body of the Mysore army. Many of the Sepoys were cut down. Colonel Floyd, in passing along the line, expressed his regret to the native officers, and cheered them with the hope of retaliation in due time. These brave and faithful fellows all réplied nearly in the same words, “ We have eaten the Company's salt; our lives are at their disposal, and God forbid that we should mind a few casualties.'

The capture of Bangalore struck a panic into the tyrant's mind, and made him tremble for his capital; arrangements, in fact, were made for the removal of his harem, his treasure, and the families of his officers.

• The walls of the houses in the main streets of Seringapatam had been ornamented by the Sultaun's command, with full length_caricatures of the English. In one it was a tiger seizing a trembling Englishman; in another it was a horseman cutting off two English heads at a blow; in a third it was the nabob, Mahommed Ali, brought in with a rope round his waist, prostrating himself before an Englishman seated on a chair, who placed one foot upon his neck; but the more favourite caricatures are necessarily excluded from decorous narrative. The. anticipation must have been acute, which suggested the obliteration of all these favoured triumphs, and a positive order for carefully whitewashing the whole of the walls.

• The removal of these foolish indications of triumphant hostility and contempt, was perhaps a more conclusive testimony than any other of his considering the capture of the place highly probable; but conscience suggested more serious terrors, in the mass of living evidence at. Seringapatam and elsewhere, of his detention of prisoners, in direct violation of the treaty of 1784. Of the English boys, educated as singers and dancers* twenty still remained ; a secret order was dispatched for the murder of these unhappy youths as the first victims, and an imperceptible succession of most of the other prisoners of the preceding war. It was difficult to obtain precise information regarding details in whicha no individual would acknowledge instrumentality, or even ascribe it to

[ocr errors]

• Their instruction, performance, and dress, was precisely that of an Hindostanee dancing girl

another:

another : the bodies were carried out at the first opening of the gates, by the common scavengers, to places of distant sepulture, and the assassination was supposed to be perpetrated by Abyssinian slaves, by the well understood practice of a sudden and violent twist to dislocate the vertebræ of the neck. The orders to the outposts were executed according to local circumstances, and the English army had afterwards direct evidence even to exhumation, of murders so committed, on persons who carried with them the anxious sympathy of the inhabitants ; the order was extended to native state prisoners; and the horrible butcheries of this period exemplified, in the most impressive manner, the natural connexion between cruelty and fear.'-iii. pp. 140, 141.

But it is time to close the relation of the frantic and murderous pranks of this unfeeling despot; and we cannot conclude it better than with the following instance of dreadful retribution on one of his ready agents. It was inflicted by the widowed mother of a chief destroyed by Tippoo,-an instance of a daring and desperate spirit not unexampled in the secluded females of Hindostan.

'She paid me a visit in 1808,' (it is Colonel Wilks who speaks,)' and among other adventures related the following: " Tippoo's aumil, who polluted the mansion of my lost husband and son, wanted iron, and determined to supply himself from the rut,(a temple of carved wood fixed on wheels, drawn in procession on public occasions, and requiring many thousand persons to effect its movement.) " It was too much trouble to take it to pieces, and the wretch burned it in the square of the great temple, for the sake of the iron. On hearing of this abomination, I secretly collected my men, I entered the town by night, I seized him and tied him to a stake, and (bursting into tears, and an agony of exultation) I burned the monster on the spot where he had wantonly insulted and consumed the sacred emblems of my religion.”'-iii. p. 285.

We all know the conditions on which Lord Cornwallis granted a peace to Tippoo; and have read of the restitution of his two sons by Major Doveton, but the details given in these volumes are, nevertheless, very interesting. The subsequent events; the embassy to the Isle of France; the reinforcement of ninety-nine Frenchpen from that quarter; the organization of a jacobin club in Seringapatam; the planting of the tree of liberty, surrounded by the cap of equality, and the fraternization of the sans-culotte Sultaun under the distinguished appellation of Citizen Tippoo,-together with the decisive measures and the rapid movements of the Marquis of Wellesley, are too recent and too well known to require any particular notice ;—suffice it to say that this monster in human shape died, as he had lived-a fool, and a madman-u bich is the best apology that can be made for him.

Tippoo fell in 1796, in the forty-seventh year of his age, and the eighteenth of bis reign. He was less tall than his father; he

had

I 3

age; his

had a short neck, small and delicate hands and feet, large and full eyes, and a dark complexion, all characteristics of the Indian form. He spoke in a loud and inharmonious tone of voice; was extremely garrulous, and on superficial subjects delivered his sentiments with plausibility; he excelled in horsemanship; and ridiculed the conveyance in palanquins, which he, in a great degree, prohibited— more, it is said, from avarice than taste. With a smattering of Persian literature be considered himself as the tirst philosopher of the

pen was for ever in his hand, but he could neither write the language with elegance nor accuracy. The leading features of his character were vanity and arrogance-10 human being was ever so handsome, so wise, so learned, or so brave as himself. No man, however, bad less penetration into character; no prince was ever so ill served.

His application was intense and incessant; but it was mere occupation and not business ; he affected to write with his own hand all his dispatches, and the consequence was that nothing was dispatched. Hyder was an improving monarch, and exhibited few innovations. Tippoo was an innovating monarch, and made no improvements.' "One had a sagacious and powerful mind; the other a feeble and unsteady intellect. Tippoo was intoxicated with success, and desponding with adversity. His mental energy failed with the decline of fortune;' but,' says Colonel Wilks," it were unjust to question his physical courage. He fell in the defence of his capital; but he fell, performing the duties of a common soldier, not of a general.' The parallel or contrast between the father and son sums up the character of both.

* Both sovereigns were equally unprincipled; but Hyder had a clear undisturbed view of the interests of ambition : 'in Tippoo that view was incessantly obscured and perverled by the meanest passions. He murdered his English prisoners, by a selection of the best, because he hated their valour: he oppressed and insulted his Hindoo subjects, because he hated a religion which, if protected, would have been the best support of his throne; and he fawned, in his last extremity, on this injured people, when he vainly hoped that their incantations might influence his fate: he persecuted contrary to his interest; and hoped, in opposition to his belief. Hyder, with all his faults, might be deemed a model of toleration, by the professor of any religion. Tippoo, in an age when persecution only survived in history, renewed its worst terrors; and was the last Mahommedan prince, after a long interval of better feeling, who propagated that religion by the edge of the sword. Hyder's vices invariably promoted his political interests ; Tippoo's more frequently defeated them. If Hyder's punishments were barbarous, they were at least efficient to their purpose. Tippoo's court and army was one vast scene of unpunished peculation, notorious even to himself. He was barbarous where severity was vice, and indulgent where it was virtue. If he had qualities fitted for empire, they were strangely equivocal; the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

disqualifications were obvious and unquestionable; and the decision of history will not be far removed from the observation almost proverbial in Mysoor, " that Hyder was born to create an empire, Tippoo to lose one."'-iii. p. 465.

By the extinction of these two usurpers of the government of Mysore, the south of India has enjoyed a state of tranquillity unknown at any period of the Mahommedan dynasty; and it were to be wished for the sake of the country at large, that the British government was in possession of the whole peninsula of Hindustan, from the Indus to the Ganges, and from the Himalaya to the ocean, instead of keeping up that political simulation, which Colonel Wilks so justly reprobates.

• In the whole of the political transactions of India,' he observes,' we perceive Hindoos, Mahommedans, French and English, searching for a shadow, to sanction their pretensions, instead of resting their claims on more substantial grounds. In the course of events, however, the shadow and the substance have both fallen into the hands of the English; and on their part, at least, it is time that the scene of simulation should finally close. The late events have drawn it somewhat nearer to that close which alone can confer a permanent tranquillity on Hindostan. But we are warned that it is more than time for us to close our remarks.

We hardly know how to estimate the merits of Col.Wilks's book; as a history it is by far too long; the two reigns of the house of Mysore occupying nearly as much space as Hume's history of England. He not only enters too widely into detail, but details matters wholly irrelevant to the main subject, and many of them of very trifling importance. The style is careless, obscure and involved, wanting that plain and easy dignity which distinguishes Hume, and we may add, though in an inferior degree, Orme. But Col. Wilks appears, like many more unfortunate authors, to have adopted Gibbon for his model; if this was bis object, we can only say that he has failed; it is neither Gibbon in his slippers nor in his full dress, but Gibbon bobbling in a pair of wooden shoes.

These, however, we regret to say, are not the greatest faults we have to lay to the charge of Col. Wilks : valuable as bis researches unquestionably are, and fair and candid as he generally is in his inferences and observations, he is by no means free from party feelings. We heartily participate in every thing he says of Lord Wellesley's measures and of his administration of the government of India. We have no objection to his repeating, what has so often been said, that Mr. Hastings was the saviour of Iudia. Mr. Hastings, like others placed in high and responsible situations, will receive from impartial bistory a just proportion of praise and blame; but he never can be considered as entitled to unqualified

E 4

panegyric; panegyric ; and least of all when it is given at the expense of others. His conduct, as Governor-General of Bengal, to Lord Macartney as Governor of Madras, can only be explained from a feeling of jealousy at his lordship’s well-earned reputation. The boasted assistance given by Bengal to the Madras government, in the deplorable state to which its dissensions and distresses bad brought it, and in which Lord Macartney on his arrival found it, was tardily and ungraciously bestowed; and with regard to the letter of Mr. Hastings of the 24th March, 1783, which Col. Wilks is pleased to call. a performance of infinite force, and worthy of perusal even as a specimen of literary talent,' it appears to us to be chiefly remarkable as an effusion of irritable pride. Colonel Wilks does not notice the answer to that letter from Madras ;—perhaps he was not aware of it; nor of the opinion of Sir John M.Pherson, the friend of Mr. Hastings, and the second in council at Bengal, on the two productions :- We fired (said he) a pop-gun at you, but you returned us a thirty-two pounder.'

But even these are trifles when compared with the grave and serious charge we have still in reserve against Colonel Wilks; that, in short, of having traduced, at once, the living and the dead. Two of the three commissioners, who were sent by Lord Macartney to make peace with Tippoo Sultaun, (afraid for their personal safety,) are accused by Colonel Wilks of having secretly concerted a plan to effect their escape on board a ship; of concealing their intention froin the other commissioner till they were actually on their way to embark; and of abandoning the officer commanding the escort sent for their protection, four other officers, (one of whom was their own aide-de-camp,) their guards and other attendants, to their fate:- fate which could not be doubtful at the hands of the ferocious tyrant who, we are told, had already caused three gibbets to be erected, one before the tent of each of the commissioners. Colonel Wilks finds no intimation in the official records of any such intention on the part of the commissioners, but this does not satisfy him he met with something about a white handkerchief which led General Macleod to an unwarrantable and unjustifiable assertion of an intended escape ; and, this ' mystery' induced the historian to institute further inquiry, the result of which,

founded on high and incontrovertible living authority,' is to prove that the atrocious intention of sacrificing a party of innocent per-. sons, sent expressly as a guard to those commissioners, is true, and that it was only prevented by a premature discovery:-(ii. p. 514-517).

The two commissioners thus calumniated were the late Sir George Staunton and Mr. Huddlestone. The latter is not only still living, but holds, we believe, a seat in the direction of the East

« AnteriorContinua »