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1877] POLITICAL IMPORTANCE OF THE ASSEMBLAGE

335 Queen, conveying their dutiful and loyal congratulations; and the Maharaja of Kashmir expressed his gratification at the tenor of the Viceroy's speech, and declared that he should henceforth consider himself secure under the shadow of Her Majesty's protecting care.*

It is difficult to overrate the political importance of this great gathering. It was looked upon by most of the Ruling Chiefs as the result of the Prince of Wales's visit, and rejoiced in as an evidence of Her Majesty's increased interest in, and appreciation of, the vast Empire of India with its many different races and peoples.

I visited all the camps, and conversed with every one of the Princes and Nobles, and each in turn expressed the same intense gratification at the Viceroy's reception of him, the same fervent loyalty to the Empress, and the same satisfaction that the new title should have been announced with such appropriate splendour and publicity.

General rejoicings in honour of the occasion took place all over India, in Native States as well as British cantonments. School-houses, town halls, hospitals, and dispensaries were founded, large numbers of prisoners were released, substantial additions were made to the pay of all ranks in the Native Army, as well as a considerable increase in numbers to the Order of British India; and the amnesty granted in 1859 was extended to all but murderers and leaders in the Mutiny.

When the Assemblage broke up, I started with Sir Frederick Haines for a tour along the Derajat frontier. We visited Kohat, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, and Multan; proceeded by steamer down the Indus to Sukkur, and thence rode to Jacobabad. Then on to Kotri, from which place we went to see the battle-field of Miani, where Sir Charles Napier defeated the Amirs of Sind in 1843. From Kotri we travelled to Simla via Karachi and Bombay, where we were most hospitably entertained by the Commander-in-Chief of Bombay (Sir Charles Stavely) and his wife.

Afghan affairs were this year again giving the Viceroy a great deal of anxiety. The Amir had eventually agreed to a discussion of Lord Lytton's proposals being held, and for this purpose Saiyad Nur Mahomed and Sir Lewis Pelly had met at Peshawar in January, 1877. The meeting, unfortunately, ended in a rupture, owing to Sher Ali's agent pronouncing the location of European officers in any part of Afghanistan an impossibility; and what at this crisis complicated matters to a most regrettable extent was the death of Saiyad Nur Mahomed, who had been in failing health for some time.

On learning the death of his most trusted Minister, and the failure of the negotiations, Sher Ali broke into a violent fit of passion, giving vent to his fury in threatenings and invectives against the British Govern

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15th March, 1878. My wife accompanied me to Abbottabad--the pretty, quiet little place in Hazara, about 4,000 feet above the sea, which was to be henceforth our winter head-quarters. For the summer months we were to be located in the higher hills, and my wife was anxious to see the house which I had purchased from my predecessor, General Keyes, at Natiagali. So off we set, nothing daunted by being told that we were likely to find snow still deep in places.

For the first part of the way we got on well enough, my wife in a dandy, I riding, and thirteen miles were accomplished without much difficulty. Suddenly the road took a bend, and we found ourselves in deep snow. Riding soon proved to be impossible, and the dandybearers could not carry my wife further; so there was nothing for it but to walk. We were seven miles from our destination, and at each step we sank into the snow, which became deeper and deeper the higher we ascended. On we trudged, till my wife declared she could go no further, and sat down to rest, feeling so drowsy that she entreated me to let her stay where she was. Fortunately I had a small flask with me filled with brandy. I poured a little into the cup, mixed it with snow, and administered it as a stimulant. This restored her somewhat, and roused her from the state of lethargy into which she had fallen. Again we struggled on. Soon it became dark, except for such light as the stars, aided by the snow, afforded. More than once I despaired of reaching the end of our journey; but, just as I had become quite hopeless, we saw lights on the hill above us, and heard our servants, who had preceded us, shouting to attract our attention. I answered, and presently they came to our assistance. Half carrying, half dragging her, we got my wife up the steep mountain-side; and at length, about 9 p.m., we arrived at the little house buried in snow, into which we crept through a hole dug in the snow wall which encircled it. We were welcomed by a blazing wood-fire and a most cheering odour of dinner, to which we did full justice, after having got rid of our saturated garments. Next morning we started on our return journey at daybreak, for it was necessary to get over the worst part of the road before the sun had had time to soften the snow, which the night's frost had so thoroughly hardened that we slipped over it without the least difficulty.

This was our only visit to our new possession, for very soon afterwards I was informed that Lord Lytton wished me to spend the summer at Simla, as the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab would be there, and His Excellency was anxious to discuss the details of the proposed Chief Commissionership. My wife, therefore, returned to Simla at once, and I joined her at the end of May, having in the meanwhile inspected every regiment and visited every post held by the Frontier Force between Sind and Hazara-a most interesting experience, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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BEFORE Continuing my story, it will, I think, be as well to recall to the minds of my readers the train of events which led to England and Russia becoming at the same moment solicitcus for the Amir's friendship, for it was this rivalry which was the immediate cause of the second Afghan war.

Less than two hundred years ago the British Empire in the East and Russia were separated from each other by a distance of 4,000 miles. Russia's most advanced posts were at Orenburg and Petropaulovsk, while England had obtained but an uncertain footing on the seaboard of southern India. The French were our only European rivals in India, and the advance of Russia towards the Oxus was as little anticipated as was England's advance towards the Indus.

Thirty years later Russia began to absorb the hordes of the Kirghiz steppes, which gave her occupation for more than a hundred years, during which time England was far from idle. Bengal was conquered, or ceded to us, the Madras Presidency established, and Bombay had become an important settlement, with the result that, in the early part of this century, the distance between the Russian and English possessions had been diminished to less than 2,000 miles.

Our progress was now more rapid. While Russia was laboriously crossing a barren desert, the North-West Provinces, the Carnatic, the territories of the Peshwa, Sind, and the Punjab, successively came under our rule, and by 1850 we had extended our dominions to the foot of the mountains beyond the Indus.

Russia by this time, having overcome the difficulties of the desert, had established herself at Aralsk, near the junction of the Syr Daria with the waters of Lake Aral; so that in fifty years the distance between the outposts of the two advancing Powers in Asia had been reduced to about 1,000 miles.

Repeated successful wars with Persia, and our desertion of that Power owing to the conviction that we could no longer defend her against the Russians, had practically placed her at their mercy, and they had induced Persia, in 1837, to undertake the siege of Herat. At the same time, the Russian Ambassador at Teheran had despatched Captain Vitkievitch to Kabul with letters from himself and from the Czar to the Amir, in the hope of getting Dost Mahomed Khan to join the Russians and Persians in their alliance against the English.

Vitkievitch's arrival at Kabul towards the end of 1837 had been anticipated by Captain (afterwards Sir Alexander) Burnes, who had been sent three months before by Lord Auckland on a Mission to the Amir, ostensibly to improve our commercial relations with the Afghans, but in reality to prevent them from joining the Russo-Persian alliance.

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1878]

OBJECT OF THE FIRST AFGHAN WAR

339 Burnes had been most cordially received by Dost Mahomed, who hoped, with the help of the Indian Government, to recover the district of Peshawar, which had been wrested from him by the Sikhs. Vitkievitch's reception was proportionately discouraging, and for some weeks he could not obtain an interview with the Amir.

The Dost's hopes, however, were not fulfilled. We declined to give him any assistance towards regaining possession of Peshawar or defending his dominions, should his refusal to join with Persia and Russia draw down upon him the enmity of those Powers.

Vitkievitch, who had been patiently biding his time, was now taken into favour by the Amir, who accorded him a reception which fully compensated for the neglect with which he had previously been treated.

Burnes remained at Kabul until the spring of 1838, and then returned to India to report that Dost Mahomed had thrown himself heart and soul into the Russo-Persian alliance.

Under pressure from the English Ministry the Governor-General of India determined to take the extreme measure of deposing an Amir who had shown himself so hostilely inclined, and of placing on the throne of Kabul a Ruler who, it was hoped, would feel that it was to his interest to keep on good terms with us. It was for this object that the first Afghan war* was undertaken, which ended in the murder of our nominee, Shah Shuja, and the triumphant return of Dost Mahomed. The disastrous failure of our action in this matter taught the British Government that our frontier on the Sutlej was too far removed for us to think of exercising any real influence in Afghanistan, and that the time had not arrived to warrant our interfering in Afghan affairs.

After this came our war with the Sikhs, resulting in our conquest of the Punjab, and our frontier becoming conterminous with that of Afghanistan on the banks of the Indus.

There was a lull in the movements of Russia in Central Asia until after the Crimean War of 1854-56, which, while temporarily checking the designs of Russia in Europe, seems to have stimulated her progress in the East. After the passage of the great desert, Russia found herself in the midst of fertile and settled countries, whose provinces fell under her control as rapidly as those of India had fallen under ours, until in 1864 Chimkent was occupied, the point beyond which Prince Gortchakoff stated that there was no intention on the part of Russia to make further advances.

Notwithstanding these assurances, Tashkent was captured on the 29th June of the following year. In 1866 Khojent was successfully

It is instructive to note how remarkably similar were the circumstances which brought about the first and second Afghan wars, viz., the presence of Russian officers at Kabul.

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