Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

the practical effects of civilization, are evinced in the following incident:

• Among the prisoners was a son of Colonel Lang, who commanded Vellore, a child rather than a youth, born in India, who was serving as a volunteer. He sent for the boy, and ordered him instantly to write a letter to his father, offering him a splendid establishment, on the condition of surrendering the place, and announcing that his own death would be the result of refusal. The boy at first received the proposition with a cool rejection; but, on being pressed with direct threats, he burst into tears, and addressing Hyder in his own language, “ If you consider me,” said he, “base enough to write such a letter, on what ground can you think so meanly of my father? It is in your power to present me before the ramparts of Vellore, and cut me into a thousand pieces in my father's presence; but it is out of your power to make him a traitor.” The threats were, however, renewed hy the attendants in a separate tent, but, being found ineffectual, the child was remanded to the quarters of the other prisoners.'—vol.ii. pp. 280, 281.

Colonel Wilks mentions the cases of two individuals, both well known to him, among the wounded of this unbappy day; the one of which he may well say was remarkable from mere fact; the other sufficiently. so fron characteristic imagination. The first was that of an English artilleryman, of the name of Twig; he had received a sabre wound in the back of the neck, which separated the muscles destined to support the head, and it fell accordingly on his chest.- On being roused by threats and other wounds, this extraordinary man raised his head to its proper position with the aid of his hands, and, supporting it in this manner, actually performed the march of six miles, and was perfectly cured.'—vol.ii. p. 281.

• The other case was that of Mahommed Booden, commandant of Hyder's artillery.—A cannon shot had grazed the back of the occiput, and numerous exfoliations of the skull, which he describes to have afterwards occurred, seem to evince that the contact was severe. He tell, and was supposed to be killed, but almost instantly arose, put on his turban, and mounted his horse, and was found to have received no other apparent injury than a small contusion surmounted by a tumour. The escape of this man became a subject of general conversation in Hyder's army; there could be no doubt of his possessing a charm to avert cannon-balls, and the secret must be invaluable. Tippoo sent for him some days afterwards, and questioned him regarding the charm. He replied, as he always continued to believe, that it was the root of a small plant, which he had purchased from a travelling Hindoo mendicant, to be worn at all times wrapped up in his turban, as an intallible protection to the head. Tippoo desired to see this precious treasure, and, after a deliberate scrutiny, very coolly wrapped it up in his own turban, for the future defence of his own head, regardless of the fate of Mabommed Bovden’s, who was perfectly aware, that serious re

monstrance

monstrance would put his head in greater danger than the cannon-balls of the next battle.'- vol. ii. pp. 281, 282.

Though the war, as we have already observed, was entered on by Hyder under the most favourable auspices, and many important advantages were obtained by him, yet they led to no decisive results in his favour; and, in fact, bis situation, from the period of Sir Eyre Coote's appointment to the command of the army, was daily becoming more critical. He was not insensible of the danger; and on one occasion is said to have thus addressed bis confidential minister, Poornea :

• I have committed a great error; I have purchased a draught of Seandee at the price of a lac of pagodas; I shall pay dearly for my arrogance: between me and the English there were perhaps mutual grounds of dissatistaction, but no sufficient cause for war; and I might have made them my friends in spite of Mahommed Ali, the most treacherous of men. The defeat of many Baillies and Braithwaites will not destroy them. I can ruin their resources by land, but I cannot dry up the sea ; and I must be first weary of a war in which I can gain 110thing by fighting. I ought to have reflected, that no man of common sense will trust a Mahratta ; and that they themselves do not expect to be trusted. I have been amused by idle expectations of a French force from Europe ; but, supposing it to arrive, and to be successful here, I must go alone against the Mahrattas, and incur the reproach of the French for distrusting them ; for I dare not admit them in force to Mysoor.'-vol. ii. p. 373.

This is no faint portrait of his mind; a more striking one, how. ever, of the perturbed and gloomy nature of his feelings is furnished by Gholaum Ali, one of bis most familiar companious : Gholaum had observed him to start much in his sleep; and, on his waking, took the liberty to ask him of what he had been dreaming?My friend,' replied Hyder,' the state of a yogee (religious mendicant) is more delightful than my envied monarchy; awake, they see no conspirators; asleep, they dream of no assassins !

In the cavalry of Hyder the officers were foud of exhibiting to the English army a chivalrous spirit, which induced them frequently to approach, individually, within speaking distance of the flanking parties, and give a general challenge to single combat. The manner in which they were answered and silenced is not ill described:

• There was in Sir Eyre Coote's body-guard a young cavalry officer, distinguished for superior military address; on ordinary service always foremost, to the very verge of prudence, but never beyond it; of physical strength, seldom equalled; on foot, a figure for a sculptor ; when mounted

to he

" he grew unto his seat,
And to such wondrous doing brought his horse
As he had been incorpsed and demi-natured

With the brave beast.
• In common with the rest of the army, this officer had smiled at the
recital of these absurd challenges; but, while reconnoitring on the flank
of the column of march, one of them was personally addressed to
himself by a horseman, who, from dress and appearance, seemed to be
of some distinction. He accepted the invitation, and the requisite pre-
cautions were mutually acceded to: they fought; and be slew his anta-
gonist. After this incident, the challenges were frequently addressed,
not, as formerly, to the whole army, but to Dallas, whose name be-
came speedily known to them: and, whenever his duty admitted, and
his favourite horse was sufficiently fresh, the invitations were accepted,
until the Mysoreans became weary of repetition. With a single ex-
ception, the result was uniform. On that one occasion, the comba-
tants, after several rounds, feeling a respect for each other, made
a significant pause, mutually saluted, and retired. As a fashion among
the aspiring young officers, these adventures were not calculated
for general adoption ; it was found, that, in single combat, the address
of a native horseman is seldom equalled by an European.'—vol. ii.
pp. 391, 392.

In the course of the year 1782, Hyder's health perceptibly declined; and, in the month of November, symptoms of a disease appeared, known to the Hindoos under the name of the raj-póra, or roval boil, from its being supposed to be peculiar to persons of rank; by the Mahommedans it is called the crab,' from the fancied resemblance to that animal in the swelling behind the neck, or the upper portion of the back, which is the first indication of this disorder. The united efforts of Hindoo, Mahommedan, and French physicians were of no avail, and he died on the 7th of December. His body was secretly deposited in the tomb of his father at Colar, but was subsequently removed by Tippoo's orders to the superb mausoleum at Seringapatam, which is still endowed and kept up by the English.

The character of Hyder has been pretty well developed by the extracts which we have made from these and the former volumes; but, as we bave now perhaps gone over his history for the last time, we shall avail ourselves of Colonel Wilks's information to bring it before our readers under one point of view.

In person be was tall and robust; his neck long, his shoulders broad; bis complexion was fair and forid, (as an Indian;) and a promment and rather aquiline nose and small eyes imparted to his countenance a mixture of sternness and gentleness. He had a mellow and musical voice. His turban, whose various involutions were said 10 contain one hundred cubits of the most brilliant scar

let,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

let, overshadowed his shoulders. The rest of his dress was equally magnificent. Fond of show and parade, he was attended, on great occasions, by a retinue of a thousand spearmen splendidly clothed and armed, preceded by bards, who sang his exploits in the Canarese language.

He was a bold and skilful horseman; as a swordsman he was beld in high esteem, and as a marksman unrivalled: the volunteers engaged in single combat with the royal tiger were confident of being preserved in the last estremity by the fusil of Hyder from the balcony.

He could neither read nor write any language ; and, in making the initial of bis name, to serve as his signature on public occasions, either from inaptitude to learn, or for the sake of originality, he inverted its form, and, instead of T, wrote J; but, besides the Hindostanee, he spoke with great fluency five other languages of the peninsula ; and he possessed the extraordinary faculty of listening to the song of a bard, dictating to a moonshee, hearing and answering the report of a spy, and following the recital of a long and complex account of his dewan, or treasurer. Mr. Swartz, who was admitted to his presence, admired the rapid dispatch with which his affairs proceeded ; letter after letter was received and read to him, the writers ran, wrote the answer, wbich he dictated, and Hyder apposed his seal. • He orders,' says the worthy missionary, one man to write a letter and read it to him; then he calls another to read it to him again ; if the writer has in the least deviated from his orders, his head pays for it.'

His intercourse with his haren was never permitted to divert him from the inost rigid attention to public business: from sunrise till noon he was occupied in the durbar; he then took his first meal, and retired to rest for an hour or two; in the evening he rode out, and then returned to business till near midnight when he made his second meal, drank largely, but secretly, and retired to rest.

He possessed the most disciplined command of his temper : his apparent bursts of anger (according to Colonel Wilks) were systematic, and intended to keep for ever present the terror of his name. • He is served,' says Mr. Swartz, through fear : two hundred people with whips stand always ready to use; not a day passes on which numbers are not flogged. Hyder applies the same cat to all transgressors alike-gentlemen and horsekeepers, tax-gatherers and his own sons. It will bardly be believed,' adds this excellent man,

• what punishments are daily inflicted on the collectors.One of them was tied up, and two men came with their whips and cut him dreadfully; with sharp nails was his flesh torn asunder, and then scourged afresh; his shrieks rent the air.'

Yet, Yet, in spite of his well-known inhumanity, and the notorious system of exaction and torture, men of almost every country were attracted to his court by brilliant prospects of advancement and wealth; but a person found to be worth keeping was a prisoner for life; Hyder's was literally the lion's den—no footsteps led from it—he would hear of no standard but his own, and suffered no return. It is the less surprizing therefore that in council he had no adviser, and no confidant. In our examination of the first part of this work, we hazarded a few observations on the striking similarity between the character of Hyder Ali and that of Ali Buonaparte. Every step which we have since advanced has tended to contiri our strictures, and justify the parallel. If there be a shade of difference, the concluding remarks of Colonel Wilks will determine it in favour of the Asiatic barbarian:

'In common with all sovereigns who have risen from obscurity to a throne, Hyder waded through crimes to his object; but they never exceeded the removal of real impediments, and he never achieved through blood what fraud was capable of effecting. He fised his stedfast view upon the end, and considered simply the efficiency, and never the moral tendency of the means. If he was cruel and unfeeling, it was for the promotion of his objects, and never for the gratification of anger or revenge. If he was ever liberal, it was because liberality exalted his character and augmented his power; if he was ever mercitul, it was in those cases where the reputation of mercy promoted future submission. His European prisoners were in irons, because they were otherwise deemed upmanageable ; they were scantily fed, because that was economical; there was little distinction of rank, because that would have been expensive : but, beyond these simply interested views, there was, by his authority, no wanton severity; there was no compassion, but there was no reseniment; it was a political expenditure for a political purpose, and there was no passion, good or bad, to disturb the balance of the account. He carried merciless devastation into an enemy's country, and even to his own, but never beyond the reputed utility of the case : 'he sent the inhabitants into captivity, because it injured the enemy's country and benefited his own. The misery of the individuals was no part of the consideration, and the death of the greater portion still lett a residue, to swell a scanty population. With an equal absence of feeling he caused forcible emigrations from one province to another, because he deemed it the best cure for rebellion; and he converted the male children into military slaves, because he expected them to improve the quality of his army. He gave fair, and occasionally brilliant encouragement, to the active and aspiring among bis servants, so long as liberality proved an incitement to exertion, and he robbed and tortured them without gratitude or compunction, when no further services were expected : it was an account of profit and loss, and a calculation, whether it were most beneficial to employ or to plunder them. • Those brilliant and equivocal virtues, which gild the crimes of other

conquerors,

« AnteriorContinua »