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LYTTON AND RIPON
We now enter upon the last period of the Victorian Age. The close of Mr. Gladstone's first administration in 1874 is the date, if any single date can be given, for that gradual change in men's sentiments, opinions, and aspirations, which has been called a Conservative Reaction in Great Britain. The rapid advance of the Great Powers of the world aroused new jealousies and awakened new ambitions. A great Western Republic, united once more after a Civil War, was supreme in one half of the world, and claimed an increasing share in the politics and commerce of the other half. A united Germany had arisen with the strength of a giant from the fields of Sadowa and Sedan, and dominated over the counsels of Europe. France too was rising after her defeat, and was seeking compensation in Asia and in Africa. And Russia had torn up the Black Sea Treaty, and continued her unresisted march eastwards. A feeling of unrest filled the minds of Englishmen. Domestic reforms no longer called forth the same enthusiasm as a desire for expansion. The advance of Russia towards India must be checked. England's supremacy in Asia must be maintained. The Continent of Africa was still open, and unexplored regions awaited the British conqueror. A closer union with the Colonies would restore British influence, and would enable England to present a united front to the world. All over the globe there was need for a vigorous foreign policy-a policy of expansion and of conquest—to maintain England's position among rising nations. So Englishmen felt, vaguely, but strongly; and as is often the case, the first blind enterprises were neither wise nor successful.
The sound frontier policy of Lord Lawrence no longer found favour. The creed of Sir Bartle Frere found acceptance in the present state of the national mind. Lord Northbrook had rejected that creed, but Lord Northbrook had resigned. A new Viceroy, willing to carry out the new policy, was selected. The first letter of the British Prime Minister, Mr. Disraeli, to Lord Lytton, indicated to him the task he was expected to perform.
“MY DEAR LYTTON,,Lord Northbrook has resigned the Viceroyalty of India, for purely domestic reasons, and will return to England in the spring.
“If you be willing, I will submit your name to the Queen as his successor. The critical state of affairs in Central Asia demands a statesman, and I believe if you will accept this high post you will have an opportunity, .. not only of serving your country, but of obtaining an enduring fame.” 1
Lord Lytton was then forty-four years of age, and was Minister of Legation at Lisbon ; and this was the first intimation he received of his proposed appointment to India. The letter discloses the one object of the appointment. Lord Lytton was chosen to give effect to a policy in relation to Afghanistan which Lord Northbrook had declined to carry out. The recent famines in India and the economic condition of the people find no mention in the Prime Minister's letter. These matters · did not interest the British Cabinet very much.
The new Viceroy lost no time. On April 12, 1876,. he took charge of his office from Lord Northbrook. On April 24 he was at Umballa, and gave the Commissioner of Peshawar the draft of a letter to be sent to the Amir
Letter from Benjamin Disraeli to Lord Lytton, dated Nov. 23, 1275.
of Afghanistan. A pretext was found for sending a British Envoy to Kabul. The Amir was informed : “ Sir Lewis Pelly will be accompanied by Dr. Bellew and Major St. John, for the purpose of delivering to your Highness in person at Khureeta a letter informing your Highness of his Excellency's accession to office, and formally announcing to your Highness the addition which her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to make to her sovereign titles in respect to her Empire in India.” 1
The Amir of Afghanistan was a shrewd man, and perceived the real object of the mission. He replied accordingly: “ Please God the Most High, the friendship and the union of the God-given State of Afghanistan in relation to the State of Lofty Authority,—the Majestic Government of England, will remain strong and firm as usual. At this time, if there be any new parleys for the purpose of freshening and benefiting the God-given State of Afghanistan entertained in the thoughts, then let it be hinted, so that a confidential agent of this friend, arriving in that place, and being presented with the things concealed in the generous heart of the English Government, should reveal it to the suppliant at the Divine Throne.”? In other words, Sher Ali demurred to the proposal of a British Envoy being sent to Kabul, and desired to send an Agent to know the thoughts concealed “ in the generous heart of the English Government."
Lord Lytton was irritated by this first check. He warned the Amir, through the Peshawar Commissioner, that he was rendering nugatory the friendly intentions of the Viceroy, and was voluntarily isolating Afghan•istans from the alliance and support of the British Government.
1 Letter of the Commissioner of Peshawar to the Amir of Kabul, dated May 6, 1876.
3 The Amir's Letter, dated May 22, 1876.
aine, ed fromnir replied that
Lord Lytton's wisest Councillors disapproved of the attitude he had assumed. Sir William Muir, Sir Henry Norman, and Sir Arthur Hobhouse, all maintained, that Sher Ali was within his right in refusing to receive an English Mission; that the reasons assigned by him were substantial; and that the reply of the British Government was almost equivalent to a threat of war. And they added that the Amir knew the real object of the Mission ; and it was not dealing with him fairly if the aim of keeping a perinanent Mission at Kabul was concealed from him.
The Amir replied to the Peshawar Commissioner's letter. He suggested that the British Agent at Kabul, Atta Muhammad, should come to India, explain the state of affairs at Kabul, and know the wishes of the British Government. Lord Lytton accepted this suggestion.
Atta Muhammad arrived at Simla on October 6, 1876. He explained to Sir Lewis Pelly the views of the Amir at length; and he expressed the Amir's fears that the temporary British Mission would merge into a permanent one. This was exactly what Lord Salisbury and Lord Lytton had intended. Lord Lytton was annoyed at this fresh check. In his interview with the Agent he could scarcely refrain from threats. “The British Government,” he said, “could only assist those who valued its assistance.” “If the Amir did not desire to come to a speedy understanding with us, Russia did, and she desired it at his expense.” “The British Government was able to pour an overwhelming force into Afghanistan.” “If the Amir remained our friend, this military power could be spread around him as a ring of iron ; if he became our enemy, it could break him as a reed.” The Amir pretended “to hold the balance between England and Russia." But the Amir was only an “ earthen pipkin between two iron pots.”
i The Amir's reply, received on Sept. 3, 1876.
Atta Muhammad was dismissed with a letter for the Amir, an aide-memoire for his own guidance, a watch and chain, and a present of £1000. No results followed, for Sher Ali was wide awake.
More tangible results were secured in Beluchistan. Lord Northbrook had sent Major Sandeman to settle the disputes between the Khan of Khelat and his Chiefs, and to open the trade route of the Bolan Pass which had been practically closed owing to these disputes. Major Sandeman, known and honoured all along the frontier, settled the disputes and opened the trade route. His terms of agreement were accepted by the Khan of Khelat and his Chiefs, and were ratified on oath in open Darbar. Had Lord Northbrook been still in office, Major Sandeman would have retired from Beluchistan after achieving these results; but it was Lord Lytton's policy that the British force should stay. He sent his favourite military adviser, Colonel Colley, with a secret treaty; and the sixth article of the treaty provided for the permanent occupation of the Khan's territory by a British military force. The Khan of Khelat signed the treaty, and Quetta was permanently occupied by British troops. “The Khan of Khelat," wrote Lord Lytton to the Queen, “ has agreed to sign with me a treaty, the terms of which will make us virtually masters of Khelat.” I The treaty was executed at Jacobabad on December 8, 1876.
Having thus secured a foothold in the south of Afghanistan, Lord Lytton made his preparations on the eastern side of that kingdom. Colonel Lumsden had advocated the British occupation of the Kurm and Khost valleys ; but Lord Lawrence had rejected the proposal. Lumsden's scheme, however, had attractions for Lord Lytton. The road from Rawal Pindi to Kohat was repaired; Cavagnari was sent to the Kurm River with orders to select a site for a military camp; and the Commander-in-chief was directed to be in readiness to . i Lord Lytton's letter to the Queen, dated November 15, 1876.