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The Mission to Afghanistan.
Russia. On the 21st of September, a British mission, under Sir Neville Chamberlain, started from Peshawur for Afghanistan. There were in the mission eleven British officers, four native gentlemen, two hundred and thirty-four armed soldiers, and, with the campfollowers, the whole amounted to nearly a thousand men. There were three hundred and fifteen camels, two hundred and fifty mules, and forty horses. It was reported that the cortège extended over a mile in length. This mission had its progress interrupted on the frontier of Afghanistan; and on the 1st of November an ultimatum from the Viceroy of India was addressed to the Ameer, demanding the privilege of sending a British mission to his capital, and requesting a reply before November the 20th. The reply not being received by midnight on November the 20th, at three o'clock on the morning of the 21st, the British army crossed the frontier, and war was commenced. On the 22nd, the Viceroy issued a proclamation at Lahore, announcing the commencement of hostilities in Afghanistan, saying that the • Government of India cannot tolerate that any other • Power should interfere in the internal affairs of - Afghanistan,' and concluding with the words, · Upon • the Ameer Shere Ali alone rests the responsibility of “having exchanged the friendship for the bostility of
the Empress of India.' Parliament was summoned to meet on the 5th of December, and the Queen used the following language in opening Parliament :- The • hostility towards my Indian Government manifested by the Ameer of Afghanistan, and the manner in which he repulsed my friendly mission, left me no • alternative but to make a peremptory demand for “ redress. This demand having been disregarded, I “ have directed an expedition to be sent into his terri• tory, and I have taken the earliest opportunity of • calling you together, and making to you the com"munication required by law. (This allusion to law' refers to the 54th section of the Act for the better • Government of India' of 1858:—When any order is
sent to India directing the actual commencement of • hostilities by Her Majesty's forces in India, the fact of • such order having been sent shall be communicated to - both Houses of Parliament within three months after • the sending of such order, if Parliament be sitting, 6 unless such order shall bave been in the meantime 6 revoked or suspended, and if Parliament be not sitting • at the end of such three months, then within one 6 month after the next meeting of Parliament.')
In the meantime events had been marching on in India from another point. On the 1st of January, 1877, the Queen was publicly proclaimed Empress of India at Delhi, with almost unprecedented pomp and ostentation, in the presence of a vast assembly, to which all the princes and high dignitaries of India were either invited or summoned. On March the 14th, 1878, Lord Lytton, the Viceroy, succeeded in passing, in spite of the earnest remonstrance of some of the most experienced members of his Council, an Act for subjecting the Indian Vernacular Press to a system of arbitrary espionage and official denunciation, which recalls the memory and the ignominy of the worst days of modern France, and the lamentable blots on the liberty aspired to by England in the days of the Commonwealth.
In reviewing the history of these events, as thus summarised in chronological order, it is impossible
not to see that a distinct and continuous skein of policy runs through them all from first to last. It is not the purpose here either to expound the policy, or to estimate its value, absolute or comparative. It is sufficient to say, that at every stage of direct English action, the exhibition of hostility to Russia and of friendship for Turkey, an ostentatious defiance of presumed aggressive tendencies of Russia in the direction of India, and the consolidation and unification of English authority in India, -not to say the obtrusive display of English power and magnificence in that country,--are a set of objects all closely connected together, and to the furtherance of one or other of which every part of the recent transactions, so far as they emanated from the British Government, has directly tended. Even what were probably rather theatrical than practical elements in the scheme—that is, the adoption of the Imperial title, the transfer of Indian troops to Malta, and perhaps the sudden resolution of the Government to purchase the bulk of the shares in the Suez Canal—serve to point the connection between the European and the Asiatic policy. If any key were wanted to unlock some of the darker recesses of the policy, such a key may be found in the public assertion said to be made in some influential quarters at the time, that England was rather an Asiatic than a European Power; and in the corollary from this proposition, that the European policy of England ought to be mainly dictated by a regard for the influence and strength of England in Asia. Whether this be the true key or not, the policy itself is to the utmost extent distinct, coherent, consistent, continuous, and, it must be admitted, as viewed in reference to its own ends, suc
cessful, at any rate to outward appearance, and for the time.
In the course of prosecuting this policy, during a period covering nearly four sessions of Parliament, a sum of four millions was expended for the purchase of the Suez Canal shares; diplomatic action was entered upon, necessitating an expeditious application to Parliament for credit to the amount of six millions ; the reserve forces were mobilised,' and Indian troops were brought over to Malta, at an expense to which no Parliamentary limit was or could be assigned ; indefinite obligations in Asia Minor and in Cyprus, involving a purely conjectural and incalculable amount of expense for the future, were undertaken; and an Afghan war was initiated, the pecuniary burden of which seems to have been uncertainly distributed between England and India.
Again, in the prosecution of the same policy, political responsibilities of the gravest sort were assumed over and over again by the Government in the name of the country. By the secret Convention with the Sultan, of June the 4th, England engaged herself to defend the
According to the Parliamentary return of the circumstances and expenses attending the calling out of the Reserves, it appears that the number of men taken on the strength of the army from the first-class Army Reserve was 13,019, and the number of men who joined the Militia Reserve was 21,730. The total expenditure consequent on calling out the Reserves was 610,2641. This was subdivided as follows: Pay, 167,7951. ; good conduct pay, 9,1131. ; maintenance, 163,9001. ; clothing, 188,6021. ; travelling, 68,6951.; gratuities for good conduct, on discharge, 3,4721.; allowances for subsistence on discharge, 8,6871. A further sum on account of pensions was incurred, though not yet fully accounted for. Had no mobilisation taken place, charges to the amount of 84,6581. would have been borne in ordinary course.
New Liabilities of the Country.
Asiatic provinces of Turkey in case of Russia hereafter making any attempt to take possession of them. It was thus left to Russia to choose her own time and convenience for drawing England into a war with herself. By another portion of the same Convention, England entered into special and peculiar liabilities with respect to Cyprus, the most favourable interpretation of which must involve the moral and political duty of effectually administering the affairs of that island, with the prospect, if Russia should so will it at any moment, of having to hand back to Turkey the island with all its improvements, and without compensation for the expenditure lavished upon it. The same Convention certainly contains a moral engagement, likely to be interpreted strictly by the other Powers of Europe, that England will specially concern herself with preventing future maladministration in Asia Minor. The Treaty of Berlin, again, contained far more complicated provisions than did the Treaty of Paris of 1856; and England is made a party to all these provisions, and is morally responsible for belping to carry them into effect. Yet the terms of peace witb Russia, as formulated in the Treaty of 1856, were discussed over and over again in the House of Commons; while no one outside the Cabinet, except the writers for the newspaper press, was allowed to have anything to say as to the English view of the policy which governed the Treaty of Berlin.
Lastly, in the execution of this continuous policy, constitutional problems have been started and perempturily solved by the mere action of the Executive, which from their magnitude and complexity could only be satisfactorily settler after long Parliamentary debates,