Page images

In 1854 Edwardes had a correspondence with the Governor-General on the subject, and on one occasion expressed himself as follows: 'My own feeling is, that we have much injured Dost Mahomed, and may very well afford to let by-gones be by-gones. It would contribute much to the security of this frontier if open relations of goodwill were established at Kabul. There is a sullenness in our present relations, as if both parties were brooding over the past, and expecting an opportunity in the future. This keeps up excitement and unrest, and prevents our influence and institutions taking root. I should be very glad to see a new account opened on the basis of an open treaty of friendship and alliance.'

Lord Dalhousie was quite in accord with Edwardes. He thought it very desirable to be on better terms with Kabul, but believed this to be a result difficult to attain. I give you,' he said in a letter to Edwardes, 'carte blanche, and if you can only bring about such a result as you propose, it will be a new feather in your cap.'

Lord Dalhousie was supported by the British Government in his opinion as to the desirability of coming to a better understanding with the Amir. War with Russia was then imminent, and the strained condition of European politics made it expedient that we should be on more amicable terms with Afghanistan.

The Governor-General thus wrote to Edwardes:

'Prospects of a war between Russia and Turkey are watched with interest by all. . . . In England they are fidgety regarding this border beyond all reason, and most anxious for that declared amity and that formal renewal of friendly relations which you advocate in your letter.' The balance of Indian opinion, however, was against our making overtures to Dost Mahomed. John Lawrence, at that time the great power in the Punjab, was altogether opposed to Edwardes's policy in this matter. He admitted that it might be wise to renew intercourse with the Kabul ruler if he first expressed his regret for previous misunderstandings; but later he wrote to Edwardes:

'I dare say you are right; still, I cannot divest myself of the idea that it is a mistake, and will end in mixing us up in Afghan politics and affairs more than is desirable. The strength which a treaty can give us seems to be a delusion. It will be like the reed on which, if a man lean, it will break and pierce his hand.'

John Nicholson, Outram, and James Abbott agreed with Lawrence They urged that any advance on our part would be looked upon as an indication of conscious weakness; and the probability was that an arrogant, irritated Mussulman ruler would regard an overture as a proof of our necessity, and would make our necessity his opportunity. But Lord Dalhousie, while anxious to avoid any communication being made which could be liable to misconstruction, saw neither objection nor risk in opening the door to reconciliation, provided no undue



as follows: My omed, and may contribute much f goodwill were sent relations, as ecting an opporand unrest, and should be very open treaty of

He thought it lieved this to be er to Edwardes, a result as you ernment in his erstanding with d the strained

e should be on

watched with Eng this border mity and that n your letter.' t our making ime the great les's policy in w intercourse previous mis

If of the idea fghan politics a treaty can on which, if a

th Lawrence ed upon as an was that an Overture as a s opportunity. nication being cher objection ed no undue



anxiety was displayed on our part. The Governor-General practically
left the matter in the hands of Edwardes, who lost no time in trying to
attain the desired object. The greatest forbearance and diplomatic
skill were necessary to bring the negotiations to a satisfactory termina-
tion, but they were concluded at last, most successfully, and to
Edwardes alone is due the credit. It is instructive to read the full
record* of this tedious and difficult piece of diplomacy, for it serves as
an interesting example of Oriental subtlety and circumlocution, con-
trasted with the straightforward dealing of a high-minded Englishman.
The Amir wrote a letter to the Governor-General couched in most
satisfactory terms, which he forwarded to Peshawar by the hand of his
confidential secretary, and which received, as it deserved, a very
friendly reply. This resulted in Dost Mahomed sending his son and
heir-apparent, Sardar Ghulam Haidar Khan, to Peshawar, and deputing
him to act as his Plenipotentiary in the negotiations. Ghulam Haidar
Khan reached Peshawar in March, 1855, where he was met by the
Chief Commissioner, and on the 30th of that month the treaty was
concluded. It guaranteed that we should respect the Amir's posses-
sions in Afghanistan, and never interfere with them; while the Amir
engaged similarly to respect British territory, and to be the friend of
our friends and the enemy of our enemies.'

The Governor-General had at first resolved to entrust to Edwardes the duty of meeting the expected Envoy from Kabul, and orders to that effect were issued. But Edwardes, more anxious for the success of the negotiations than for his own honour and glory, wrote to Lord Dalhousie suggesting that the Government of India should be represented by the Chief Commissioner of the Punjab, and promising to afford Sir John Lawrence all the assistance in his power. Edwardes believed that the importance of the treaty would be enhanced in the eyes of the Afghans by the presence of the higher official; and in this opinion the Governor-General concurred. On the conclusion of the treaty, Lord Dalhousie wrote to Edwardes: 'I congratulate you and myself and all else concerned on this successful issue of the negotiations, which have now lasted just a year.'

This treaty of March, 1855, was only preliminary to that for the ratification of which the Amir came in person to Peshawar the following year.

Towards the end of 1855 Dost Mahomed found himself in considerable difficulties, and appealed to us for assistance. A revolt had occurred at Herat, and a Persian army was preparing to besiege that fortress; the chiefs and people of Kandahar were disaffected; and the province of Balkh was threatened with invasion both by the King of Bokhara and by Turkoman hordes. The Amir looked upon Herat as

* See 'Memorials of the Life and Letters of Major-General Sir Herbert Edwardes.'



y desirous of reg its falling into ak to have any oney. It was, British Governan engagement doned all claim uarrel between our assistance Dost Mahomed ish authorities.

Lawrence was

esult from such ne views of the Dost Mahomed on would be a of these objecet aside if the refusal or an ght, 'might be isappointment s of the British ear footing.' rsian army for offered to the veen England ted to tell the n in carrying nditions. On ed Edwardes accepted the e place Lord in his stead. having filled al for no less his splendid

[blocks in formation]



31 it was evident that their strength and soldierly appearance inspired the Amir and his followers with a very salutary feeling of awe and admiration.*

The result of the conferences between these two great personages was an agreement confirming the treaty of the year before. In addition, the Amir bound himself to keep up a certain number of regular troops for the defence of Afghanistan, so long as the war with Persia continued, in consideration of a monthly subsidy of Rs. 100,000 and a gift of 4,000 muskets. He also engaged to communicate to the Government of India any overtures he might receive from Persia, and he consented to allow British officers to visit certain parts of his dominions, either for the purpose of assisting his subjects against Persia, or to ascertain that the subsidy was properly applied.

I have dwelt at some length on this treaty with Afghanistan, first, because the policy of which this was the outcome was, as I have already shown, initiated by my father; and, secondly, because I do not think it is generally understood how important to us were its results. Not only did it heal the wounds left open from the first Afghan war, but it relieved England of a great anxiety at a time when throughout the length and breadth of India there was distress, revolt, bloodshed, and bitter distrust of our Native troops. Dost Mahomed loyally held to his engagements during the troublous days of the Mutiny which so quickly followed this alliance, when, had he turned against us, we should assuredly have lost the Punjab; Delhi could never have been taken; in fact, I do not see how any part of the country north of Bengal could have been saved. Dost Mahomed's own people could not understand his attitude. They frequently came to him during the Mutiny, throwing their turbans at his feet, and praying him as a Mahomedan to seize that opportunity for destroying the 'infidels.' 'Hear the news from Delhi,' they urged; 'see the difficulties the Feringhis are in. Why don't you lead us on to take advantage of their weakness, and win back Peshawar ?'†

But I am anticipating, and must return to my narrative.

The clause of the treaty which interested me personally was that relating to British officers being allowed to visit Afghanistan, to give effect to which a Mission was despatched to Kandahar. It consisted of three officers, the brothers Harry and Peter Lumsden, and Dr. Bellew, together with two of Edwardes's trusted Native Chiefs. The selection of Peter Lumsden as a member of this Mission again left the Deputy Assistant-Quartermaster-Generalship vacant, and I was a second time appointed to officiate in his absence.

Shortly afterwards the General of the division (General Reed) started on his tour of inspection, taking me with him as his staff officer. Jhelum was the first place we visited. Whether the sepoys had then

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »