페이지 이미지

Soon after this, Napier exchanged, came to England, was placed on half-pay, and volunteered, as usual, to serve with the army then (1815) under Wellington. For once in his life, he was too late for the battle of Waterloo; but he was present at the entry of Louis XVIII., when he went over from Hartwell, to sit on the throne of France. One does not care to think what were the reflections of Charles Napier on finding that it was for this he had shed his blood, fighting against Napoleon. Three or four years on half-pay, and after much difficulty, he was made an inspecting field officer in the Ionian Isles—the only Englishman, I verily believe, who ever did much good with that precious legacy the Vienna wiseacres had just handed over to us. He got a separate command in the Island of Cephalonia. Here was full scope for his powers of organising, and Charles Napier was not soon weary of well-doing. He writes to his mother :-“My work here is too hard for me to be otherwise than well.

This life is pleasant to me-very much so. My constant desire is to see you again : however, we are not made to moan and groan, but to work; and whoever works for good, does what he ought to do." I dare not begin to speak of his nine years' work in Cephalonia : he found it more than half savage—he left it a civilised and flourishing community. He struck terror into unjust judges, and would have hanged a few for the encouragement of others, if he hal had the power. He made more than 100 miles of roal, binding together villages and towns which hitherto had been almost unknown to each other. He drained pestilential marshes; made a quay a mile long; barracks, sanatoriums, market-place, light-house, and so forth. These nine years of work he always looked back upon as the happiest of his life; and again and again, when in India, he expresses his longing to be back in Cephalonia, where he was creating, not destroying. In 1826, the loss of his mother overwhelmed him with such grief as only a large nature can feel : but very soon afterwards he came to England, and married a lady some years older than himself, of whom it is enough to say that she filled the void in that great heart, as few women could have done. In 1830, not being able to get on with the new Lord High Commissioner, Sir F. Adam, he managed to get superseded.

“Against stupidity the very gods fight unvictorious.”'

When he left, the natives, entirely unsolicited, cultivated a small piece of land that had been his, and remitted the produce to England, as a mark of respect and gratitude. I should say that for a great part of this period he was in correspondence with the Greek committee - Mr. Hume, Lord Byron, and others—with a view to becoming the leader in a war of independence in Greece. I fancy if he had had the management of the business, it would not have required to be undone so soon.

From 1830 to 1837, were the quietest years of his life. He wrote a novel —“Harold ”— published since his death, and worthy of him, though he would not publish it with his name. He took an energetic part in the political strife at Bath, on the Radical side.

He was much engaged, too, with a scheme for the government of Australia ; and if it were of any use, we might stop to mourn that that glorious opportunity was missed ; --that the wonderful governing faculty of this man was not turned to account in founding our new empire on the other side of the globe. Another thing that marked this period, was the loss of the wife he loved so well, and the new responsibility for the education of his girls. He does not (he says) wish to leave them more than £100 a-year each: he will have them taught to work, and then they may be was blue as burnt brandy,” but not by his desire. That Australian scheme, however, had two results. The first was, a book on colonisation; the second was, that in the prospect of this new position, he was induced to marry again. The passionate, despairing sorrow that breathes through his letters, did not make him unmindful that “ are not made to moan and groan, but to work.” That great longing of his life, however—to which he reverted even amidst the carnage of Indian wars—was not to be realised : a sadder task was yet before him. Most of us recollect those sad years 1839-40 ; the last, let us hope, in the history of this England of ours in which the muchenduring English people will ever raise the standard of forcible resistance to the government. We recollect that sad Newport riot: it was something gained that we could afford not to hang Frost, William, and Jones. Charles Napier was appointed to the command of the Northern district from January, 1839, to April, 1841; and he made Chester his head-quarters during part of that time. How


ever such a man came to be selected by a Whig Government to put down Chartism, I never could understand; unless it were that the imminence of the danger drove them for once to the ablest man they had at hand. What surprises one somewhat, however, is, that solemnly weighing this sad business he was called to, there is no hint of any hesitation about accepting it.

Charles Napier, I have hinted, and now repeat simply as a matter of fact, was himself something very like a Chartist. Among his many speculations, there is one on the question-Why the Almighty created Whigs and bugs ? Having ruled men of all classes and all nations, he knew that the one thing which makes a government strong against discontent, is justice to all. At the same time, he had no notion of allowing mere brute force to settle the question ;-or, rather, he took care that the force should be always on the side of law and order. During those two years—baffled by the ignorance of the government, and the selfishness of the local magistrates, who were always wanting troops to guard their precious skins and cotton mills, and with a force that seened wholly inadequate-he kept peace in eleven counties, without shedding one drop of blood. One cannot help noticing that throughout all this terrible period, when a march upon London by 10,000 armed rioters was contemplated, it was men who knew not what fighting is who were always calling for more soldiers, and seemed anxious that some terrible example should be made. It was the general who turned all his military skill to the problem how to avoid fighting; and, as I believe, saved this country from the horrors of civil war.

But' from this sad business he was called to a sphere where his genius for fighting could have full play. Offered a command on the Indian staff, he resigned the Northern district in 1841, and on the 12th December he first set foot in India with his family, 59 years of age ; and it is worth noting, two sovereigns his whole wealth in money. I dare not touch on the state of affairs which had come to crisis just as he arrived. It was just after those disasters which made Cabool a bye-word with us, whose terror is not effaced even by more recent horrors.

Alas! the problem which the world is ever setting before its greatest and best ones, is the strictly impossible one of blotting out its sins and purging away its follies—of making all to be as though the sin and the folly had never been. To get rid of the consequences of evil without doing freshi evil--this is the Sisyphus' task we set our born kings and rulers to. That scandalous Affghan war rendered almost necessary, for our own preservation, the conquest of Scinde; and Charles Napier was the man to whom that “very advantageous, useful, humane, piece of rascality”—as he himself called it-was entrusted. In the GovernorGeneral (Lord Ellenborough) he had a chief to be trusted, and who supported him ; but otherwise there was no one element of success ready to his hand. A half-disciplined army, ruled by political, or, as they were strangely termed, “civil” servants, but not duly supplied with a single requisite; a country unknown, a climate too well known, and, as he says, worst of all—a bad cause.

The state of the country was very similar to that of England just after the Norman Conquest. There were the poor Scindees, a conquered race; the Belochees, who had conquered the country some 60 years before; and the Ameers, the princes who ruled over the first as subjects, and over the latter as military chiefs. With these Ameers, before Napier's time, we had made a treaty, the chief items in which were the free navigation of the Indus, and the humane treatment of the Scindian people. Neither of these stipulations was very scrupulously observed, and it soon became clear to Charles Napier that our policy was to humble the Ameers, not to depend on their observance of treaty : in short, while undertaking the conquest of the country, he from the very first day set himself to organise this halfsavage people, so that they might be the happier for our rule. On his way he stopped but a day or two at Kurrachee, at the mouth of the Indus, where, by the way, he was wounded by the bursting of a rocket; yet, as he steamed

up the Indus, his mind was full of plans-alas ! only partially to be carried out—for light-houses, moles, and every appliance which could make this port the centre of all the traffic of the Indus. It was in October, 1842, that he commenced hostile operations. The officers all said—“The general is the only man in the army who does mot desire a battle;" and every step he took was calculated with the most profound forethought, so as to produce the greatest moral impression on the tyrant princes, and at the same time to inspire in the subject people a notion of

British justice. The first exploit was a march into the desert for 18 days, to destroy one of their strongholdsEmaun Ghur-which he attacked in January, 1843; just because the Belochees had a notion that no European force could live in the desert. Then (17th February), never having before commanded an army, he won the battle of Meance, with less than 2,000 men, against 35,000 Belochees, strongly posted, and confident of success. On the 24th March, again, he won with 5,000 men the battle of Dubba, against 26,000 picked warriors; and followed up the success by capturing the capital of his chief opponent, “The Lion”--Meerpoor-and the still stronger fortress of Omercote. By the May following, British supremacy was established ; and the communication by the Indus thrown open to British arms and British commerce. Just as the work was completed, Napier was struck down by a sunstroke, and for days could hardly be said to live; but he recovered—thanks, as he said, to the fact that he had always been a remarkably abstemious man. He was named governor of the province he had won; and the next two years we find him, while still keeping the half-conquered Ameers at bay, indulging that strange passion for an Indian governor-a longing to make the people bless the English name, by justice, beneficence, and superior wisdom. He put down “suttees;" he raised the position of women to one of equality with their lords; he abolished slavery; he tumed the proud Belochee warrior into a vigorous cultivator and trader; and the poor and oppressed Scinde into & honest labourer. He formed a body of police, so admirably organised that life and property became safer than in Calcutta. He banked-in the great Indus; and thus, where formerly there had only been pestilential marshes, be left behind him the richest soil of that fertile district; so that there was no complaint, except that which we occasionally meet with here--there was such an abundance of corn that it was worth no one's while to grow any. Even that he would have remedied, by sending a fleet of ships laden with Indian grain to the starving Irish. In these five years he had done more than conquer the Belochees, and curb the Indus, and create a new commerce ;—he had established, from one end of his kingdom to the other, a faith not only in British power, but in British justice and kindness

« 이전계속 »